The Cultural Center derives its concept from the oldest meeting spot in Africa which is the tree. For centuries the tree has not only provided fruits and shade but also a venue. Stories and occasions have occurred in communities around Africa under the oldest tree in the community. The people of Sedhiou are not aliens to this culture and have done story telling with their koras many times at this venue and hence the design gets its inspiration from the tree. At the center of the facility in the main exhibition space is a display of the kora which acts as a medium of exchange of the culture for the people in the region hence is the main root of the community. It is surrounded by seven columns representing the seven main ethnic tribes in the region. These branch out to form two main branches of the center which spread out to the entry point of the site.
The structure has a series of leaf shaped roofs which form gaps in which light and water trickle down into the depths of the structure. The bamboo roof trusses together with the translucent waterproof shade cloth, in between the rattan roof channel water into pipes within the floor structure that connect to underground storage tanks. Water from the soak way is channeled to a tree nursery that provides the community with various species of trees with medicinal and nutritional properties.
Two main wall types are used; one is a combination of rattan used for boundary walls in the region and pieced bamboo cut stems stacked on top of each other the combination forms a semitransparent facade that can be adjusted and folded creating a flexible space within. The other is a combination of sea shells and mud which creates walls for the exhibition and bureau areas. Floors are made up of rammed earth. Bureau spaces have an additional concrete flat roof. The performance area is outdoor and made out of used tires which form terraces. Shade for this area is provided by the already existing trees next to the site.
Project by Consolidated Archi-techs, Zimbabwe.
This project is published in response to a comment on this article posted by Yeukai Arthur Sithole, founder Consolidated Archi-techs, a group of young architectural students in Zimbabwe. We invited the author to publish the competition entry referenced in the comment and he gracefully agreed.