Adjaye Associates fuse sacred and the civic in the design of Niamey Martyrs Memorial

Dedicated to the lost soldiers of Niger, the architecture is conceived as a ‘labyrinth of abstraction’ expressed through a concrete colonnade and an underground civic space.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Oct 16, 2020

Adjaye Associates, led by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye, revealed their vision for Le Mémorial des Martyrs (The Martyrs Memorial) in Niamey – the largest city of the West African country of Niger. The news came following the ground-breaking ceremony of the memorial, which took place on October 14, 2020.

Front of the memorial featuring a raised colonnaded plaza | Le Mémorial des Martyrs | Adjaye Associates | STIRworld
Front of the memorial featuring a raised colonnaded plaza Image: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

Comprising a dedicated memorial, an urban plaza, and a multi-functional civic gathering space, the architecture is conceived as a monument to those who lost the fight against terrorism along Niger’s southern and western borders. As per Adjaye Associates, the memorial is a "tangible documentation of the continuous fight against extremist entities and the soldiers who have fallen in the process".

  • A grid of concrete columns on a triangular plot flanked by trees on both sides | Le Mémorial des Martyrs | Adjaye Associates | STIRworld
    A grid of concrete columns on a triangular plot flanked by trees on both sides Image: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates
  • Layout Plan | Le Mémorial des Martyrs | Adjaye Associates | STIRworld
    Layout Plan Image: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates
  • Section | Le Mémorial des Martyrs | Adjaye Associates | STIRworld
    SectionImage: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

The design features a grid of 56 concrete pillars, each 20-meter-high, set on an elevated triangular plot. As one approaches the site, the architecture is conceptualised to 'remove one from the everyday of the city' with its monumentality and curious interaction with nature. Flanked by a grid of trees on both sides acting as a shaded canopy, the colonnade takes the form of a forest in which a 'labyrinth of abstraction' takes centerstage. The solidity of the pillars is stirred by light, shadows and geometries that engulf its surface and the adjoining landscape.

The architecture is designed as a beacon of remembrance | Le Mémorial des Martyrs | Adjaye Associates | STIRworld
The architecture is designed as a beacon of remembrance Image: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

“Each pillar symbolises the individuals lost. At night, beams of light projecting from the pillars become part of the urban skyline, acting as both a beacon of remembrance and a visual guide toward the civic heart of Niamey,” explains the design firm, which has offices across Accra, London and New York.

Underground civic space | Le Mémorial des Martyrs | Adjaye Associates | STIRworld
Underground civic space Image: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

Under the plaza, a civic space designed as an 'underground cooling labyrinth' will facilitate multiple uses, ranging from the religious to city-organised events. It will be interspersed by pillars acting as thermal chimneys that mitigate the heat of the extreme local Sahelian climate.

Geometric perforations interacting with light add to the structure’s sensorial nature | Le Mémorial des Martyrs | Adjaye Associates | STIRworld
Geometric perforations interacting with light add to the structure’s sensorial nature Image: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

Adding a layer of playful luminosity, light is curated into this dark space through geometric perforations on the façade. This treatment, as per Adjaye Associates, is aimed to transform the space into a sanctuary punctuated by tessellated shadow.

"Through an interplay of absences and voids, the Martyrs Memorial becomes a sacred space—an in-between moment for meaningful reflection on the past and a signalling for a peaceful future,” comments Sir Adjaye.

Overall the architecture employs materials such as concrete, bronze and perforated steel that contribute not only to the sensory aspect of the space but also to durability and endurance of the structure.

While its completion is yet to be announced, the memorial as per Sir David Adjaye is expected to bring together the sacred and the civic in a way that engages both the citizen and the city.

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