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












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

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    492,664 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample