Legacy Restored in Niger

Contextual and aesthetic impact – Place Location: Village of Dandaji, Niger Projected completion date: April 2018 Budget: $544,300 Gross Floor area: 2243 square meter Architects: Mariam Kamara, Yasaman Esmaili LEGACY RESTORED Religious and secular complex IMPROVEMENT OF EXISTING CONTEXTUAL CONDITIONS In Dandaji, the building stock consists of one-story adobe structures that normally need yearly upkeep to their outer layer in order to protect their durability. Unfortunately because Adobe has been considered a bad and outdated building material leading to less and less masons learning the traditional skills, overall deterioration has become the norm. To improve this state of things, the project introduced and demonstrated in front of the village, different processes that improve adobe to be more water-proof and durable. The transformation of the old adobemosque into a librarywas the perfect testing ground for these techniques and provided a tangible example to emulate with additive products that are used in daily life. LANDSCAPE, INFRASTRUCTURE,URBANFABRICANDARCHITECTURE. The entire site is put at the service of the project, opening it up to the community and providing leisure spaces in its landscaping strategy as well as learning spaces, making it a truly community-centered public space. The complex will become the cultural hub of the village with its outdoor amphitheater, library, classrooms, playgrounds, fruit trees, stone benches, and worship facility; bringing together users that might have had separate goals and philosophies together in one space. SENSITIVE RESTORATION The old mosque building was restored to its original glory because it is such a wonderful example of traditional adobe construction and structural system. The original masons who built it joined the effort, which was key considering that no documents existed detailing its construction. Over the years, rain damage had deteriorated the roof and the facades, making the masons’ understanding of the original details instrumental in bringing it all back to life. They were assisted by expert masons in new plastering methods using laterite, Shea Butter, and salt in the interior in order to make the surfaces termite resistant. Similarly, they used a mix of sand, clay and Arabic Gum (a tree sap that grows on Acacia trees all over Niger) for the exterior plaster in order to make it durable and water resistant. The restoration yielded a building that now only requires surface maintenance every 8-10 years, as opposed to every year. The old mosque-cum library building was already to most striking building in the village. As such, it was important that the extension and new mosque building not stray too far into a contemporary expression that wouldfindno reference point in this remote village region. Research into 16th to 18th century mosque typologies of the Hausa ethnic region unearthed some very contemporary and functional examples to use as inspiration for the new structures. The project “contemporizes” these typologies, particularly taking advantage of their functional aspects from an organizational point of view. INVENTIVE PROGRAMMING STRATEGIES The project provides spaces for learning, reading, studying, workshop, play and worship. The outdoor spaces are set to be flexible enough to accommodate community events or simply lend itself to quiet contemplation. The new mosque was supposed to be large enough to accommodate 1000 worshipers at a time, which would have yielded quite a big structures. To break down the scale, while fulfilling this requirement, the building in split in two volumes and the esplanade on the exterior is laid out in patterns the size of individual prayer rugs so that it becomes an informal prayer space as well when there is an overflow. ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY AND AESTHETIC IMPACT The interior old mosque had a spiritual quality due to its sculptural structural system, high ceilings and small openings used for ventilation. The result was a space with warm diffused lighting tinted by the earth color of the walls. A lot of these atmospheric qualities are preserved for the library use, augmented with strategically placed hand-crafted artificial lighting fixtures. The red laterite finish, dark metal and blue paint of the openings creates a simple yet contemporary palette. The new building plays up the sculptural approach on the ceilings and creates diffused lighting by taking advantage of the tall crafted slits carved out of its facades. There is a ritualistic quality to entering the prayer space, starting as a procession from the ablution/entrance structures that emerges on the mosque esplanade, giving worshipers the full impact of the tall facades and imposing entrance door. Inside the first volume, one walks on towards the main prayer hall through a semi-open corridor that visually connects the minaret to the second ablution structure on the library side. This transition amplifies the effect of entering the main prayer hall with its 10 meter high ceiling and its 8meter-wide central dome. The line of sight ends at the illuminated intricately crafted mihrab where the Imam leads prayers. In the 9th century AD, Muslim scholars made remarkable contributions to the sciences and humanities in Baghdad’s Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom, a library and research center housing the worlds largest collection of books for scholars to engage both theological and scientific matters. Today’s religious climate could use such freedom to pursue knowledge alongside religious practice. With the support of local leaders, women and youth, the Hikma project re- introduces these 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 will be a culture and education hub where the secular and the religious peacefully co-exist to cultivate minds and strengthen the community. 13 1 2 2 1 18 2 1 8 1 0 11 1 4 1 5 1 5 16 17 19 20 2 4 6 3 7 5 9 1. amphitheater/workshop area 2. children’s play area 3. library main entry 4. central bookshelves 5. study spaces 6. mezzanine level 7. religious book shelves near the oldmihrab 8. new classroom 9. new computer lab 10. classroom access 11. restrooms 12. Garden 13. pathway 14. art wall 15. ablution space 16. main prayer room 17. secondary prayer room 18. outdoor corridor 19. Minaret 20. Imam’s quarter 21. underground water reservoir f a m i l y g r a n a r i e s V i l l a g e C o m p o u n d s V i ll a g e C om p o u n d s s ch o o l gro u n d s National Age Distribution BEBEJI MOSQUE- 1770 ZARIA MOSQUE- 1836 DANDAJI MOSQUE- 1990 NEW DANDAJI MOSQUE - 2018 Village Economic Activity Literacy Rate Proceeding to High school N e w M o s q u e U nd e r C o n s t r u ct i o n 1 2