When six friends, imagined for the very ﬁrst time to build a public library for the students’ community of the town of Grand-Lahou, in Ivory Coast, the idea could have stayed as an unreachable dream. During almost six years, those school teachers ﬁght to get ﬁnancial support. They found the ONG JADE, and along with the Ivory SIAMOIS scouts, they ﬁnally unit with Swiss scouts to raise money together. Hypothesis Atelier, formed of trees architects students, lately join the project to give a shape to the initial library idea.
The construction stage took place in summer of 2018. Local professionals, supported by more than 50 scouts volunteers, raise the building within two months. Hosting more than 60 thousand people, the city is mainly composed of informal settlement. The library is located in the students’ neighbourhood. The building implantation, at the corner of a 600m2 land, creates a strong link with the street. The volume set on a podium which reinforces the public aspect of the library, and protects it toward ﬂoods. The facade is thought as a gathering place, shaped thought shadowed patios always accessible to neighbours.
The plan articulates a large reading room in the centre, surrounded by four small volumes housing oﬃces and services. This organisation reinterprets one of the traditional villages. From the outside, the monolithic aspect of vernacular architecture is also preserved.
While the aesthetics of the building is based on diﬀerent historical elements given by the context, the main experimentation of the project challenges thedeﬁnition of the architectural element par excellence: the wall. Here, composed of multiple moves, repetition of solid and empty spaces, the classic divisional role of the wall is largely questioned. The hypothesis is to consider it not as an element of separation, but as a central element of exchange. This approach isconscientiously part of the cultural, environmental and climatic context of southern Ivory Coast, where partitions deﬁne both the interior and exterior space.
The wall is inhabited on all sides; the interior surfaces house shelves, while on the outside the modules are completed by seats. The gaps between each moduleallow the building to enjoy eﬃcient passive ventilation. The passer-by in search of shade as well as the inquiring student is thus invited to meet around thiselement, once a symbol of exclusion.
The construction technique responds to the ambition to oﬀer a new horizon to a material often considered poor and banal, the cement brick. Arranged at 45degrees, the bricks are articulated, breaking the linearity of the wall, making it permeable and creating multiple moments of interaction. Despite the apparent complexity of the plan, it is arranged on a strict grid where the concrete punctual structures blend entirely into the design of the walls. The diﬀerent angles alsoincrease the resistance of the surfaces and increase the durability of the building.
The community library now oﬀers a collection of more than 2500 books and is facing its success in accompanying young students.