Client: Kaira Looro
Status: Competition (2016)
Location: Tanaf, Senegal
Coordinates: 12.652783, -15.426479
Climate: Hot, Tropical
Materials: Brick, Wood
Types: Chapel, Religious
A place for all different creeds and beliefs; for all different people; for all different religions; for all humankind.
A place for all.
To create a landmark for Tanaff the ideal site chosen for the intervention is the place in the middle of the main street of Tanaff where an old sacred building stands today, for several reasons:
– it sets a perspective allowing the new building to be seen by locals and visitors from the main street;
– It prioritizes the gathering of people, over the efficiency and rationality of traffic;
– by respecting the design´s imprint, passersby will have to follow the outline, hardly missing its existence;
– moreover, the connection of the place’s sacredness remains in the village people’s memory as it has been a holy place for long;
– finally, on its northwest side, the new sacred building will face what today is already an open square, valuing this empty site, hopefully maintaining it unoccupied by constructions (diagram 1).
Symbolically, the new building is structured as if the old one has had its roof simply turned upside down. Rather than a shelter from rain, it becomes a large rain-water collector, embracing nature as an ally (diagram 2). The design´s square form is not a coincidence. Whereas the conventional form of a religious space is usually linear to promote devotion to divine figures, herein the concentric form is meant to allow equal access from all sides, which reinforces the idea of togetherness regardless of beliefs.
Summarizing the square and the new building configure three moments: the open-air space (image A), the outer ring (image B), and the inner space (image C).
The open-air space featuring the square is the outside world. It configures a profane place to be used by the village dwellers as they please. It also serves as people’s meeting place before or after their spiritual collective manifestation; and eventually even to host any other collective manifestation.
The outer ring configures the transition between profane and divine. There, visitors can have access to clean water and public toilets, and enjoy the shade of a roof. But more importantly, the ring leads to a corridor that serves as a gradual preparation to enter the divine. From the outside, the doors that lead to the inner divine space are not seen because the large openings on the facade gradually diminish towards them. The closer to the door, the more imperceptible the surrounding world becomes.
Once through the small door and inside the central space, the visitor faces the striking contrast: on the one hand, the outside world in strong sunlight, noisy sounds, displaying reddish sand floor, and reddish brick walls; on the other hand, the entirely white inner space involved in quietness and soft light. A cool temperature is aided by a chimney effect, a ventilated roof, ventilated walls, and the shadow cast by the outer ring on the inner walls. The upper openings for ventilation and natural illumination are protected from the outside noise by the steep roof above the outer ring (diagram 3).
A small opening at the center of the building´s roof makes way to the strong sunlight during the day, and the bright moonlight or starlight at night – the meaningful junction between divine and nature. On rainy days, this central opening will create a cascade whose water is drained for treatment and storage. This again is a significant reminder of the union between the divine, nature, and man that may be translated as hope and salvation in times of need. The inner space also counts with descendent bleachers. Rather than looking up to an altar, believers sit facing each other across a central lower floor, where on occasion a homily can be delivered or stories can be told.
In short, the new sacred building stands not only as a beacon for hope and a better future, but a spiritual and physical support for the present.