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Where Rwandan soil rises to meet the sky, divine light bridges the gap between heaven and earth and all come together as one. 

The chapel of the Crossing marks the meeting of God and mortal. Tutsi and Hutu; local and travel; all gathering together to celebrate the glory of the divine. 

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Sedhiou Cultural Centre


Kaira Looroo


Complete - Competition 


Sedhiou, Senegal

Sculpted from Sedhiou earth and inspired by the Baobab tree, this dynamic structure invites cultural sharing and celebration within an engaging spatial array.

A Senegalese spiritual icon and traditional gathering place, the ‘tree of life’ manifests physical and symbolic characteristics central to the sharing of culture that we aimed to recreate in our design. The shading canopy collects water into a central well; the structural roots extending into the ground to shape spiritually immersive space.  Around the trunk-like well structure, the ground is sculpted into an array of spaces derived from the circular and domed motifs found frequently in the traditional architecture and artifacts of Sedhiou’s ethnic groups. The vaulted forms of the intertwined educational, performance, and exhibition spaces expose planning concepts of overlapping circles pushed and pulled from the ground to form multidimensional layered space. The juxtaposition of fluid vault and arched timbrel structures creates a form that is at once solid and permeable; framing numerous paths winding through an everchanging structure. As flexible as the structure is fluid, the spatial array can be adapted for differing scales of educational, exhibitive and performative use: an earthen sculpture eager to be awakened with cultural expression.

Concept | Development

Circular Planning | optimised orientation + overlapping Forms

Shaping Vaulted Forms | Establishing Entries + Deviating Form 

Sculpting Ground Plane | Dynamic Paths, Pushed + Pulled Space

optimising water collection | forming canopy + wells

Sculpting solid form | upper + lower timbrel vaults

Construction | Staging

Stage 1 | Excavation + retention 

Stage 2 | Protective canopy

1. Excavate earth from lower ground spaces and set aside in amphitheatre and gathering circles. Use portion of soil to form rammed earth retaining walls & floors. A few workers can now use manual Soil Block Presses to begin to create the Stabilised Soil Tiles for the timbrel vaults from the remaining soil. 

2. Forming the bamboo canopy next; with placement of temporary posts as necessary on the Eastern side; will allow the workers to be protected from the harsh sun and heat as construction continues; whilst ensuring the tile manufacture is not setback by rainy weather. Locally abundant straw or palm fronds will form the thatched covering.

Stage 3 | Lower Timbrel Vaults

3. The lower vaults can be constructed as tiles continue to be made; the minimal formwork required made from palm boards. Timbrel vaulting is ecologically efficient; saving substantial amounts of building materials and thus embodied energy; being therefore cheap to construct – particularly where hand labour is affordable. The structural elements can be produced by people from local communities; local labourers can easily be trained to master the constructional practices required.

Stage 4 | Upper Timbrel Vaults

4. Once the lower vault layer is complete the rammed earth floor is filled in over the exhibition vaults and construction can begin as before on the upper layer, and the amphitheatre ‘steps’ can be formed over the educational ring.

Stage 5 | Bamboo fittings + finishes

5. Upon construction of all stereotomic elements the bamboo office space, educational ring screen and remaining canopy posts can be assembled. Finally, the red, green and yellow fabric panels above the gathering space and curtain dividers to the educational ring complete the ensemble.

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