The rural hospital of the Tambacounda region in Senegal will undergo a transformative and essential expansion by the award-winning architect Manuel Herz, conceived and funded by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and American Friends of Le Korsa.
Following a selection process from a shortlist of international architecture firms, the acclaimed Switzerland-based architect’s proposal has been selected to enhance the existing structure, with construction commencing in September 2018. The Tambacounda Hospital extension is the culmination of a long-standing relationship between the Albers Foundation and Senegal, which in 2015 launched THREAD designed pro bono by celebrated New York based architecture firm Toshiko Mori, a cultural centre for local inhabitants of the rural village of Sinthian. Since its establishment THREAD has hosted numerous global artists and creatives, and has become a meeting place for cultural exchange and dialogue.
This latest initiative builds upon the Albers Foundation’s work with THREAD, to further support the local community in Senegal, this time with the redevelopment of the maternity and paediatric clinics of the regional hospital in Tambacounda. The only major hospital in the region, it is a vital resource, servicing around 20,000 patients per year from the surrounding area, stretching across the border into Mali. The doctors work under extremely difficult conditions; the current hospital design leaves the communal spaces desperately overcrowded with patients and families compelled to await treatment in the heat on corridor floors, and children forced to share beds in the wards. As Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, says: ‘Josef Albers often spoke of the use of “minimal means for maximum effect;” the low budget for this building that will do so much for so many people, and turn an exceedingly difficult situation into a positive one, requires an architect capable of alchemy. Manuel Herz was the unanimous choice. His approach shows a mix of visual flare, practical understanding, and profound humanitarianism.’
Manuel Herz’s winning proposal was selected for the originality of its design and its keen sensitivity to the local environment. Herz has previously worked on several projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and is the author of African Modernism, and his design demonstrates this extensive research in the region. In the spirit of the Albers’ cooperative approach to creation, his proposal places the emphasis upon collaboration and involves the community throughout all stages of the design and construction process. Herz explains that the design
‘aims at becoming a model and new paradigm for medical institutions in Senegal and for the African continent as a whole.’
Herz’s design brings a new sense of coherence and focuses on improving the comfort of patients and visitors. The extension will consist of a curvilinear building connected to the existing hospital by a covered pathway. Combining the paediatric and the maternity clinics in the same building, the curves of the S-shaped structure reference the circular typology of the existing buildings that comprise the hospital, whilst introducing an aesthetic innovation. The form of this new structure will allow for smooth circulation and create several new niches between rooms, and an additional two new exterior spaces where waiting families can rest without overcrowding the wards.
In addition to the clarity of movement afforded by this design, Herz will also introduce several innovations to help combat the effects of the extreme climate and compensate for the lack of air conditioning in the majority of the hospital. The narrow width of the new structure will allow for cross ventilation and his use of brickwork laid in a lattice-like texture with apertures inspired by the Mashrabiya tradition will both create shadow and allow for increased air circulation. A second roof will cover the primary roof of the extension, shading the areas most exposed to the sun and creating a chimney effect which will draw the heat upwards and out of the rooms below.
Herz’s proposal also takes into consideration the natural environment surrounding the hospital. In his plans he was careful to choose a design and location that would allow for the least number of trees to be uprooted, and he will be involved with the landscaping of the surrounding area to create additional spaces where patients and families can congregate in the shade.
In 1971, Josef and Anni Albers, established a nonprofit organisation to further ‘the revelation and evocation of vision through art.’ Twenty-five years later in 1997, the cornerstone of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation (JAAF), designed by Tim Prentice and Lo-Yi Chan, was laid. Located on a beautiful woodland site in Bethany, Connecticut, near New Haven – thanks to funds acquired by Anni Albers for the restitution of family property in the former East Berlin – the Foundation today includes a fascinating art collection, library and archives, as well as residence studios for visiting artists.
Today, the organisation is devoted to fostering and promoting the legacy of both Josef and Anni Albers’s lives and work, and the aesthetic and philosophical principles by which they lived. Under the direction of Nicholas Fox Weber – appointed Executive Director of the Foundation forty years ago and friend of the Alberses – the Foundation has adopted a forward-looking and multi-faceted approach to preserving this legacy, setting it apart from all other major artists’ foundations operating today.
Active in the fields of art, education, research and publishing the Foundation continues to lead the way in applying its founders’ philosophy to help bring about change through continuous ground- breaking philanthropic projects and exhibitions across the world.
The Tambacounda hospital expansion is the latest development in the Albers Foundation’s enduring relationship with Senegal. Nicholas Fox Weber (the Foundation’s Director) founded the non-profit organisation American Friends of Le Korsa in 2005, focusing particularly on medical care, scholarships and education in Senegal.
ABOUT THE ARCHITECT – MANUEL HERZ
Manuel Herz is an architect based in Basel, Switzerland. His award winning projects include the Synagogue of Mainz, a museum extension in Ashdod, Israel, as well as housing and office buildings and art spaces in Germany, France and Switzerland. Manuel Herz was the curator and architect of the National Pavilion of the Western Sahara at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2016, the first time that a refugee nation has been represented at the Venice Biennale.
Manuel Herz has taught at schools such as Harvard Graduate School of Design and the ETH Zürich. He holds a position as professor of architectural and urban design at the University of Basel. His award-winning book “African Modernism—Architecture of Independence” presents the architecture of countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia at the time of their independence in the 1960s and 1970s, with an exhibition shown at the Vitra Design Museum, currently travelling to cities across Europe, the United States, and sub-Saharan Africa.