The idea to construct an opera village came about as the result of the visionary idea of Christoph Schlingensief and a catastrophic national disaster. Film and theatre director Schlingensief first approached the Berlin-based studio of Francis Kere with the task of building an opera in the middle of the town of Laongo.
With the problems facing the country, an opera house seemed hardly the most effective initial solution to improve the community’s quality of life. Burkina Faso is, surprisingly, Africa’s centre for theatre and film and Schlingensief’s determination and an unfortunate flood occurring at the same time that left the entire town without any resources or homes led to the design of the opera house and the urban extension of an entire village. As formal and informal boundaries were literally washed away, Kere saw the opportunity to redefine Laongo and create a new infrastructural model based on a sustainable way of life and construction.
The radial organization of the new 12-hectare town follows the shape of the nautilus curve, featuring the opera house as the centre and the soul of the project. Around the festival hall and opera house will be workshops, modular housing units, a school for up to 500 young students with music and film classes, the CSPS infirmary, a well for water, and an array of solar panels. Local material and labour were used for the construction of the various structures, using more contemporary concrete construction techniques for the foundations and major load-bearing beams and columns. The festival hall takes on a circular form with a 15 meter-high wall of spaced wooden dowels that hold up a protective metal roof.
The stage and auditorium used in the theatre were designed for a performance piece in Germany and discarded, recovered by kere to be re-used for the project. Several strategies were implemented to make the construction as efficient and comfortable as possible for its users without the need for energy that is not available or cannot be afforded. Thick walls made of compressed clay bricks provide the appropriate thermal mass, with operable shutters and the small windows to block out the direct sunlight and maintain a cooler interior temperature.
The roof system contains three parts: an outer membrane of corrugated metal that blocks the sun and protects from rainfall, a lighter inner membrane composed of a series of barrel vaults (in the larger structures) with slits that allows the expulsion of heat, and an air plenum in between that ventilated the spaces and acts as a thermal buffer between the directly-heated metal canopy and the interior space. Currently, under construction, the endeavour will serve as a centre for cultural exchange and provide housing, education, and medical care to the local inhabitants. Text from the architects
Client: Christoph Schlingensief
Building Area: N/A
Address: Laongo, Burkina Faso
Photographer: Diebedo Francis Kere and Operndorf Afrika