Brick by brick, architecture that helps transform life in Senegal
Nov 20, 2020

The publication of Toshiko Mori Architect: Observations, and today’s Zoom conversation between Toshiko and our founder and president Nicholas Fox Weber (register here), is a moment to reflect on the two buildings Toshiko and Le Korsa, with our local partners, have created in rural Senegal.

The Fass School opened in 2019, becoming the first school in the Vèlingara region to offer girls and boys an elementary education alongside traditional Quranic instruction. It is a major achievement for a village where illiteracy has been nearly total. Now, over 200 girls and boys—including some coming from nearby villages—are receiving instruction in French and in Pulaar, their local language, helping them gain basic literacy. That sense of progress is reflected in the design of the building itself: the height of the ceiling increases as students move through upper classes, reinforcing their educational advancement.

In homage to Le Korsa’s founding by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the school hearkens back to the one room schoolhouse in Germany where Josef Albers taught, and links this rural village to his ideals as an educator: “to open eyes.”

That same principle is at play in Thread, the artists’ residency and cultural center in Sinthian, which was the first building Toshiko Mori Architect completed in collaboration with Dr. Magueye Ba and Le Korsa, in 2015.

Its ovoid form, with two large oculi on each end, provides space for artists working en plein air, natural performance spaces for local dance and theater programs, and a place for the agricultural collectives we work with to hold meetings. The latter group also benefits, as the entire village does, from the roof’s funneling of rainwater into two holding basins, where it can then be used for gardening.

Without Thread, Le Korsa likely would have never helped organize these agricultural collectives—the space made it feasible, from having test gardens and a water source to a meeting place. Thanks to its space, we are also able to invite local experts to teach the women soapmaking, or canning, helping them expand their skills and their ability to earn income.

Congratulations, Toshiko! Thank you for showing how a great building can make so much possible.