Library for the Community of Muyinga
BC Architects - Burundi
Drawings, plans, elevations
The design of the building started with a thorough study of vernacular in Burundi, focusing on local materials, techniques and building typologies. The library is organized along a longitudinal covered circulation space. As it provides a shelter from rain and sun, this “hallway porch” is traditionally used as a social space in the Burundian’s culture. Here the space is deliberately oversized to become the extent of the library. Transparent doors between the columns create the interaction between the inside and the porch, making the library open up towards the adjacent square when fully opened. On the longitudinal end, the porch flows onto the street, where blinders control the access, also showing when the library is open. As the demarcation of the property –also important in Burundian’s architecture, the compound wall aims to facilitate the terracing of the slope as a retaining wall in dry stone technique. The breathtaking view towards the valley is not compromised, while safety is guaranteed. The general form of the library is the result of a structural logic, derived from the materials – Compressed Earth Blocks masonry and baked clay roof tiles. The local roof tiles were heavier than imported corrugated iron sheets, hence the structural system of closely spaced columns, which also act as buttresses for the high walls. Thus, this rhythmic repetition of columns is a recognizable feature of the building. Climatic considerations inspired the design: a high interior with continuous cross-ventilation helps to guide stale air away. Hence, the façade is perforated according to the rhythm of the CEB masonry, giving a luminous sight in the evening. The double room height facing the street gave the possibility to create a special space for the children. A wooden sitting corner on the ground floor, topped by an enormous hammock of sisal rope as a mezzanine enables the children to dream away with their books while reading. The library, linked to an inclusive school for deaf children, offers the possibility to the children to belong to the wider community, from which they are usually excluded. By cooperating with local workforces, but also by involving students, and young architects through on-site workshops, we focused on the implementation of a participatory and educational process in the construction practice. Even the organization of the library is based on this principle, since the board includes directors of neighboring schools to facilitate contacts between deaf and hearing children. Research, design and construction processes aimed at keeping a short supply-chain of expertise, labor, and materials, to reinforce the local economy. We tried to create good conditions for mutual knowledge transfer, and in the end, the construction process of the library had built capacity. The foreman is considering mounting a CEB production facility for the residents; twelve laborers have made it to masons during the process. We have learned -and continue learning- how to act as architects in a globalizing world. Designing with short-chain materials can be applied in a Western construction context; the capacity building process is endless and ongoing.