Long caravans starting from Timbouktou have reached Morocco following the Azalai Route for thousands of years.

An army of camels was raised and conducted through deserted lands, strong sandy winds under the most extreme temperatures on the planet, to trade gold for salt, the whole journey lasted 2 months on average.

In a time when the salt stone was the base for conservation of food gold was something easily invested for the benefit of storing food.

Caravans reached Taoudenni to get loaded with salt stones to be then carried to Sigilmassa and therefore Europe.

Taoudenni is the name of the land that is located in the salt basin of the north of Mali, the thousands of pits been dug in the ground for centuries makes Taoudenni one of the biggest hand made sculptures in the world, covering an area of roughly 4 hectares, which is just what has not been buried by the sandy wind when no longer profitable, as the nearby Taghaza.

The mines are on average 6x6x3m holes and are surrounded by the less profitable rocks been excavated and left in place.

A patient work of satellite images photomerge has been carried out to get an overall rough estimation of the number of holes in the ground and the amount of rocks sill left there, that enabled to get an estimation of 1260 holes and 90.720 cubic meters of salt rocks.

The idea of the project is to promote the conservation of the salt mines with a dedicated memorial since the place is remote, there is a limitation on the diversity of resources available, such as salt rocks, wind, sun and sand.

What has come out was to use the leftover rocks that have been abandoned around the holes to build the memorial, which will be literally built with the same stones that have been excavated for centuries and re-assemble them in an area more north, revealing the massing work that has been undertaken to extract salt and celebrate the memory of those who have worked under one of the harshest conditions possibly on earth.

Memory is the ultimate responsibility of Architecture, it is a good memory that reminds you how good can life be and therefore worth the effort of resisting its challenges, it is the reason why we look forward to the next day to come, to create new and better memories and store them in the book of our lives, to be read again.
Since memory gives significance to a place, is a salt mine in the desert condemned to be a place of suffering forever? Architecture can not just change the meaning of a place, but telling a new story, and possibly a joyful one.
This is how Taoudenni could be remembered, a Memorial for Human suffering and a place of peace.



3.600 ha

Leonardo Marchesi