Senegalese village is thriving because of this one building

Thread Artists’ Residency and Cultural Centre fosters creativity and enterprise in a remote village in Senegal.

Thread Artists’ Residency and Cultural Centre in the village of Sinthain, Senegal was designed by renowned architect Toshiko Mori. The building was funded by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation to foster creativity and cultural exchange in the remote Senegalese village, located 700 kilometres from Dakar. Since its inauguration in March 2015, the centre has been embraced by the surrounding villages. It has become a hub for community gatherings and enterprise. 

Mori based the design of the building on the vernacular of the African hut, and set out to create a large scale interpretation of the traditional structure. To get locals involved in the making and maintenance of the building, the materials used in the design had to be familiar to the people and easy to source. Therefore, the roof was woven from widely available bamboo and thatch grass to create a strong contoured canopy that shelters a cylindrical base comprised of mud brick taken from the site. 

The curvature of the roof is a striking element of the design but it also functions as a practical and much needed rainwater collection point for locals. This has drawn villagers to the water cisterns to collect water so that they can grow their vegetables, do their laundry, garden and sustain their animals. The building now acts as a community gathering space where effective farming methods are exchanged and local enterprise is born. There are micro economies developing out of this space and a rice farming initiative has even secured funding from the government.

International and local artists staying at the centre offer workshops and programmes aimed at exchanging knowledge, ideas and skills with surrounding villages.