A Look at the Design Scheme For The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center in Liberia by Atelier Masōmī

Niger-based Atelier Masōmī has just unveiled its design scheme for The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center) located in Liberia’s Capital, Monrovia.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf chose an all-female team to work on the project with lead architect Mariam Issoufou Kamara of Atelier Masōmī, exhibition’s architect Sumayya Vally of Counterspace, and the local architect Liberian architect Karen Richards Barnes. The EJS Center will provide digital access to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s personal and professional archives.

The designs draw inspiration from Liberia’s architectural heritage, paying close attention to the traditional palava huts. Their originally tall, exaggerated pitch roofs were a direct response to the local climate as a mechanism for managing Liberia’s heavy rainfalls. The ceilings inside these dwellings often feature beautiful yet functional woven designs.

Grouped together, as they were in rural settings, a collection of huts will form the basis of the Center and look visually striking and embody a sense of community. The resulting buildings will have similar exaggerated slanted roofs, which also help with natural ventilation, allowing the heat and moisture to escape through the roof.

The build itself will use local materials such as raw earth bricks, fired clay bricks, rubber wood, and woven palm leaves in abundance. Rather than importing materials and skills, the construction of the EJS Center will be a process of building in direct partnership with the people of Monrovia. At the heart of this design is a focus on and belief in the value of sustainability. As such, atelier masōmī has ensured strategies for minimizing energy consumption and material waste are embedded in the project.

The design is a direct response to the history, climate, cultural and architectural heritage of Liberia. The project is an introspection on the challenges faced and on the strength and hope brought about by inspirational leaders such as Madam Sirleaf. The first woman Head of State on the continent, her ability to bring communities together, and be supported by those communities in return, particularly women, was an important component of the conceptual vision of the project. The objective was to design a building that captured the sense of humility, service to a people, grounded in cultural authenticity and great vision that symbolizes Madam Sirleaf’s work.

Mariam Issoufou Kamara

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