The Africa Institute has commissioned David Adjaye and Adjaye Associates for its new, state-of-the-art building in Sharjah, UAE, and the designs have just been revealed. The new campus will feature red concrete volumes with soft pink hues and will include numerous spaces of different characters, including auditoriums and libraries.
The Africa Institute – the first centre of its kind to focus on the advanced study, research, and documentation of Africa and the African diaspora located in the Arab world – was first conceived in 1976 as part of the Symposium on African and Arab Relations. So far, it has been the hub of many activities, including international symposia and conferences, art exhibitions, commissions, film and performances. It is also set to roll out a higher education programme from 2023, alongside a varied public programme.
The architecture of the Africa Institute takes the shape of an enclosed campus with four wings between four and seven stories each. These wings are all interconnected with an arrangement of open-air interior courtyards and punctuated by large overhangs which provide shade and relief from the heat. The low carbon concrete construction enhances the desert typology which calls for a sensitive and contextual response. Meanwhile, all open-air areas incorporate water features and native planters, to further improve air circulation and ensure natural cooling.
In addition, Adjaye explains that the choice of colours and volume arrangement of the structure responds to the region’s land and climatic needs.
The campus will integrate spaces of differing characters and scales in order to house class halls and seminar spaces, as well as a research library and climatized archive facility, a flexible auditorium and performance space, a restaurant and café, as well as a bookstore. Access points are allocated on each of the structure’s four façades to welcome the public and connect the new campus with other surrounding institutions and public walkways.
“We selected David Adjaye to create the first purpose-built home for this vital institution because of his experience in designing buildings that foster learning, collaboration, and community building,” shares the Institute’s President Hooral Qasimi. “David’s ability to create such a beautiful sequence of diverse spaces and welcoming sense of place will make The Africa Institute a nexus for knowledge–building and learning that will serve people in the region and our partners across Africa and around the world for generations to come.”
In response, Adjaye says, “I am deeply humbled for the opportunity to design The Africa Institute in Sharjah, a project that introduces an entirely new type of thinking and mission into the global academic arena. I envision the new campus as a springboard for the concretisation of the incredible history of Africa, the African diaspora, and the Arab world.”
The new building, finely tuned to support this important institution for critical thinkers in its field, is currently scheduled for completion in 2023.