Niger-born architect Mariam Kamara shared how she is shifting perceptions of her home country at the 2019 Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town. Founder of the architecture and research firm atelier masōmī, Kamara was a software developer for several years before joining united4design, a global collective of architects working on projects in the U.S., Afghanistan and Niger. At the Design Indaba Conference, Miriam discusses her work and what it means to put people at the forefront of practice.
In 2014, Kamara founded atelier masōmī to tackle a wide variety of public, cultural, residential, commercial and urban design projects. Her work is guided by the belief that architects have an important role to play in thinking spaces that have the power to elevate, dignify, and provide a better quality of life. She believes that design is as crucial as politics and economic development. “For me, vernacular architecture is about understanding our traditional techniques and rebooting it so that we can make new things.” Now, she works between her hometown, Niamey in Niger, and Providence, near Boston in the United States.
Kamara believes that African architects should stop trying to copy what already exists in the West but look to their own history and heritage to produce architecture that is reflective of the region in which the buildings exist. For Kamara, it is very important for her as an architect working with vernacular architecture to put real, tangible examples for the public to see so it makes it easier to make a case for why these type of buildings are important. She explains that “It becomes our responsibility to put real examples out there. We have to understand and respect where people are coming from and why they aspire to the things they aspire to.”
One of Kamara’s first projects, Niamey2000, is a housing development for Niger’s capital city. It became the launch project for atelier masomi. At Design Indaba, Kamara explains this project and how housing was considered for the city. The architects used local material and passive cooling techniques to protect against Niger’s heat and respect the identity, climate and history of the region in which she works. Watch the full video of Kamara’s talk and discover more from the 2019 Design Indaba Conference.