The Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research, commonly referred to as Ahmed Baba Institute, is a library and research complex located in Timbuktu, Mali.
Its location in Timbuktu, is an ancient town with rich history dating back to the Trans-Saharan Trade, required the architects to come up with a design that would respect its unique context. The result was a building constructed mostly with mud, a modern interpretation of the construction technology of ancient Mali and a perfect example of Islamic Architecture in an African Context. The building construction took place in two phases. For the first phase, completed in 1970s, Cape-Town based DHK
Architects chose mud as their primary building material. Now referred to as the old building, it is characterized by arched openings and massive carved doors. The mud-brick walls are bare, with minimal ornamentation and no cladding, exposing the cement binder that hold the bricks together. These exterior walls are conveniently massive to reduce heat gain by the building in Timbuktu’s hot and dry desert climate. The second phase was designed by twothink Architecture to replace the crumbling old building. For this phase the architects extensively used local materials, purchasing mud bricks from local craftsmen and greatly improving the building’s sustainability credentials with reduced construction costs and impact on the environment.
The external facades are constructed using hydrophobic bricks made using a combination of mud and cement to minimize their vulnerability to rain. The outer walls are plastered and painted earthy brown, evoking the feeling of traditional mud houses of Timbuktu. However, for the archival/conservation laboratory that house conserved items, the walls are of concrete blocks since they are less permeable to weather elements. All buildings are flat roofed with renforced concrete that are left bare exposing the dull grey color of concrete and enhancing the buildings’ materiality by breaking the monotony of the earthy walls.
Window openings have ornate, carved screens that permit plenty of light and allow for adequate ventilation, greatly improving the buildings sustainability credentials. The interior design of public spaces such as the library are minimalist. Walls of Interior spaces are whitewashed. The floors are paved using fired mud bricks laid over rammed earth. Interior furniture pieces are minimalist and utilitarian and are mostly of roughly finished wood. In spite of its traditional building technology interior spaces are still fitted with modern technology including fire-detection systems and air condition. The result is a building complex that is beautiful, functional and sustainable while still remaining true to its African Context; a perfect example of earth architecture.
Amidst the senseless construction of commercial urban projects in Bamako, a welcoming vision of nature and beauty stands at the entrance of the National Park. The renowned architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient in 2004, was commissioned to redevelop 8 existi...