Iwan Baan

National Park of Mali by Kere Architecture Features an Assortment of Distinctive Canopy Roofs

The 3000 sqm national park of Mali is a project by Kere Architecture completed in 2010 which features the redevelopment of existing structures in the park as well as the introduction of new ones.

The architects were commissioned to redevelop 8 of the said existing structures and design a primary and secondary gate, as well as an entry building, a youth and sports centre, a restaurant, public toilets and several kiosks. Here’s a description provided by Kere Architecture,

The population of Bamako, the capital of the Republic of Mali, has risen rapidly in recent years to over one million inhabitants, creating new demand for housing and public facilities. In this context, the need for far-sighted urban planning was crucial. The Government’s response was to define the outlines of the National Park of Mali, a space of 103 hectares within a larger protected forest reserve of 2,100 hectares, which forms a significant greenbelt in this mainly arid country. Under the terms of the public-private partnership, the Government asked Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) to concentrate on the Park’s 103 hectares, a large, semi-circular canyon of protected forest that lies beneath the terraced outcrops of the Koulouba plateau, between the National Museum and the Presidential Palace Complex. Given the Park’s natural attractions, its large size and its location next to the National Museum Complex, the Park was designed to offer large open spaces for leisure and educational activities for the general public, school groups and tourists. The project brief called for the unification of the sites of the National Museum and the existing Botanical Garden and Zoo into a single cultural/ecological park of significant value, with natural and cultural attractions. Phase 1 included the rehabilitation of 17 hectares of open spaces and gardens and the construction of several new facilities.

The Park features a comprehensive pedestrian circulation network and formal promenades throughout. It contains fitness, jogging, cycling and mountaineering tracks of varying difficulty and diverse interpretive awareness trails for botany, birds and nature. The pedestrian network provides easy access to the 103 hectares of the Park and connects existing facilities, such as the National Museum and the amphitheatre. The latter is dedicated to education and the performing arts. Phase 1 also included the redevelopment and integration of eight existing facilities.

The architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, an Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient in 2004, was commissioned to design a primary and secondary gate, an entry building, a youth and sports centre, a restaurant, public toilets and several kiosks. The garden spaces feature indigenous flora in varied settings, from open lawn areas to flower gardens, wooded areas and a medicinal garden. The installation of a range of interpretive educational signs and displays, and the development of trained guides, is expected to offer new educational experiences for visitors.

For the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Mali, the National Park in Bamako reopened with new buildings such as an exclusive restaurant, a sport centre and several entrance buildings. The restaurant is situated on top of a rock formation and is nestling up against the different height levels. The building is separated in four cubes which are representing the different functions.

The concern was always to integrate the spectacular view over the park and the nearby lake into the design. Following the example of the restaurant, the sport centre is meeting with the same architectonical language. It consists of three pavilions which are situated around an ellipsoidal playground. The buildings are situated in such a way that they give maximal shadow to the playground and also the interior recreation spaces. Also here the relationships between interior and exterior spaces played a major role in the design.

The entrance buildings are interpreting the architectonical style of the restaurant and the sport centre. In this way the ensemble of the different complexes creates through the common design language and choice of materials a unique and recognizable architecture fort he park.

All buildings are covered from the outside with the local natural stone, which usage is reinforcing the local identity and saving building costs. The exterior stone walls are providing a natural isolation and acclimatization of the interior spaces. The big overhanging roofs are giving shade to the facades and are creating an enjoyable inside climate. For more exclusive rooms, such as the dining hall in the restaurant, an air-conditioning is foreseen. In these cases, the gap between the massive wall and the roof was closed with a stripe.

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