vernacularity uplifting

Malick Mbaya, a young artist from countryside of Senegal, partner of Atelier Soweto Village in Dakar, Senegal, recycles and transforms metal rubbish into dashing art pieces. Malick is a genuine and modest youth introduced in this documentary about Junk Art in Senegal. Just like almost all his families, friends and neighbors, he practices prayers five times a day. All he needs is a bamboo mat and a reused bottle with water. He begins his day by performing ablution and unfolding the mat, following a prayer right at where he lives and works. After prayer, he restores the water bottle and mat, and will repeat the ritual again few hours later.  Everything is simple but sincere.  What has made it so grounded yet solemn?

Our site locates in the rural part of Casamance region in far south of Senegal, bordering Guinea-Bissau, where drought and salt intrusion severely affected the environment. We faced a challenge of limited building materials, lacking experienced construction workers and financial constraint. But challenge also means chance. The locals have been utilizing vernacular building for thousands of years.  Locality and contextuality are the most celebrating qualities and characters found on buildings in around site, and also constitute the fundamentals of the spirituality of sacred architecture for local people. The existing great mosque of Tanaf will be demolished. At this very strategic location, the new proposal will be a focal point for villagers, connecting streams from in and outside the village. By embedding and positioning of the building volume, a gathering plaza is formed in front, welcoming worshippers and visitors coming from the main road. In the meantime, it also releases the blockage of the main road for traffic.

Our proposal features a monolith-like body with light bamboo-column-trusses and rammed earth wall as load bearing elements, accommodated with minimalist floor plan with an accentuation on natural light and horizontality. Its free floor plan and the meandering trusses activate movement and elevate spatial quality. The “slits” in walls on one hand strengthened the identity of the building by moderately distinguishing itself from ordinary civic building in terms of approaches in making openings, on the other hand, inwardly, gently invited in natural lights for lighting up the prayer hall and most significantly, defining the orientation.  

Inspired by vernacular architectures in west African countries, we aimed at composing with easily acquirable indigenous materials in and around the region. We believe materiality and form-making would eventually contribute to a monumentality that portrays sacred building.

In this proposal, the enclosure and divinity is framed within earthly walls, made of local laterite, clay and sand. Proportion of ingredient composition varies each time when made on site, as well as the labor used when compacted, it in the end results into colorful layering pattern resembling a section of time. Specially, laterite has a clay-like consistency granting it greater water-holding capacity than sandy soils and thus making it valuable for construction components. And because of its thermal nature, it can act as building coolants. We choose bamboo particularly for the column-truss structure because it is such a versatile and durable material. We are hoping through this endeavor, bamboo as construction material, would be rediscovered and therefore utilized. In almost 20 African countries including Senegal, natural bamboo plantation resources are plenty. It is about time to raise the awareness of bamboo’s value in many perspectives, for which UN also sponsored foundations and networks in promoting this wonder plant, for instance INBAR.

kaira mosque
kaira mosque
kaira mosque