The Library of Muyinga is the first building of a project to build a new school for deaf children, using local materials and construction techniques, and referencing indigenous building typologies.
BC Architects and Studies developed the design from a five-year-old template listed on the OpenStructures network. They adapted it to suit the needs of the programme, adding a large sheltered corridor that is typical of traditional Burundian housing.
“Life happens mostly in this hallway porch: encounters, resting, conversation, waiting,” explained the architects. “It is a truly social space, constitutive for community relations.”
Rammed earth blocks form the richly coloured walls and were produced using a pair of vintage compressor machines. They create rows of closely spaced piers around the exterior, supporting a heavy roof clad with locally made baked-clay tiles.
“The challenge of limited resources for this project became an opportunity,” said the architects. “We managed to respect a short supply-chain of building materials and labour force, supporting the local economy and installing pride in the construction of a library with the poor people’s material – earth.”
The wide corridor runs along one side of the building, negotiating a change in level between the front and back of the site. Glass panels are slotted between columns along one of its sides and hinge open to lead through to the library reading room.
Here, bookshelves are slotted within recesses between the piers, while a large wooden table provides a study area and a huge hammock is suspended from the ceiling to create a more informal space for reading.
Wooden shutters reveal when the library is open. They also open the building out to the area where the rest of the school will be built, which is bounded by a new drystone wall.
“A very important element in Burundian (and, generally, African) architecture is the very present demarcation of property lines. It is a tradition that goes back to tribal practices of compounding family settlements,” said the architects.
High ceilings allow cross ventilation, via a pattern of square perforations between the rammed earth blocks.