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atelier masōmī imagines presidential center and library as "a collection of huts" in Liberia

Liberia Architecture News - Apr 18, 2023 - 14:38   2115 views

atelier masōmī imagines presidential center and library as

Niger-based architecture practice atelier masōmī has unveiled design for the world’s first Presidential Center and Library dedicated to Liberia's former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Liberian politician served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018.

The new complex, called Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center), will be located in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, providing a digital access to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s personal and professional archives.

The new presidential center and library complex will consist of offices for the EJS Center employees, conference rooms, exhibition areas, a café, library and workshop spaces.

atelier masōmī, led by Mariam Issoufou Kamara, will lead the overall design of the building, South African architect Sumayya Vally will design scenography, pavilions and exhibition spaces in the building. 

Liberian architect Karen Richards Barnes, founder of Pan-African Engineering Group (PAEG), will serve as the local architect of the state-of-the-art Presidential Center and Library Monrovia, Liberia.

The scheme comprises a group of nine huts made of raw earth bricks with pitched roofs in response to the local climate of Liberia where meets heavy rainfalls.

atelier masōmī imagines presidential center and library as

Mariam Issoufou Kamara takes inspiration from Liberia’s architectural heritage, paying close attention to "the traditional palava huts". 

According to the architect, the original huts are tall and have exaggerated pitch roofs in which they were designed a direct response to the local climate as a mechanism for managing Liberia’s heavy rainfalls. 

Inside, the ceilings of dwellings features beautiful yet functional woven designs. Imagined as a group together, as they were in rural settings, the architect aims to "embody a sense of community" by designing the collection of huts to look visually stunning.

"The huts served as an important reference in the design of the EJS Center complex, reimagined for a civic purpose," said atelier masōmī in a press statement. 

In the end, the nine buildings have similar exaggerated slanted roofs, which are also aimed to help natural ventilation, allowing the heat and moisture to escape through the roof.

"The design is a direct response to the history, climate, cultural and architectural heritage of Liberia. The project is an introspection on the challenges faced and on the strength and hope brought about by inspirational leaders such as Madam Sirleaf," said Mariam Issoufou Kamara, the founder of atelier masōmī.

"The first woman Head of State on the continent, her ability to bring communities together, and be supported by those communities in return, particularly women, was an important component of the conceptual vision of the project." 

"The objective was to design a building that captured the sense of humility, service to a people, grounded in cultural authenticity and great vision that symbolizes Madam Sirleaf’s work," she added.

The project will be made of local materials such as raw earth bricks, fired clay bricks, rubber wood and woven palm leaves in abundance. 

The studio also devices a strategy to promote economic sustainability. The project will be built with local builders, manufacturers and craftswomen.

"Rather than importing materials and skills, the construction of the EJS Center will be a process of building a contemporary, state of the art comlex in direct partnership with the people of Monrovia," stated the studio. 

Since Liberia is a green and lush country, a plenty of green spaces will wrap the whole complex.

"The vegetation not only beautifies the surroundings with indigenous plants but also aids in the management of storm-water," the office added.

Courtyards are planned to aerate the collection of buildings- which they will also serve as additional spaces for gathering and workshop programs. 

atelier masōmī imagines presidential center and library as

Counterspace founder Sumayya Vally will create a series of exhibition spaces that are complemented by community amenities. The community amenities will allow for conferences, workshops, as well as access to a library and learning center.

The café, facing the ocean, is opened up on a large plaza that will be used for community celebrations. Taking sustainable approach to the core of the project, the studio sets out a series of simple strategies to minimize energy consumption and material waste. 

While the design maximizes natural light over artificial lighting, the studio adds various skylights and windows, which helps to circumvent Monrovia's lengthy electricity shortages. 

atelier masōmī imagines presidential center and library as

Inside, natural ventilation keep the interiors cooler in the hotter months, which reduces reliance to artificial cooling. 

To help lowering energy consumption, the team will also use solar panels to provide a sizable portion of the electricity for the Center’s day-to-day operations. 

"The result will be a place that serves as a beacon in the world and aims to energize and instill a sense of self-pride and optimism in its visitors, particularly Liberians," according to the studio.

The design of a state-of-the-art Presidential Center and Library Monrovia, Liberia was first announced last year. atelier masōmī is designing a new Museum and Center for Culture and Community in Senegal.

All images courtesy of atelier masōmī.

> via atelier masōmī

atelier masōmī hut library Mariam Kamara presidential center Sumayya Vally