Primary School Tanouan Ibi

Dutch firm Levs Architecten used compressed earth blocks from local clay mines to build the barrel-vaulted structure of this primary school in the village of Tanouan Ibi.

The architects enlisted students from a nearby university and members of the local community to help construct the building, using the compressed clay bricks to build walls, floors and roofing.

More information at Dezeen.

Ahmed Baba Institute Library

The new Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research, completed in 2009, introduces state-of-the-art techniques for conserving, exhibiting, and studying these famous Timbuktu manuscripts. dhk Architects of Cape Town designed phase one of the $8.36 million, 50,000-square-foot Institute, creating an archive of 20,000 manuscripts and a public library with reference materials on the culture of the region.

Andre Spies, the project architect for dhk, designed the institute and now heads his own practice in Cape Town called twothink architecture, which completed phase two — fitting out the interiors. To respect the vernacular architecture of the region, Spies chose to build primarily with mud, which requires maintenance after the annual rains. He found a local mason who mixed mud with concrete to make the facade rain-repellent, and he purchased mud bricks from craftsmen on the streets.

The introduction of a new building is challenging in the low-tech, mud-built setting of Timbuktu. Albakaye Ousmane Kounta, the Malian writer, poet, and storyteller, criticizes the building as “too modern.” Whereas fortresslike walls concealed the internal configuration of the former institute, the new one blurs inside and out with outdoor hallways arrayed along a “free plan.” This modern approach is uncommon in West Africa, where public and private spaces are strictly demarcated to keep out sand, roving donkeys, and itinerant people. The new design encourages access and openness, but it has drawbacks as well. In addition, some spaces — such as the auditorium — have rigid functions not easily adapted to other uses.

Read more at Architectural Record

Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa

Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa: Photographs by James Morris presents 50 large-scale images of structures from monumental mosques to family homes. An exhibit of the photos runs through July 15 at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles. For more information call (310) 825-4361 or visit www.fowler.ucla.edu or buy the book.

Heavenly Mud

Heavenly Mud is a documentary about traditional architecture and magic in West Africa. The documentary celebrates traditional West African architecture, which uses mud (adobe) as its main material. The film will place it in the context of modern Western architecture and link it to the present movement towards our architectural roots embodied by organic architecture. The film was shot by Ton van der Lee and was broadcast by AVRO Television. It can be purchased here.