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Competition: Diakounda arts centre, Senegal

An open international competition has been launched for a traditional earth-built arts centre in rural Diakounda, Senegal (Deadline: 16 October)

The 5th Earth Architecture Competition, organised by US charity Nka Foundation, seeks proposals for a series of $10,000 USD standalone structures which integrate earth architecture and passive solar design.

Required structures include offices, classrooms, a cafeteria, dormitories, a chapel, a 500-seat capacity performance dome, a commercial centre, community library and a school farm with fruit garden and a sculpture park. Together these elements will deliver a functional and sustainable environment where local unemployed youths can learn art, design and construction skills.

The competition site in Diakounda, Senegal

The competition site in Diakounda, Senegal

The competition site in Diakounda, Senegal

According to the brief: ‘The competition promotes open-source design, which implies that the submitted designs will be available for all to appreciate, use, or improve them to generate more practical and contemporary design solutions for the region.

‘The arts village brings together a cohort of students who come from villages, rural townships and underserved parts of the city in the region to live together and learn-by-doing on construction projects involving building with earth, concrete and wood construction.’

Diakounda village is in the Sédhiou area of the Casamance region. It suffers from high levels of poverty and is the wettest part of the country, bordering Gambia in the North and Guinea Bissau in the South.

NKA Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Oklahoma City, founded 11 years ago to help isolated communities in Africa. It has been running projects in Ghana, Mali and Tanzania since 2008.

The foundation’s 4th Earth Architecture Competition, launched last year, sought proposals for an earth-built secondary school at the Abetenim Arts Village in Ghana. Launched in 2009, the social-housing complex provides sustainable accommodation for creative people in the region.

The planned arts centre in rural Diakounda, Senegal

The planned arts centre in rural Diakounda, Senegal

The planned arts centre in rural Diakounda, Senegal

The Diakounda arts centre will provide a broad educational programme of activities and events – including fashion design and production, theatre performance and filmmaking, fine art with sculpture and painting, and the art of mud house design, construction and landscaping.

The project aims to inspire local communities and tackle unemployment by equipping local youngsters with sustainable construction skills. The call for proposals comes four months after the Association for the Development of Education in Africa met in Dakar, Senegal and called for enhanced youth education as a route to greater employment in Africa.

Due to the region’s tropical climate, designs will need to harness a range of elements such as natural ventilation, wide overhanging roofs, raised foundations and solar power. Submissions should include an A1 board featuring diagrams, renderings and drawings along with a 200-word detailed description of the design.

The overall winner, to be announced 13 November, will receive a $1,000 prize and a second place $700 and third place $400 prize will also be awarded along with seven honourable mentions. The top 40 entries will be invited to deliver their schemes in a series of on-site workshops between February 2018 and July 2020 with a $10,000 construction budget set aside for each structure.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 16 October

Fee

Individuals: $40
Teams: $60

Contact details

NKA Foundation
2633 SW 92nd Okalahoma City
OK 73159

Email: mudhousedesign@mail.com , info@nkafoundation.org

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Barthosa Nkurumeh

The Nka Foundation project director discusses his ambitions for the competition

Barthosa Nkurumeh

Barthosa Nkurumeh

Barthosa Nkurumeh

Why are your holding an international contest for a new rural arts centre in Senegal?

The objective is to design and build the first phase of an artisan village, a residential vocational training centre for unemployed rural youths of ages 16 to 25 years to undergo a two-year skills development training in the vocational arts and earth architecture. The designs will be built with earth and other local materials. Ours is a model for rural community development. Nka’s rural projects draw on asset-based approach to community development by immersion in the community and by the mobilisation of existing, but often unrecognised abundant local resources to enable the underserved community to drive its own development process.

Yes, design contests are an important part of Nka Foundation’s approach to delivering sustainable architecture in underserved communities in Africa. The construction of the top design entries in the competition is our priority. We do this by way of international earth architecture workshops for two reasons: (1) The building workshop will serve as cultural exchange as you build your unit of the school with the local youth trainees and local artisans; and (2) because at Nka Foundation, we have come to know that a means for a young designer to learn to design what is buildable is by providing you with the opportunity to design and build your own design. Thus, from February 2018 to July 2020, we will be collaborating with some of the design teams in the competition to organise construction workshops to build their design entries based on site at Diakounda village in Sédhiou Region of the Casamance, Senegal.

The competition promotes open-source design, which implies that the submitted designs will be available for all to appreciate, use, or improve them to generate more practical and contemporary design solutions for the region. Our long-term goal is to enable the rural population and lots of other places, to overcome the stigma that mud architecture is architecture for the very poor.

The planned arts centre in rural Diakounda, Senegal

The planned arts centre in rural Diakounda, Senegal

The planned arts centre in rural Diakounda, Senegal

What is your vision for the new building?

The construction of the arts village will be carried out in phases to include accommodation for students, staff and international visitors; a multipurpose hall that serves as a kitchen and presentation hall; a commercial centre; classrooms such as metal-shop, wood-shop, fabric-shop and earth construction studio; and a demonstration farm. For example, the demonstration farm would be of the subsistent type to grow fruit trees, crops and animals such as bees, chicken and goats for use by the school.

Specifically, the arts village is conceived as an informal school, an artisanal vocational development centre that brings together international workshop participants, local artisans and less privileged youths from the region for skills transfer. The training will be provided by resident teachers and by hosting guest projects by both international and local practitioners in a self-growing school complex. That means, in the beginning there are just a few buildings. After the students learned some construction techniques, they will test their acquired knowledge and skills by building the next phase of the school or some functional buildings for the community.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The international architecture competition is open to professionals and students of architecture, design, urban planning and others from around the world. Nka Foundation runs community development projects in rural Ghana, Gambia, Senegal and Tanzania, where it is building vocational schools to train the rural youths in the vocational arts and earth architecture. Nka Foundation runs community development projects in rural Ghana, Gambia, Senegal and Tanzania, where it is building vocational schools to train the rural youths in the vocational arts and earth architecture. Yes, the opportunity is open to smaller emerging practices and undiscovered talents who are interested in designing and building with Earth. Participants from different countries bring own country’s ways of thinking in earth architecture. By working together, cross-fertilisation of skills transfer and knowledge begin to emerge.

Site meeting in rural Diakounda, Senegal

Site meeting in rural Diakounda, Senegal

Site meeting in rural Diakounda, Senegal

The winning designs gain media exposure, globally. We organise the building workshop around the professional interests of the workshop leader. We design the publicity materials and we promote the project, internationally. Nka requires the workshop leader to publish a project report for the dissemination of the results of their efforts in the design-build process. Yes, architects could make their names on these projects. By immersing the young designers in the full circle of designing and building their design, at the completion of the design-build process, the emerging practitioner will learn to design what is buildable to make a well-rounded graduate.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

This our 5th earth architecture competition, our first was in 2011. We plan to continue to organise design-build competitions in subsequent years.

Today, Nka Foundation project sites include:

1. Singida Arts Village, Singida Municipal, Singida Region, Tanzania

2. Sang Arts Village, Mion District, Northern Region, Ghana

3. Abetenim Arts Village, Ejisu-Juaben District, Ashanti Region, Ghana

4. Diakounda Arts Village, Bounkiling, Sédhiou Region, Casamance, Senegal

5. Kantora Arts Village, Kassi Kunda, Upper River Region, Gambia

In subsequent years, full programmes in the above arts villages. The arts village is designed as a learning centre with a focus on skills development training in the vocational arts and design to provide relational spaces for creative people from the region and other countries to live, work, learn and create.

Sustainable construction techniques in rural Diakounda, Senegal

Sustainable construction techniques in rural Diakounda, Senegal

Sustainable construction techniques in rural Diakounda, Senegal

Shiyala Primary School case study: Q&A with James Mitchell

The director of Orkidstudio discusses lessons learned designing a new primary school in Chongwe, rural Zambia

Shiyala Primary School by Orkidstudio

Shiyala Primary School by Orkidstudio

Shiyala Primary School by Orkidstudio

How did your mud-brick Shiyala project deliver an appropriate school for its context?

Ten years after they were originally built, the modest and prototypical original classroom blocks that make up the Shiyala school stand derelict. Despite a local workforce fluent in both earth-brick production and masonry work; both structures suffer from under-engineering, poor craftsmanship, and lack of financial support. Worn, cracked, stained, and otherwise broken; the redesign aims to resuscitate the existing structures on a minimal budget.

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness in your design?

Taking a cue from the frail foundations already in place, the roof structure is removed to relieve any unnecessary weight on the walls. A new super-structure erupts in a grid around them in the form of rammed-earth-filled steel drums. The two materials form a symbiotic relationship; as the columns rise, the drums are retained as a permanent formwork, both to protect from the elements and act as tensile reinforcement. Similarly, sections of the existing brick walls are incised to receive the new columns. As the drums take on a compressive role, the masonry resists shear forces without the addition of extra cross-bracing.

These massive columns take an almost-antagonistic attitude toward classic proportions and the Doric order before transitioning into a series of curved steel trusses. The new roof offers generous passive shading during Zambia’s summer months, and an air gap at clerestory level for increased airflow and natural lighting. A spectrum of colour across each building creates a sense of identity between rooms and seeks to provoke pride and

A second phase completes later this year, with an additional three classrooms framing out a central courtyard within the compound. Nearby, a library sits as an abstracted version of the school blocks, now using drums of varying heights sunken into the earth as seats, gathering places, and jumping platforms.