Kaira Looro Cultural Centre / Senegal
Seven slender and elegant circular brick towers (ventilation chimneys) will represent the predominant ethnic groups of the region, which is Mandinka, Balantes, Diolas, Fula, Creol, Diahankey and Mancangne (reference – competition brief). These towers will be placed in the display areas and will be accessible by small groups of two or three people or individuals. They can be used for places of contemplation or individuals can occupy them to listen to poetry and music of the various cultures. These towers will have subtle natural light washing down from above and together with their tall and elegant shapes these structures will provide a total spiritual and magical experience. Both external and internal brickwork and Brise Soleil patterns will form a texture which is a reference to traditional basket weave patterns from the region. These spaces can also be used as secluded storey telling spaces.
An even taller circular chimney like structure will be located inside the courtyard which will be a representation of all cultures of the region’s rich history of iron maleate craft. The shape of this chimney is derived from traditional iron melting furnaces, and will represent all cultures combined. It will have a recessed seating area which will be able to accommodate larger groups of people. The intention is that this will become the main story telling space. It is foreseen that this space will have the same spiritual qualities as the other towers, but on a different scale. A translucent water reservoir in the top end of the tower, will allow light to filter through the water, and by refraction create constantly changing magical and mottled patterns on the cylindrical surface of the tower.
Next to the furnace tower will be an open seating area inspired by the stone circles of Sine Ngayene and Wanar, which dates back to 3 centuries BC
(Reference – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senegambian_stone_circles).
The centre will have two water wells, one located at the main entrance and one in the far corner of the internal courtyard. In Africa, water is the essence of life and social interaction, and the water well will be an invitation to people passing by to pause, rest and sip from a scarce and much needed commodity. Together with the pod shaped plan, the shape of the elegant rain water gutter will lead vistors to the far end of the site to the second water well, therefore encouraging visitors to enter the building. The resting space next to the water well will be covered by an extended roof canopy (see meaning derived from Africa canopy trees) and supported by 7 tall columns, which will be individually wrapped with colourful and traditional woven fabrics. The fabrics will represent the various cultures from the region and reflect traditional Western African Adinkra (https://www.ancient-symbols.com/african_symbols.html).
This corner of the building will be on the bend of the main road and will form a visible landmark from afar and affords the Kaira Looro Cultural Centre the necessary identity and gravitas as a cultural institution in the larger town precinct.
Date of completion: 2018