Text description provided by the architects. Primary School Tanouan Ibi is a sustainable building which stands at the edge of a village in the vast plain of the Dogon country in Mali. The school consists of three 7 x 9 meters classrooms for in total 180 pupils, a principal’s office, a depot and a sanitary building. In the evening the school is used for teaching women.
In the tradition of the Dogon there is a doubtless spiritual connection between men, culture and nature. Their minimalism in building with clay, the plasticity and immediacy of the detail are remarkable. It is “wealth in restrictions”. Nuances, personality and soul define the building; a majestic gesture is not necessary.
The Dutch design is inspired by this architecture tradition. Yet it is realized with rather modern technology and built by local, newly trained masons. The contractor and the craftsman work closely together with the students of the Technical College in Sevaré. They are involved in all stages of the construction process in order to improve and to refine the construction methods, linked to already existing techniques, traditions and know-how.
The building with a barrel vault has a porch on each side as structural support for the impressive vault of 7 meters. The porches also provide the necessary shade from direct sunlight for the public. The roof has been covered by a thin layer of red earth, mixed with 6 % cement in order to achieve a water proof and water resistant layer. The gargoyles on the roof, locally manufactured ceramic tubes, provide ventilation for a pleasant inside climate and let daylight come through, like a starry sky. During the rain season they can be closed and the long ceramic tubes in the roof-gutter guarantee the swift drainage of rainwater.
The architectural language is furthermore determined by details such as the ‘mouse staircase’ spans and reinforced piers. The intricate floor pattern of the porches with their benches establishes a meaningful place for the elders of the village community. The language of all forms is a clear consequence of functional requirements.
The school is made out of Hydraulic Compressed Earth Blocks (HCEB). These “bricks” are non-fired. They are produced using the soil on site which reduces production costs and the environmental degradation immensely. They are not only sustainable but can also withstand the climate of both hot sunlight and heavy rainfall much better than the traditional clay buildings. The interior climate created is significantly cooler, too. The continuity of using the HCEB-bricks for floor, walls and roof and the color of these bricks leads to a supple integration of the building into the environment. This corresponds to the way how the Dogon villages fit into the landscape.