Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré emphasized Mali's rich culture and history while shaping the public experience with his ecological contributions to the National Park of Mali and the Great Mosque of Mopti. The National Park of Mali is 250-acres of open space right in the middle of Mali's capital city Bamako, one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. His landscaping and construction on the protected forest land demonstrates sustainable urban planning as well as the power of public-private partnerships. The government has teamed up with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to keep this public space safe from land grabs, while Kéré is working to keep it in the public heart.
Kéré is a world-renowned architect with projects in India, China, Spain, Yemen, Togo, and his home country of Burkina Faso. His integration of technology and vernacular architecture enable him to actualize unique, appealing and environmental solutions that reflect their historical and cultural context. In the case of Mali, these range from 15th century Dogon villages nestled in sandstone cliffs to French colonial-era botanical gardens.
Kéré’s buildings in the National Park and Mosque include a restaurant, tea house, sports grounds, visitors center, and entrance pavilion. Each of the facilities shares common elements such as slanted steel roofs hovering atop adobe bases. Echoing the ancient baobab trees and sandstone cliffs are lattice-work walls carved from local stone, and all of the structures are open to allow for natural ventilation (the restaurant at the National Park is the only facility with air conditioning).
The sports center at the National Park is split up into three pavilions situated around an ellipsoidal playground. The National Park’s restaurant follows the same architectonical language; it is separated into four cubes, each with a different purpose. The dining area sits atop a rock formation overlooking a nearby lake, flower garden, grove of trees, and some of the many trails and pathways.
Open space, simplicity, and functionality are the creative forces behind the structures at the expansive National Park of Mali, as well as the visitor’s center at the Great Mosque of Mopti.
Photos © Iwan Baan