Located where the Niger and Bani rivers meet, Mopti is Mali's fourth largest city and its most important commercial port. Founded in the 19th century as part of the Massina Empire, it rises on three islands, and owing to its limited ground area, has a higher building density than other towns in the country.
After carrying out the restoration of the Great Mosque of Mopti, commonly known as the Mosque of Komoguel, The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) turned to the construction of the Center for Earth Architecture, a visitor facility that forms part of the city's tourist infrastructure but simultaneously accommodates an administrative program servicing local needs in the district of Komoguel. The building falls under the AKTC's Rehabilitation of Earth Architecture Program, which has overseen similar initiatives in Mopti,Timbuktu and Djenne, all with the aim of instructing people in the traditional methods of construction and thereby ultimately stimulating local economic development through industly, employment and tourism.
The center stands close to an interior lake, on land gained by a backfill at the waterside that has made it accessible for public use. Addressing the needs of the program, the building consists of three independent volumes, two of them connected by a shared roof. The largest one is the main section featuring several exhibition rooms, a cafe and a small store. A smaller construction serves the local population with spaces for work and training. The smallest volume, situated at the east end of the complex, contains washroom facilities.
Compressed earth blocks were used to raise the building, in particular all the walls and barrel vaults. This construction system is particularly suited to the climate conditions of the region. Openings made in the walls and vaults make it possible for air to flow freely. Besides this natural ventilation, they help to keep indoor temperatures at comfortable levels, making mechanical cooling systems unnecessary.
Crowning the three volumes are two roofs with metal frames and geometrical arrangements that do their share in reinforcing the building's overall natural ventilation system while providing shaded outdoor spaces. The landscaping part of the project provides wide public lakeside spaces as well as a promenade that stretches along the top part of the dike.
Source: Luis Fernández-Galiano (ed.) Atlas: Architectures of the 21st Century. Africa and Middle East. Bilbao: Fundación BBVA, 2011.
Centre de l’Architecture en Terre (Variant)
Avenue de l'Indépendance, Komoguel I, Mopti, Mopti region
Isar, Yudhishthir Raj,editor. Good Practice in Vocational Training. Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture Education Programme, 2020.
The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme repertoire of site conservation and socio-economic redevelopment activities follows a trajectory whereby traditional skills, that are directly related to the rehabilitation and conservation of historic monuments, are revived or, if needed, reintroduced. The impact that conservation and restoration of cultural heritage sites has on the development of skills of members of the local community can be profound. It is for that reason that the Programme seeks to undertake projects whose scope of economic benefits far exceeds the short-term creation of employment in the sphere of restoration and related traditional crafts. Indeed, it is with an eye on the direct and indirect employment opportunities that arise from project implementation and future operation of historical sites, that individuals are trained in a wide scale of professions – or in skills upgrading of those already engaged in a particular profession – through Technical and Vocational Education and Training.