Nouakchott was a small village until 1960 when the city was declared the capital of the newly independent nation of Mauritania. Planned to accommodate fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, the city expanded rapidly in the 1970s, largely due to informal settlements due to immigration from the countryside caused by desertification and loss of agricultural land. A resettlement program to clear these settlements began in 2009.
The distance-learning centre offers a traditionally nomadic people 'a place of exchange with the world' - via an enormous satellite dish. The centre contains an interactive room for video-conferencing, a multimedia room, technical spaces and a café. Its site - next to the exhibition centre in Nouakchott - reflects its importance. The building is realised as a concrete shell construction. The main mass is a half-cylinder completed, conceptually, by a virtual 'other half' formed by new means of communication. The cylinder is linked to a brise-soleil-covered cube by an elevated walkway symbolising the technology that has made this communication possible.