The rural hospital of the Tambacounda region in Senegal will undergo a transformative and essential expansion by the award-winning architect Manuel Herz, conceived and funded by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and Le Korsa. Following a selection process from a shortlist of international architecture firms, the acclaimed Switzerland-based architect’s proposal has been selected to enhance the existing structure, with construction commencing in September 2018.
The Tambacounda Hospital extension is the culmination of a long-standing relationship between the Albers Foundation and Senegal, which in 2015 launched THREAD designed pro bono by celebrated New York based architecture firm Toshiko Mori, a cultural centre for local inhabitants of the rural village of Sinthian. Since its establishment THREAD has hosted numerous global artists and creatives, and has become a meeting place for cultural exchange and dialogue.
This latest initiative builds upon the Albers Foundation’s work with THREAD, to further support the local community in Senegal, this time with the redevelopment of the maternity and paediatric clinics of the regional hospital in Tambacounda. The only major hospital in the region, it is a vital resource, servicing around 20,000 patients per year from the surrounding area, stretching across the border into Mali. The doctors work under extremely difficult conditions; the current hospital design leaves
the communal spaces desperately overcrowded with patients and families compelled to await treatment in the heat on corridor floors, and children forced to share beds in the wards. As Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, says: ‘Josef Albers often spoke of the use of "minimal means for maximum effect;" the low budget for this building that will do so much for so many people, and turn an exceedingly difficult situation into a positive one, requires an architect capable of alchemy. Manuel Herz was the unanimous choice. His approach shows a mix of visual flare, practical understanding, and profound humanitarianism.’
Manuel Herz’s winning proposal was selected for the originality of its design and its keen sensitivity to the local environment. Herz has previously worked on several projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and is the author of African Modernism, and his design demonstrates this extensive research in the region. In the spirit of the Albers’ cooperative approach to creation, his proposal places the emphasis upon collaboration and involves the community throughout all stages of the design and construction process. Herz explains that the design ‘aims at becoming a model and new paradigm for medical institutions in Senegal and for the African continent as a whole.’
Herz’s design brings a new sense of coherence and focuses on improving the comfort of patients and visitors. The extension will consist of a curvilinear building connected to the existing hospital by a covered pathway. Combining the paediatric and the maternity clinics in the same building, the curves of the S-shaped structure reference the circular typology of the existing buildings that comprise the hospital, whilst introducing an aesthetic innovation. The form of this new structure will allow for smooth circulation and create several new niches between rooms, and an additional two new exterior spaces where waiting families can rest without overcrowding the wards.
In addition to the clarity of movement afforded by this design, Herz will also introduce several innovations to help combat the effects of the extreme climate and compensate for the lack of air conditioning in the majority of the hospital. The narrow width of the new structure will allow for cross ventilation and his use of brickwork laid in a lattice-like texture with apertures inspired by the Mashrabiya tradition will both create shadow and allow for increased air circulation. A second roof will cover the primary roof of the extension, shading the areas most exposed to the sun and creating a chimney effect which will draw the heat upwards and out of the rooms below.
Herz’s proposal also takes into consideration the natural environment surrounding the hospital. In his plans he was careful to choose a design and location that would allow for the least number of trees to be uprooted, and he will be involved with the landscaping of the surrounding area to create additional spaces where patients and families can congregate in the shade.