Designed pro-bono by Toshiko Mori Architect, and built by a local team of contractors, Thread combines local materials and building customs with an innovative design and specific geometry. It won an AIA National Honors award, was short-listed for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, selected for the 2014 Venice Biennale, won two Architizer awards, and was named as one of the best buildings and projects of 2015 by many notable journals, including Architectural Record, WIRED Magazine, among others.
Local masons and villagers provided their sophisticated knowledge of working with bamboo, brick, and thatch. Meanwhile Toshiko Mori Architect via lead designer Jordan MacTavish innovated the application of those materials in a new geometry, creating a structure that provides for the village while acting as a great source of pride for the masons, the people of Sinthian, and the region of Tambacounda.
The building project was entirely collaborative. As one example, the perforated brick walls incorporate a local technology for air circulation, were designed by Toshiko Mori Architect, and borrow the aesthetic of a Josef Albers wall motif. In this way, they are the result of collaboration between a Senegalese engineer—Benjamin Samba-Tine, a Japanese architect—Toshiko Mori, and an American curator versed in the work of a German-American modernist—Nick Murphy. Dr. Magueye Ba oversaw the entire construction process from the ground.
One of the most promising achievements of this collaboration is the roof. It is local custom to use thatch and steep slopes to allow water to run off the buildings. And in other areas of Senegal, that run off is captured in wells inside homes. Here, that same technology has been reoriented so that the natural run off can be collected and diverted into adjacent water basins.
The roof and basin system is capable of providing for a wealth of new agricultural opportunities in the immediate environs. In addition to the obvious benefits of increased accessibility to water, the system greatly reduces risks of contamination compared to current customs of rain collection and wells.
The narrow canal system articulates the interior spaces of Thread, creating open-air studios ringed with water, abutting individual bedrooms for visiting artists at either end of the building.
Between the studios is a large, open-air communal space that is shielded from the rain and intense heat that is at present becoming exacerbated by global warming. This is a flex space that has been seen to house a market, village meetings, local performances, study halls, or intimate moments at the Library.
The communal disposition of the structure and its supply of water are efforts to ensure that this is a building for international artists and for the people of Sinthian.