BC Architects (Brussels Cooperation) describe themselves as “one group trying to conceive, create and practice architecture and urbanism as a potent lever to contribute to an ongoing paradigmatical shift in world balances.” Their diverse work, which focuses strongly on the use of eco materials, has taken them across the globe, but recently their sensitive approach to the Library of Muyinga in Burundi has got the world talking about the new possibilities that their work, and research presents.
Brussels Cooperation’s work in Africa started within the framework of OpenStructures.net – a project that, explores the possibility of a modular construction model based on open source principles in which everyone designs for everyone on the basis of one shared geometrical grid. BC was asked to scale the “Open structures” model to an architectural level. A construction process involving end-users and second-hand economies was conceived. Product life cycles, water resource cycles and energy cycles were connected to this construction process. This OpenStructures architectural model was called Case Study (CS) 1: Katanga, Congo. It was theoretical, and fully research-based. Five years later, the library of Muyinga in Burundi nears completion.
Their project was heavily influenced by a two-month stay in Muyinga investigating their vernacular architectural practices, gaining them invaluable insight into the local materials, techniques and building typologies of the area. These findings were applied, updated, reinterpreted and framed within the local know-how and traditions of Muyinga.
The architects explain their thinking: “The library is organised along a longitudinal covered circulation space.” BC say on their website. This ‘hallway porch’ is a space often encountered within the Burundian traditional housing as it provides a shelter from heavy rains and harsh sun. Life happens mostly in this hallway porch; encounters, resting, conversation, waiting – it is a truly social space, constitutive for community relations.This hallway porch is deliberately oversized to become the extent of the library. Transparent doors between the columns create the interaction between inside space and porch. Fully opened, these doors make the library open up towards the adjacent square. On the longitudinal end, the hallway porch flows onto the street, where blinders control access. These blinders are an important architectural element of the street facade, showing clearly when the library is open or closed. On the other end, the hallway porch will continue as the main circulation and access space for the future school.”
Read more about this inspirational partnership between Belgian studio, BC Architects and the local Muyinga community.