An open international contest judged by Kengo Kuma has been announced for a new 300m² ‘peace pavilion’ in Sedihou, Senegal (Deadline: 18 April)
Open to architects, designers and students – the fourth Kaira Looro Competition seeks ‘unique and striking’ concepts for a new public building focussing on the victims and refugees of armed conflicts across Africa.
The project, backed by Italian non-profit organisation Balouo Salo, will deliver a new waterfront space for exhibition, contemplation and discussion. Proposals must harness no more than €15,000 worth of locally-available materials and consider both water management and acoustics.
Source: Image by Balouo Salo
According to the brief: ‘The “Peace Pavilion” project in the city of Sedhiou aims to be a reference point for raising awareness among local and international communities, a space in which to promote and foster peace, a structure that is contemplative and multifunctional, capable of providing the region with an identity through the values of memory and solidarity.
‘The challenge is to design an architecture that commemorates the countless lives lost in Africa’s wars and that gives material shape to the significance of peace, with respect for the environment and for local traditions. Contestants will have to convey this theme through a unique and striking design that also integrates itself within the context, creating a structure that is destined to become a symbol of memory for the entire continent, capable of bringing humility and awareness to the landscape, both culturally and thematically.’
Senegal is a West African country home to around 15 million people. It was formerly a Portuguese and then French colony, before winning independence in 1960. From 1980 to 2005 the Casamance region – named after the Casamance river – was the focus of a bloody separatist conflict.
Sedhiou, on the banks of the river Casamance, is a small settlement of 22,000 people. The contest plot is bordered by the river, some rice fields and a nearby market. Several large Kapok trees are in sight and there is an island in the middle of which was formerly a spiritual retreat for locals.
The contest is organised in collaboration with Balouo Salo Association, a non-profit charity promoting sustainable architecture responding to social emergencies. Judges include Kengo Kuma of Kengo Kuma Associates, Raoul Vecchio of Balouo Salo, and T Hirano from the Università of Tokyo.
Last year’s Kaira Looro Competition focussed on designing a new 550m² cultural centre in Sedihou and was won by Giacomo Spanio, Sergiu Cernea, Paolo Reali, Nicola Puppin from Italy.
The overall winner – to be announced 4 May – will receive €4,000 and an internship at Kengo Kuma Associates in Tokyo. A second place prize of €1,000 and third place prize of €500 will also be awarded, along with two honourable mentions worth €150 each.
How to apply
The deadline for submissions is 23:59 (GMT) on 18 April
Early registration from 18 January to 11 February: €60
Normal registration from 12 February to 4 March: €90
Late registration from 5 March to 31 March: €120
Associazione Onlus Balouo Salo
Via Timparosa, n.9
Q&A with Raoul Vecchio
The architect, jury member and president of non-profit organisation Balouo Salo and Kaira Looro discusses his ambitions for the contest
Why are your holding an international contest for a new peace pavilion in Senegal?
The competition theme, although set in Senegal, has a global perspective. Peace is a universal right that should never be violated. Although we know it, there are many wars that now are afflicting our world and there are many wars that have stained the past. Also, the project area was marked by past Casamance conflicts, which saw 5,000 people killed.
The past is the foundation for giving life to a better future, in which love, peace and solidarity should be the essential elements of existence. Peace must be intrinsic in our being, as the ability to love is intrinsic in the human being.
The organization’s aim is to contribute to the creation of a peaceful society, in which there are no stereotypes or prejudices. The theme of peace is the culmination of a journey we began four years ago with the first edition of Kaira Looro where we started designing projects to improve living conditions.
We want to sensitize young designers and the universal scientific community about the competition theme which can be explored according to each of our own traditions and experiences. Also, the project will be a forum to discover new talents from different cultures and support humanitarian projects. For this reason, the jurors have been carefully selected for their international experience and social involvement. The competition is called ‘Kaira Looro’ which in the Mandinga language means ‘to build an atmosphere of peace.’
What is your vision for the new peace pavilion?
The project’s characteristics have been developed with local authorities, who have welcomed the theme with great enthusiasm and its ambition to transform Sedhiou into a ‘city of peace’. A series of environmental, urban and compositional factors have determined the choice of a site not too big but open to the natural context and with a strong relationship to the Casamance river and the city. The project will raise awareness among the local community of the importance of integrating architecture with its natural and cultural context, enhancing local resources through technological innovation and materials research.
Such an approach is crucial in a part of the world where the disproportionate use of cement has increased environmental degradation, particularly in Senegal where climate change is harming both the natural environment and society. The architecture should not just communicate a humanitarian theme, but also provide a model showcasing sustainable and innovative approaches which can mitigate adverse climatic conditions, ensuring the preservation of the environment and improving liveability. For this reason, the contest’s evaluation criteria consider constructive technology as well as architectural quality and integration with the context.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
The competition is primarily aimed at young architects and designers, including students, because the aim of the competition – in addition to promoting its central theme and supporting humanitarian projects – is also to promote promising young architectural talent on the international stage. For this reason, we have once again partnered with Kengo Kuma & Associates who will invite the winning team to participate in work experience at his studio in Tokyo. The last two instalments of the Kaira Looro competition have been won by teams of students, one from Poland and the other from Italy. The Polish team returned home in September 2018 with great enthusiasm and the achievement of having built a fundamental base for their professional growth.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
The Kaira Looro competition is always open to new research themes, especially those that are social or humanitarian. The event is promoted by the non-profit organization Balouo Salo, which develops humanitarian projects to solve social or environmental crises. Kaira Looro is a non-profit event, and the proceeds obtained from registration fees are donated in their entirety to humanitarian projects. Balouo Salo and Kaira Looro are two entities which aim to build a better society by promoting solidarity and co-operation. The goal is to organize a contest each year to raise awareness among the international community about social issues and to continue carrying out humanitarian projects that improve the living conditions of disadvantaged communities. Architecture is the opportunity to discover new technologies, materials and to improve living conditions around the world.
Are there any other recent peace pavilion projects you have been impressed by?
Although not necessarily a pavilion, the Jewish Memorial in Berlin, designed by Peter Eisenman and realized in 2005, is a work that has particularly touched me. It is the definition of open but closed space (between volumes), with elegance and delicacy in a harmony that evokes reflection and induces the mind to build a feeling of peace. Another interesting pavilion project is TAO by Kengo Kuma, built 2018 in Taiwan. The project impressed me particularly in its balance with the natural context, the lightness of its forms and its technological innovation resulting from the study of natural materials and connections.