The success of Kéré Architecture’s Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso, attracted many more children from the surrounding area and an extension had to be built. As part of this expansion of the project, housing for teachers and a school library are also being constructed. The library building closes off the corner between the first school building and the extension and thus shelters the schoolyard from dust-carrying easterly winds. The library will be open to everybody, not just pupils of the school.
As in the school buildings, the main construction material is compressed earth blocks. The geometry of the building is however different; in contrast to the strictly rectangular school, the library has an elliptical shape.
The library’s ceiling is an innovative feature that makes good use of local technology. Clay pots, traditionally made by the women of the village, were brought to the site and cut, so as to be open at both the top and bottom. The pots were then cast into the concrete ceiling to create holes for light and ventilation. A rectangular corrugated iron roof sits above this ceiling and extends out beyond the library to create a separate shaded area for study or relaxation. As the metal roof heats up it draws the air from inside the library up and out through the holes in the roof, ensuring a comfortable rate of air circulation. The rectangular area around the library is enclosed by a façade of thin eucalyptus columns. Eucalyptus is thought of as a weed in Burkina Faso; it dries out the soil and provides very little shade from the sun, so normally it is burned as firewood. Using this fast growing, hardy plant as a building material is a resourceful idea, in a country that suffers from desertification due to deforestation.
The interior quality of the library and surrounding space is pleasant, cool and airy – ideal conditions for learning, thinking and studying.