hypothesis atelier gave shape to the public library for the students’ community of the town of grand-lahou, in ivory coast, once only a dream of six friends. the school teachers fought for financial support for six years, successfully getting funded by the ONG JADE, the ivory siamois scouts and the swiss scouts, resulting in the building of the public library. the library not only serves as a community center for the village, but its architecture features permeable walls that create habitable meeting spaces on the exterior and functional bookshelves on the interior.
the main facade, oriented to a street, creates a protected gathering space.
based on the designers‘ plans, the construction stage took place in summer of 2018 when local professionals, supported by more than 50 scouts volunteers, constructed the building within two months. hosting more than 60 thousand people, the city is mainly composed of informal settlement and the library sits within the students’ neighborhood, uniting the area and providing a community center. the building, located on a 600m2 plot of land, is set on a podium, reinforcing its presence within the town, linking it to the street and protecting it from floods.
detail of the inhabited wall with sculptural outside seating.
the facade was designed as a gathering place, shaped with shadowed patios that are always accessible to students and neighbors. the plan articulates a large reading room in the center, surrounded by four small volumes housing offices and services. this layout reinterprets traditional villages found in ivory coast. the monolithic aspect of vernacular architecture is also expressed in the library’s exterior.
project’s model brought on-site to discuss with the workers.
while the library’s design was informed by its context and the village’s history, hypothesis atelier challenged the basic architectural element of a wall. composed of multiple moves and by the repetition of solid and empty spaces, the classic divisional role of the wall is largely questioned and reimagined in the project. the concept is not to consider it as an element of separation, but as a central element of exchange. this approach is meant to become part of the cultural, environmental and climatic context of southern ivory coast, where partitions define both the interior and exterior space. the wall is inhabited on all sides; the interior surfaces house shelves, while on the outside the modules are completed by seats.
illustration of the inhabited wall as a connecting place rather than a barrier.
the gaps between each module allow the building to benefit from efficient passive ventilation. the passer-by in search of shade as well as the inquiring student is thus invited to meet around this powerful architectural element, once merely a symbol of exclusion. the construction technique also offers a new look at cement bricks, a material often considered banal. arranged at 45 degrees, the bricks are articulated, breaking the linearity of the wall, making it permeable and creating moments of interaction.
the innovative brick layout creates the modules of the inhabited wall.
despite the apparent complexity of the plan, it is arranged on a strict grid where the concrete punctual structures blend entirely into the design of the walls. the different angles also increase the surfaces’ resistance and increase the durability of the building. the community library now offers a collection of more than 2,500 books and succeeds in attracting new students and hosting important gatherings for the town.
plan of the library, scale 1-100, showing one large multipurpose scale and smaller study rooms.
the wall’s interior incorporates bookshelves into its design.
the sloping roof enables natural ventilation in the library’s interior.
re-interpretation’s diagram of traditional village organization to the library’s plan.
architecture: hypothesis atelier
project name: public library for the students’ community
location: grand-lahou, ivory coast
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edited by: cristina gomez | designboom