the ahmed baba institute preserves ancient writings in timbuktu
 
the ahmed baba institute preserves ancient writings in timbuktu the ahmed baba institute preserves ancient writings in timbuktu
dec 09, 2013

the ahmed baba institute preserves ancient writings in timbuktu

‘ahmed baba institute’ by dhk architects, timbuktu, mali
all images courtesy of dhk architects

 

 

 

timbuktu has historically been a university city for thousands of years, over time collecting countless islamic texts and literature that was scattered around the citizens’ homes. south african practice dhk architects was called upon to design the ‘ahmed baba institute’ to collect all the dispersed works and collect them in one location that would also better preserve the timeless pieces. modeled after the labyrinthine streets of the city, the structures that make up ahmed baba are arranged to create small exterior and interior pathways that connect the main auditorium, outdoor amphitheater, library, restoration spaces and guest rooms. the urban strategy of the site plan is further emphasized by the siting itself, located exactly between the old mud brick city and its contemporary outskirts, located also at the confluence of three major roads that link the building directly to the airport and to both urban conditions.

 

 


front facade

 

 

the ground level houses an arrival gallery along the same datum as the minaret of the old sankore mosque, a book restoration and digitization workshop, a photographic studio, meeting spaces, library, and guest house for visiting scholars. at the center of the project, an auditorium provides the necessary event space for lectures and public functions. the basement benefits from the subterranean insulation and thermal stability to keep the books in the archive, storage and reading rooms. this first floor, rendered in more contemporary materials, contains offices and visitor accommodations, enjoying air conditioned spaces and modern amenities. the existing mosque is kept intact, preserving the surrounding square and community football field. at the eastern-most end, an external amphitheaters sits under an expansive tensile canopy as a flexible area for performances or talks.

 

 


contemporary offices in an elevated mass

 

 

the circulation and material choices reflect the historical city. thick composite mud/concrete brick walls are covered in natural plasters with deep openings carved from the envelope. the mass alone helps maintain comfortable temperatures and the hydrophobic bricks retain their natural look with the added waterproof characteristic of the mixed-in concrete, eliminating the need for frequent maintenance. a concrete roof acts as a parasol shading the entire complex while outdoor hallways and carefully designed openings ensure a constant natural ventilation and diminish energy costs. hand-chiseled stone screens block the intense desert sun and express the early moroccan influence in the area, at the same time keeping a cool interior environment.

 

 


combination of ‘old’ and ‘new’ constructions

 

 


existing mosque and square

 

 


interior and exterior hallways

 

 


concrete canopy is elevated above the structures allowing indirect light into the circulation areas

 

 


rich tones and textures are created from the traditional plastering methods

 

 


offices and interior hallway

 

 


hand-carved stone screens block direct sunlight into the offices and visitor rooms

 

 


detail of the screens

 

 


library space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


aerial render

 

 


section

 

 


section

 

 


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project info:

 

 

name of project: the ahmed baba institute (phase 1) 
country/place: timbuktu, mali
address: sankore precinct, timbuktu, mali
client: timbuktu manuscript trust
name of architects: dhk architects | peter fehrsen – design principle, derick henstra – design principle, andre spies – project architect

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