- by Linda Hutchins
The Quell – a call for peace in a region that has been haunted by conflicts and suffering for decades.
The Quell consists of four semi-enclosed volumes and the outdoor space between. It is a broken circle, but is perceived as an entity. The gaps between the volumes represent the cracks in society and in people’s hearts caused by these dreadful conflicts. These scars are built into the architecture as a reminder of the consequences of past and ongoing animosity. The unity of the volumes and the creation of a single entity speaks of hope and healing. The structure is broken yet whole.
The Quell is a simple structure that offers a variety of spaces. It is a place where one can find peace, reflect inwardly, but also a place to meet other people and be enlightened through exhibitions and seminars.
With its monumental character it declares that it is a sacred place, but due to the proportions and the scale of the separate volumes it also offers a sense of intimacy and privacy. The two larger volumes are meant for exhibitions, smaller gatherings and lectures/seminars. One of them has a storage/study space, but the shape and size of the two are identical. The two smaller volumes are also identical but offer two very different scenarios for contemplation. One has two access points and offers an open and social scene for contemplation. The second volume is only accessed from the inside through a narrow passage and is as an intimate and personal space for contemplation. The space in between is an organic shaped space/square where people can sit, meet or perhaps experience temporary outdoor exhibitions.
The Quell has spaces for contemplation that are open to everyone, always, but the exhibition halls can be closed off, combining open and closed, private and public, spiritual and intellectual.
The Quell is open to the elements, it rises from the earth, it is created of earth – and becomes a sacred structure, part of nature itself.
The natural colors and the textural variation found in the material scheme of The Quell projects a raw yet warm and welcoming feeling. The bases of all the curved walls are made of rammed-earth, a compressed mixture of suitable proportions of local earth, laterite, clay, sand and a stabilizer. The walls are reinforced with steel rebar or wood, and constructed on top of conventional footings.
On top of each base are brick walls letting wind and light through the structure. The bricks are made of the same mixture of earth, stacked in a vertical manner. Standard bricklaying and masonry techniques can be used. The mortar is a simple slurry of the earth mixture without aggregate. Cement mortar may also be used for extra strength.
The construction of rammed-earth walls starts with temporary wooden forms used as a mold for the shape and dimensions of each wall.
All outer walls are equal in dimensions, as are the inner walls. This means there will be two molds that can be used repeatedly. The material is compressed iteratively and gradually builds up to the top of the form. Rammed-earth walls are a time tested construction method.
The curved walls are joined and stabilized using wooden or steel beams that also carry the wooden roofs of the four volumes. The roofs are offset from the walls creating a light well around the perimeter of each enclosed space.
The exhibition halls can be closed off by sliding wooden doors, whereas the contemplation spaces are accessed through passageways.
The packed earth floor is beveled in a pattern that allows for water run-off within a decorative element.
The use of rammed earth, based on local ingredients, is a key element in keeping the costs as low as possible. The vast majority of the structure is composed of this material. Concrete footings under the walls and steel reinforcing throughout the structure are required. These imports are relatively costly but necessary. Locally supplied wooden beams, roofing material and seating structures round out the costs.
(Definition of quell: verb – put an end to)
architect: Linda Hutchins | client: Unknown | status: Competition (2019) | location: Sedhiuo, Senegal | climate: Hot, Tropical | materials: wood, brick | environment: Desert | visualizer: Studio | scale: 300 m2 small | types: cultural, mixed use | views: 3.125