Kéré Architecture Reveals Design of Benin National Assembly

John Hill
10. Februar 2021
Image courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Francis Kéré's design of the new national assembly building to be located in Porto-Novo, the capital of Benin, was inspired by the palaver tree, "the age-old West African tradition of meeting under a tree to make consensual decisions in the interest of a community."

The Benin National Assembly is not the first time Kéré has designed a structure that taps into communal gatherings beneath trees. His design for the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion, for instance, featured a large canopy he described as "like the shade of the tree branches" and "a place where people can gather and share their daily experiences." The design for the national assembly takes the same idea and scales it up considerably, to a building totaling 35,000 square meters.

Image courtesy of Kéré Architecture

The Republic of Benin, in West Africa, hired Kéré Architecture to design a new assembly building since the parliament had outgrown its current building from the colonial era. The charge was to "design a new national assembly that will embody the values of democracy and the cultural identity of its citizens," per a statement from the architects.

Image courtesy of Kéré Architecture
Image courtesy of Kéré Architecture

From above, the building is a large square with a central courtyard. Seen at street level, most of the building is lifted high on columns and arcing walls. The assembly hall is located on the ground floor and below plaza level, beneath the dramatic curved structure. The rest of the plaza level is open, an extension of a public park that will allow people to shade themselves beneath the upper floors, which consist of offices and auxiliary functions.

Image courtesy of Kéré Architecture
Image courtesy of Kéré Architecture

The courtyard features a spiral stair that connects the assembly hall downstairs with the offices upstairs, while a roof terrace will offer panoramic views of Porto-Novo. Deep facades shade the offices from the sunlight, while the shallow floor plates enabled by the courtyard allow for natural ventilation. Construction is expected to start next month.

Drawing: Kéré Architecture
Drawing: Kéré Architecture
Drawing: Kéré Architecture
Drawing: Kéré Architecture
Drawing: Kéré Architecture

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