When Francis Kéré first heard the idea of an opera house for Africa, he thought that it was crazy. But when he met Christoph Schlingensief, the initiator and visionary of the project "Opera House for Africa", he knew that it was no joke. Although Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries on earth, it is also a country with a strong sense of national pride. What many people don't know is that Burkina Faso is the centre of African film and theatre. Christoph Schlingensief managed to convince Francis Kere that an art project which helps to shape or awaken the cultural identity of a group is important for the development of a country. And if Francis were to construct this building with his methods, integrating local people, using local materials, involving people and taking their concerns into account, then this project would also be right for such a poor country.
Burkina Faso suffered major flooding at the end of August 2009. At the time, Francis was travelling with Thomas Goerge, Christoph's stage designer, in Burkina, and thus witnessed the floods and the destruction they caused. A few hours after the water had receded, Francis and Thomas tried to look at a site in the capital, Ouagadougou, that Christoph had identified as a possible location for the opera house. However this site, located on the boundary between official and informal settlements, didn't exist anymore. It had been completely washed away by the floods. The people living there had lost everything within a few hours. After this experience, Francis and Christoph realized that the opera house project should no longer be the main topic of discussion. They began to develop a way to help people rebuild their homes by designing a suitable housing prototype for these people. For Francis as an architect and urban planner, this was an opportunity to develop a module that could be integrated into the project. In this way, the 'opera village' project was born out of a catastrophe.
The Opera village is being constructed on a 12-hectare site on a little rise in Laongo, one hour car drive from the capital of Burkina Faso and overlooking the West African landscape of the Sahel zone. The main infrastructure connection is the main road to the west of the site, leading to Ouagadougou. A festival theatre, workshops, medical centre and guest houses are planned, as well as solar panels, a well and a school for up to 500 children and teenagers with music and film classes. Central to the project is the festival hall with the theatre inside. This stage and auditorium were designed and constructed for a piece of theatre in Germany and not used again afterwards. Now it is going to be transformed in Burkina Faso to meet the needs of the Opera village.
The support construction of the stand and the rotating stage will be maintained. The seat rows and interior walls will be covered with Burkinabe fabrics. The theatre will be completely enclosed by a 15m high covering to shelter it from the outside conditions.
Simple basic modules, which vary in quality and function depending on the equipment they house, comprise the entire village. Most of these modules will be self-constructed. Local materials such as clay, laterite, cement bricks, gum wood and loam rendering will be used for construction. For reinforcing elements such as beams, columns, ring-beams and foundations, concrete will be used. Due to the massive walls and large overhang of the roofs, air conditioning could be discounted in most buildings.
The theatre hall should be a place of encounter and exchange for people of different cultural and family backgrounds.
completion year: under construction
gross floor area: 14.230m²
client: Festspielhaus Afrika gGmbH