Currently lacking an architectural identity capable of signaling the actual moment of the country, the second prize winning proposal for the reconstruction of the Conference Center provides a new image in Libreville, Gabon. The design by PPMS Arquitetos Associados involves the existing building with a circular translucent skin, made of ultra resistance concrete slabs, a material capable of thermally protecting the construction from the heat prevailing in the region. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Despite being an interesting testimony to the time it was built, as well as a memory of the 14th OAU Summit Conference that occurred in 1977, the Libreville Conference Center is now not only obsolete to host the 23rd edition of the same event, but above all lacks the actual moment of the country. Gabon is now an emerging nation that presents itself as a key element in the economic and political restructuring of Africa.
Made with prefabricated structure of reinforced concrete and glass walls, the building of the conference center is the constructive expression of a past, industrial and developmental time, when the country had just ceased being a colony and was still preparing for the major urban growth that would follow. Today, the growing service economy of Gabon, associated with globalization, calls for greater clarity in the definition of certain constructed signs. With a diameter of 110 meters, the new building is perfectly capable of housing the entire desired program, and it also provides a new image for the Center: a perfect cylinder, loose from the ground, and almost diaphanous, given its irregular perforation.
If the visual reading of the hexagonal shape of the building is almost impossible in the current situation, the form will be revealed in confrontation with the new circular perimeter, in the internal spaces of the future Center. It is a simple operation that reveals the hidden virtues in the existing work by adding lightness to it. Thus the Conference Centre will really gain the dignity of a “palace” – a word that has named it from the origin in the French language.
This new envelope, however, does not mean a great obstruction in relation to the surroundings. Because the skin is not only hollow, but the new roof of the complex will only shade the environment, allowing, therefore, the entry of air and rain to create a desired permeability between the inner and outer spaces of the building. Thus, we propose a second glass covering, an internal curve, which protects the central hall of the complex, while maintaining the visual reading of the rest of the construction, as well as the atmospheric events in its interior.
By cutting and removing a slice of the existing hexagon, we were able to accommodate an excellent auditorium with 1,000 seats, capable of being divided by an insulating curtain into two independent 500-seat auditoriums with no loss of spatial solution, i.e., we avoided cutting it through the stage, which would create two arena-shaped audiences. Thus, the core of the building is entirely intended for reception and distribution (lobby) functions, covered by the glass dome and linked to the auditorium foyers and coffee areas. The floor below is used as a place for exhibition and ballroom, connecting to the main access quota. The slab floor of the lobby, and ballroom covering, is made of a triangular wooden trellis that opens cracks in the glass allowing light to pass through to the floor below.
All the circulation system is mounted from the expansion area of the edifice by building three clearly identifiable towers on the heads of the interspersed hexagons connected to the old building through bridges. The technical accesses, public and VIPs are conveniently separated, working independently.
Externally, the Conference Centre communicates with the Banquet Hall and Spectacle Hall, as well as with the parking area, through a pleasant entrenched path covered by a sheet of water, which gives landscaping unity to the complex. Elevated in relation to the rest of the city, the Cité de la Démocratie offers views of the beautiful estuary of the Gabon River and of the Libreville Center. Cylindrical and ethereal, the new Conference Palace is the symbol of the meeting of African peoples around the principles of freedom, tolerance and democratic sustainable development.
Architects: PPMS Arquitetos Associados
Location: Livreville, Gabon
Design Development Team: PPMS Arquitetos Associados – arquitetos Pedro Paulo de Melo Saraiva, Fernando de Magalhães Mendonça, Pedro de Melo Saraiva; METRO Arquitetos Associados – arquitetos Gustavo Martins Cedroni, Martin Corullon; SIAA Arquitetos Associados – arquiteto Cesar Shundi Iwamizu
Collaborators: Alex Lima de Holanda, Andrei Barbosa, Bruno Salvador, Bruno Jin Young Kim, Dulci Cipriano, Felipe Fuchs, Filipe dos Santos Barrocas, Maria Francisca Lopes, Marcelo Macedo, Marina Ioshii, Luis Tavares, Paula Hori, Rafael Goffinet , Rafael Carvalho, Rafael de Souza
Landscape: EKF Arquitetura de Exteriores: Arqª Evani Kuperman Franco; Mauricio Soares Alito; Robson Rodrigues de Camargo
Zoo Concept: Liliane Milanelo
Golf Concept: Roberto Ferrari
Structure: Kurkdjian & Fruchtengarten Engenheiros Associados – Eng. Jorge Zaven Kurkdjian
Foundations: MG&A – Engº Mauri Gotlieb
MEP – HVAC: LMSA Engenharia de Edifícios S.A.
Project Management: Luís Elvas / João Brás
HVAC: João Brás
Electrical: Marcelino Lopes
Communications: Paulo Teixeira
Security and Safety: Catarina Neves
Hydraulics: Márcio Pereira
Lighting: Luis Elvas
Building Management System: Valter Campos
Acoustic: Odete Domingos
Sustainability: João Pedro Santos / Miguel Coutinho
Electronic Model: Ricardo Canton
Graphic Design: Marcio Tanaka
Architectural Descriptive Report: Guilherme Wisnik
Artistic Concept: Fernando Lemos
Photographer: Alessandro Kusuki
Graphic Service: Vista Plotagens
Total Constructed Area: 18,971m²
Competition: 2nd prize
Date: May/June 2012