The latest global LafargeHolcim Awards Silver winning project transformed a derelict mosque into a library that shares its site with a new mosque for the village of Dandaji in Niger. To turn their concept into reality, the architects Yasaman Esmaili and Mariam Kamara relied on a dedicated labor force of local masons, electrical- and metal-workers and technicians. “It was through the efforts and skill of our workforce that the project was successful – everyone involved should be proud of a job well done and the international recognition we received,” said the designers.
More than 80 of the project’s enthusiastic workforce met in the backyard of Atelier masōmī in Niamey, the capital of Niger. The space usually assigned to developing prototypes, researching and testing building materials familiar to many of the workers became the setting for a very personal LafargeHolcim Awards prize celebration. Mariam Kamara, project co-author and Founder of Atelier masōmī, thanked the team of artisans and explained that in winning an international Award, their work was a source of pride far beyond the borders of the country. “The LafargeHolcim Awards prize had a tremendously positive impact on how our local heritage, our culture, our building tradition and our skilled workforce is perceived,” she said.
Each member of the construction team was individually presented with a memento from the LafargeHolcim Foundation: an LED squeeze flashlight that generates its own electricity supply by repeatedly squeezing a handle to drive a dynamo. Symbolically brought to life in the hands of each artisan, the torches were inscribed with a simple message “Merci!” Although co-author Yasaman Esmaili, Founder of studio chahar, wasn’t able to attend in person, geography was no barrier to her conveying special thanks – she became a “digital VIP” and congratulated each and every worker via FaceTime as they were presented with their memento.
The completed prize winning cultural and educational hub cultivates the peaceful coexistence of secular and religious life to strengthen the community. The project was praised by the Global LafargeHolcim Awards jury for its strategic promotion of local artisanship, traditional building techniques, and materials produced in situ. The jury noted that the project’s understanding of architecture moves away from high-tech solutions in sustainability, often including new explorations of time-honored materials and fabrication methods.See more
Building a cultural facility in a village in Niger called for the delicate approach of both Mariam Kamara, founder of Atelier masōmī, and Yasaman Esmaili, founder of studio chahar, laureates of the Holcim Awards Gold Middle East Africa in 2017 and the Global Holcim Award Silver the year after.
Interview with Mariam Kamara
L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui: What is your project and on which values have you based it?
Mariam Kamara: The Hikma project re-introduces the values embedded in Islam itself, by transforming a derelict mosque into a library that shares its site with a new mosque for the village of Dandaji, in Niger. The project is a cultural and educational hub where the secular and religious peacefully coexist to cultivate minds and strengthen the community.
AA: Did the prize you won change how your own practice is seen?
MK: The award helped in boosting the credibility of the firm in clients’ eyes, particularly because we are in our early days. It has also convinced clients who are interested in sustainable approaches as well as looking for designs that represent the local culture and are sensitive to local narratives. However, what I personally found the most rewarding is the image that winning this type of awards reflected back to people in countries such as mine. There was a great deal of national pride on social media and in the press in Niger for the fact that this project, which is very much rooted in the local culture and aesthetic, was being recognized internationally. Winning made an impact in people’s minds and for many it validated the value of local heritage. That was profound for me to realize.
Mariam Kamara shares her experience in the special edition of international design magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (AA) dedicated to architecture competitions. Read the full interview and jury member comments by Nagwa Sherif, Professor of Architectural Engineering, American University in Cairo, Egypt and Francis Kéré, Architect, founder of Kéré Architecture office, Berlin, Germany.
“The library built in proximity to the new mosque will positively engage women as productive members of the community within the religious spaces.” – Nagwa Sherif, Professor of Architectural Engineering, American University in Cairo, Egypt and Head of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Middle East Africa 2017.
“The project is a fantastic example of how restoration of a deteriorating facility can strengthen community in remote contexts. The materials as well as the use of local labour align with the values and target issues at the heart of the Holcim Foundation.” – Francis Kéré, Architect, founder of Kéré Architecture office, Berlin, Germany; Winner of the Global Holcim Award Gold 2012; and Member of the Global Holcim Awards jury 2018.
In less than a month, the 6th International Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction will take place in Egypt. The symposium will focus on strategies to “re-materialize” construction by reducing consumption throughout the material cycle from extraction to processing, transport, installation, maintenance, and removal. In the context of the lecture series “Affinity Architecture” at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) a full auditorium of students was inspired by some of the key contributors to the upcoming Forum on “Re-materializing Construction” and their approaches to sustainable design in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the context of the lecture series “Affinity Architecture” at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) a full auditorium of students was inspired by some of the key contributors to the upcoming Forum on “Re-materializing Construction” and their approaches to sustainable design in sub-Saharan Africa.
Combining the contemporary with the traditional
Francis Kéré will be a keynote speaker at the Holcim Forum. The principal of Kéré Architecture will present his unique blend of architecture that is deeply rooted in his native Burkina Faso, and blends innovation and sustainable techniques with limited resources. “I learnt how to build with steel and glass in Germany – but in my homeland of Burkina Faso, I learnt how to build with cement-stabilized clay,” Francis Kéré explained.
At the ETH Zurich, he presented his Global Holcim Awards-winning project of 2012, a secondary school in his home town Gando, and illustrated how inexperienced architects are tempted to use contemporary building techniques and materials in developing countries, resulting in unsustainable projects. Despite the oppressive heat, the temperature inside his school classrooms cannot be controlled by closing spaces and cooling with modern air-conditioners: electricity is expensive and long-term maintenance unavailable. His solution used locally-sourced clay as the principal building material, combined with a design that incorporates passive ventilation, underground cooling, double-skin roofs, and planting vegetation. “Combining traditional and contemporary materials and techniques led to affordable and sustainable solutions that are now proven to be successful,” he said.
About the power of an example
Another Forum keynote speech will be delivered by Anne Lacaton (left), from the award-winning practice Lacaton & Vassal, whose work showcases the importance of building upon existing conditions to create new architecture. At the ETH Zurich, she called for “creative economy and poetic pragmatism” when building infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa.
Instead of protecting and fighting against the climate, architects must understand to live with the given. She encouraged the students to carefully observe, and to consider “temporary being a strategy.”
When sharing knowledge becomes reciprocal
Global Holcim Awards winner from 2018, Mariam Kamara (below, left), presented her work as part of the “Affinity Architecture” lecture series. She co-led a reinterpretation project where traditional local construction techniques were used for a new mosque and community center in Dandaji, Niger – where involving the local artisans, masons, and the community led to a knowledge transfer beneficial to all. In addition, the involvement guaranteed pride and acceptance of modern architecture and new materials. Her project, winning a Global Holcim Award, is an example of this reciprocal learning.
“By understanding the needs of the community, in this case for public space, we created not only a place to meet, but also a local economy,” said Mariam Kamara, pointing at a farmer’s day market that now uses the public space. “Involve the community, and let them work together. By helping build new infrastructure, they earn a living. And this creates a sense of pride and ownership, enabling long-term and sustainable development of regions affected by migration into cities," she noted.
Vast potential of sustainable construction
Professor of Architecture & Design, Marc Angélil, moderated the ETH Zurich event and will also moderate the Holcim Forum in Cairo. He took up the lessons by Francis Kéré, Mariam Kamara, and Anne Lacaton and pointed at the vast potential of sustainable construction in Africa: The creation of rural urban cities to prevent people moving into megacities, the economic potential when local communities and craftsmen are involvement in building, and the environmental benefits of combining traditional and contemporary knowledge with materials new and old.
The 6th International Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction will be hosted by the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and take place from April 4 to 6, 2019. Some 350 people from more than 50 countries will participate in the 6th International Holcim Forum.See more
LafargeHolcim Côte d’Ivoire (LHCI) supports young local architects to expand their practical understanding of sustainable construction through a competition run in collaboration with the National Council of Architects in Côte d’Ivoire. The winners receive a six-month internship to work on sustainable construction projects with an experienced architect.
For LHCI, the initiative builds reputation with all its stakeholders for “walking the talk” on promoting sustainable development. It also sparks interest in the next International Holcim Awards competition for projects and visions in sustainable construction, opening for entries in mid-2019.
“We want to provide promising Ivorian architects with outstanding experiences that further their knowledge and motivate them to excel in the Holcim Awards competition”, said Xavier Saint Martin Tillet, CEO of LHCI.
The winners of the first edition of the Ivorian competition in early 2018 were Toaply Jean-Patrick Kore from l’Ecole d’Architecture d’Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and Armel Bi Mikalo from l’Ecole Africaine des Métiers de l’Architecture et de l’Urbanisme in Togo. The young professionals were enabled to enrich their understanding of how to embed sustainable design into their work by learning from leading architects in the region.
Understanding the dimensions of sustainable construction
Whereas Toaply Jean-Patrick Kore chose to complete his internship with Koffi & Diabaté architects in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), Armel Bi Mikalo decided to complete his half-year internship with Mariam Kamara, founder and principal of Atelier Masomi in Niamey (Niger).
Together with Yasaman Esmaili, Mariam Kamara won the Global Holcim Award Silver 2018 for a religious and secular complex project that was completed in Niger this year (pictured, left). It focuses on the development and wellbeing of the local workforce and communities by preserving traditional construction techniques and materials, and supporting the local economy.
Armel Bi Mikalo extended his understanding of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable construction – and learnt how a program and its implementation can encourage local populations to build, operate, maintain and even enrich cultural links. The opportunity for him to connect the Ivorian competition to a winner of the world’s leading competition for sustainable design benefitted his internship experience. “I know what it takes to be a world class architect,” he stated. “I would like to thank Holcim for the opportunities it gives to students and architects in its efforts to promote sustainable construction”.
Rewarding sustainability in construction in Côte d’Ivoire and beyond
Encouraging the next generation of architects to enhance the sustainability of their work, is also the goal of the second edition of the ongoing LHCI competition; the winners will be announced in January 2019.
The International Holcim Awards open for entries in the main and the next generation category on June 3, 2019 at www.holcim-awards.orgSee more
The Silver winning project is a religious and secular complex in Niger that reinterprets traditional local construction for a new mosque and a community center. The “Legacy Restored” project was designed by architects Yasaman Esmaili, studio chahar (Iran), and Mariam Kamara, atelier masomi (Niger). Stuart Smith, Director of Arup and member of the jury, explained how the project creates a civic space open to all in the village of Dandaji, supporting the education of women and strengthening their presence within the community. “The design strategy champions local artisanship, traditional building techniques and sustainable materials produced on site,” said Smith.Read more »
Projects in Mexico, Niger, and the USA win the 5th Global Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction. As diverse as the three top projects are in terms of geography, program and scale – they are all the result of true teamwork across generations, genders and ethnicities. Alejandro Aravena (Chile) headed the independent jury of renowned experts who evaluated the 15 finalist projects from all continents that had qualified for the global phase of the Awards. The USD 2 million competition is run by the Holcim Foundation, an initiative of Holcim, the leading global building materials and solutions company.
Global Holcim Awards Gold 2018 goes to “Hydropuncture”, a publicly accessible water retention and treatment complex in Mexico. The project team is led by design director Loreta Castro Reguera at Taller Capital, and researcher Manuel Perló Cohen from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. The infrastructure project in an underprivileged area of Mexico City intermingles flood basins and public amenities with spaces that follow the gravitational logic of flowing water. The jury stated that the sophisticated design addresses an urgent issue at a scale with real impact.
“Legacy Restored”, the Awards Silver winner, is a religious and secular complex in Niger that reinterprets traditional local construction for a new mosque and a community center. The project was designed by architects Mariam Kamara, atelier masomi, Niger; and Yasaman Esmaili, studio chahar, Iran. It creates a civic space open to all in the village of Dandaji, supporting the education of women and strengthening their presence within the community. The design strategy champions local artisanship, traditional building techniques and materials produced on site.
The community-driven neighborhood planning project “Grassroots Microgrid” wins Awards Bronze for re-imagining empty lots as collective infrastructure for energy and food production as well as for civic engagement in Detroit, USA. The large team of authors is led by Constance C. Bodurow, founding Director of studio[Ci], a transdisciplinary design collaborative in Detroit. The project enables neighborhoods to reach energy autonomy through micro-infrastructure, leverages vacancy as an asset, and creates a new economic paradigm for community renewal.
The strength of sustainable design
Jury head Alejandro Aravena commented that the global Gold and Silver winning projects act as role models: “They are masterful pieces that demonstrate what sustainable design and construction can achieve. As a community-driven initiative, the Bronze winner opens a path, innovating an approach that will need to be developed further,” said Aravena. The global Awards winning teams are diverse in every sense of the word. “Although not something considered during the evaluation process, the jury was delighted by the strong representation and success of women in the Holcim Awards,” said Aravena. Traditionally, the Awards competition enjoys a strong level of both participation and success in the competition by female professionals and students.
Aravena explained that the jury selected the water treatment project in Mexico for Gold because it builds large urban infrastructures that serve multiple purposes and become civic spaces. “Using architecture to give dignity to fragile rural communities losing population to urban migration, was a main reason for awarding Silver to the project in Niger," said Aravena. The Bronze winning project in the USA, finally, uses light and local infrastructure as a means of community building. “The context of the three global Awards winning projects is complementary, providing models for megacities, urban communities, and remote rural villages,” added Aravena: “They indicate two tendencies within the discourse on sustainability: a focus on infrastructure and new explorations of traditional ways of building.”
Prizes for exciting ideas in Argentina, Ghana and the USA
For the first time, the global Awards jury selected three of the 40 Acknowledgement and Next Generation prize-winning projects from the regional phase of the competition to receive Holcim Awards Ideas prizes. “We felt that they offer exciting and novel ideas, even within proposals that are not yet fully developed,” said jury head Alejandro Aravena. The prizes go ex aequo to “Refrigerating Jar” in Ghana, “Cooling Roof” in California, USA, and “Territorial Figure” in Argentina.
Architects Wonjoon Han and Gahee Van of VHAN together with Sookhee Yuk from Make Africa Better led a South Korean team designing shea butter storage towers in Nyingali, Ghana; they enable passive cooling that enhances the economic viability of agriculture and an aesthetic that alludes to traditional local architecture. Georgina Baronian, student at Princeton University in the USA, developed a prototype of a large-scale structure using water on the roof as a thermal insulator and solar reflector in one. The infrastructure-landscape project for the generation of electric power based on tidal currents at Punta Loyola in Argentina was developed by three students from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina: Stefano Romagnoli, Juan Cruz Serafini, and Tomás Pont Apóstolo.
From more than 5,000 submissions down to 6 global winners
The 5th International Holcim Awards competition attracted 5,085 projects and visions to be implemented in 131 countries. 1,836 projects passed the formal and quality checks and were assessed by independent juries in five competition regions: Europe, North America, Latin America, Middle East Africa and Asia Pacific. 11 prizes carrying a total of USD 330,000 per region were handed-over to winning teams in 2017. The three main winners per region automatically qualified for the global Awards; and the 40 Acknowledgement and Next Generation prize-winners were eligible for the Awards Ideas prizes 2018. The prize pool for the global phase of the Awards totals USD 350,000. The International Holcim Awards cycle spans three years, the 6th competition will open for entries in mid-2019.
Members of the Global Holcim Awards jury 2018
Winners of the Global Holcim Awards and Ideas prizes 2018
Follow web links for project presentations by authors, and appraisal and video statements by the jury
Global Holcim Awards Gold 2018
Hydropuncture – Publicly accessible water retention and treatment complex, Mexico City, Mexico.
Project intermingling flood basins and public amenities in an underprivileged area, with spaces arranged to follow the gravitational flow of water.
By Loreta Castro Reguera, Taller Capital; and Manuel Perló Cohen, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico.
Global Holcim Awards Silver 2018
Legacy Restored – Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger.
A re-interpretation of traditional local construction for a new mosque and community center, creating a space in the village open to all.
By Mariam Kamara, atelier masomi, Niamey, Niger; and Yasaman Esmaili, studio chahar, Tehran, Iran.
Global Holcim Awards Bronze 2018
Grassroots Microgrid – Communtiy-driven neighborhood planning, Detroit, USA.
This neighborhood-scale project re-imagines empty lots as collective infrastructure for energy and food production as well as for civic engagement.
By Constance C. Bodurow, director and Eric Mahoney, designer, studio[Ci], Detroit, USA, and a team of further authors.
Global Holcim Awards Ideas prize 2018
Refrigerating Jar – Shea butter storage for Nyingali community, Karaga District, Ghana.
The striking towers of the storage units are designed for passive cooling and allude to traditional local architecture.
By Wonjoon Han, Gahee Van, VHAN; and Sookhee Yuk, Make Africa Better, Seoul, South Korea.
Global Holcim Awards Ideas prize 2018
Cooling Roof – Prototype for an evaporative roof for radiant cooling, Cherry Valley, CA, USA.
Research investigation on cooling large-scale structures using water on the roof as a thermal insulator and solar reflector.
By Georgina Baronian, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.
Global Holcim Awards Ideas prize 2018
Territorial Figure – Tidal energy landscape, Punta Loyola, Argentina.
Infrastructure-landscape project for the generation of electric power based on tidal flow in the Río Gallegos estuary.
By Stefano Romagnoli, Juan Cruz Serafini, and Tomás Pont Apóstolo, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina.
The timeless, restrained design is greatly appreciated by the jury. The combination of all secular and religious activities in one complex is also praised; the jury sees it as providing civic space for both genders and promoting the education of women and their presence within the community.
Furthermore, the project is understood as a strategy to promote local artisanship, traditional building techniques, and materials produced in situ. These aims situate the project within an understanding of architecture that moves away from high-tech solutions in sustainability, often including new explorations of time-honored materials and fabrication methods. Photographs of the construction process complement an impressive entry, evidence of the vision of the project’s authors made real.
As one of the three main LafargeHolcim Awards winners for Middle East Africa in 2017, “Legacy Restored” automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global LafargeHolcim Awards 2018. All 15 finalist project teams were asked to submit an updated and more comprehensive entry that was evaluated by a global jury in March 2018.
The results of the global phase of the 5th LafargeHolcim Awards competition were announced on March 28, 2018.
Knowledge is power. With their project, Nigerien architect Mariam Kamara and Iranian architect Yasaman Esmaili aim to create a platform for passing on such knowledge to the inhabitants of the region around Dandaji village in Niger. They propose transforming a mosque into a library. A new mosque in the immediate vicinity is intended to weave together spiritual tradition and modern technical development. “The close engagement with the social and built fabric of the village creates an intelligent reinterpretation of tradition that is very much at home in the project’s context,” said the jury.Read more »
The project for a religious and secular complex in the village of Dandaji promotes economic growth in the region through innovation in environmental technologies. The proposed new mosque as well as the restoration of an existing house of worship are accordingly conceived as test beds for sustainable research, exploring new techniques pertaining to the use of renewable resources – energy for heating and cooling, rainwater retention, temperature control, daylight, and natural ventilation. At the core of the scheme is the intention to establish a careful balance between the natural and fabricated realm – an objective most clearly expressed in the project’s landscape strategy, which aims to integrate the buildings into their natural setting.
The jury greatly appreciated the project’s reuse of an existing structure and close engagement with the social and built fabric of the village; and ultimately felt that the project was both an intelligent reinterpretation of tradition and very much at home in the context. The believable depictions of life in the project were a further strength. The combination of traditional and new forms as well as techniques allows the possibility of maintaining knowledge through construction, integrates the passive climate control of traditional massive, cross ventilated structures, and engages in a discourse on the history of the site and on the project’s role in bringing a community together.
Knowledge as a means to social inclusion and economic advancement
Dandaji is a Hausa village in arid western Niger with a very young population of 3000, low literacy rates, and high economic vulnerability. The local middle school serves children from five surrounding villages with plans for a high school underway. The new library will be impactful by providing books, a computer lab, and quiet study spaces to improve reading and vocabulary skills for the community and to increase graduation rates. By involving women’s groups in the project, additional spaces for literacy, accounting courses, and workshops were added. As a mosque, women never used the current building, preferring to pray at home. The library and its proximity to the new mosque will positively engage them and the youth with these religious spaces as productive members of the community.
A contemporary use of traditional forms, methods and new material
To renovate the old building to its previous glory, the original masons are invited to join the project’s team. In the process, they learn about adobe-enhancing additives and erosion protection techniques. Instead of the region’s traditional but scarce wood, the interior renovation uses metal for study spaces, partitions, stairs and a mezzanine level, as a contemporary touch to a traditional space. The new building in turn re-interprets traditional Hausa mosque organization with contemporary structural support and detailing. Its two blocks and outdoor prayer space are suited to daily prayers, Friday assemblies, or large Eid celebrations. The dialog between the formal structures of the old and the new leads to further collaboration between the traditional masons and the construction crew.
Thermal comfort, environmental integration and low energy consumption
The project introduces Compressed Earth Bricks (CEB) made with laterite soil found on site; a new material in the area with the advantage of being lower maintenance than adobe, with similar thermal benefits. Most of the project materials are sourced from within a 5km radius from the site, while the use of concrete is limited to structural elements such as columns and lintels. The thermal mass of the CEBs and natural ventilation keep indoor temperatures comfortable and remove the need for mechanical cooling. The effect is amplified with extensive planting throughout the site, using a drip irrigation system to help the vegetation thrive. The system dramatically lowers water consumption and will use an underground water reservoir that captures the rainy season downpours.See more
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