by Sunena V MajuApr 26, 2023
Located in downtown Sharjah, at the corner of the Post Office Roundabout in the Al Manakh neighbourhood, the new campus concept for The Africa Institute by Adjaye Associates unveils a rusty red citadel composed of five interconnected volumes ranging between four to seven stories. Once constructed, the 31,882 sqm building will serve as one-of-its-kind academic centre dedicated to the studies and documentation of the incredible history of Africa, African diaspora and the Arab world.
Centred in the urban landscape and mediating between its different scales, the architecture with its striking tiered forms is expected to define Sharjah’s skyline.
Inspired from the Gulf, Timbuktu, and Hausa architecture that stand out for their solid masonry façades often enclosing an internal courtyard, the new campus is defined by a shared court on the ground floor that creates a transition between the city and the architecture. Four volumes spanning the shorter side of the court and housing the building’s core programmes float above it. “The project contemplates how one lives and learns, stimulated by this region where the language of the courtyard becomes a central form in which climate and construct cohabitate,” says the design team at Adjaye Associates. The fifth volume closes the courtyard to the south and greets visitors from beneath a large overhang.
The building features large overhangs that control direct solar exposure. Internally, walls are perforated and punctured with small apertures that enclose teaching, learning and administration areas. The various spaces within the building include classrooms, flexible auditoriums and performance spaces, a restaurant and a bookstore.
The entryway to the building will be on each of its four facades that will greet visitors and lead them to other institutions and public areas. A unified basement integrates plant and storage needs with public programmes such as a lecture theatre underneath. The internal spatial organisation of the complex is supported by plinths and connected by a network of patios and support spaces.
Four unobstructed, mostly solid facades define the outward character of this low carbon concrete construction. When the temperature in the desert drops at night, the heat collected by the structural walls is released. Every court facade repeats the same features in a different sequence, resulting in a succession of varying heights that represent the individual character of the five volumes while retaining the ensemble's coherence.
Hoor Al Qasimi, President of The Africa Institute, remarked on the initiative, “We selected David Adjaye to create the first purpose-built home for this vital institution because of his experience in designing buildings that foster learning, collaboration, and community building.” The architecture developed by the New York-based firm redefines the manner in which the public, the regional landscape, and the academic landscape coexist and support one another. The project is scheduled for completion in 2023.
(Text by Supreena Dash, intern at stirworld.com)