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Cultural Center Sunu Xarit Aminata is an answer to the needs of Gandiol's community (village on the North of Senegal) for a free space to promote leisure, cultural and educational activities, designed and developed by themselves.
This project arose by the initiative of Mamadou Dia, senegalese and founder of Hahatay, an NGO created to stimulate the development of his hometown. The Center is composed by a Library, two multipurpose classrooms, an administrative building and community orchards. All buildings are designed to work with flexibility, encompassing activities that meet the community’s expectations.
The construction is accompanied by a participatory process, where the community works side by side with the NGO at all levels. Therefore, the community is stimulated to take over the Center and lead its functioning. The participatory process here is a mean to convert the Center into a community lead initiative and an instrument to achieve Gandiol's self development.
The participatory model designed for the Center has the objective to increase ownership and empower Gandiol’s citizens, so they claim an active role in its activities and in the management itself. We focused on women and the youth, noticing that empowering those groups in a very hierarchic society is important to create a free and democratic space, which attends the needs of all community members. Mostly, the ideological pilar for this initiative is that, little by little, the participatory process will turn into community-lead initiatives and self-management in the medium/long term.
Since October 2015, we already conducted 3 Presentation and Debate Forums, 1 Design and Planning Workshop and 2 Community Joint Actions. After the results obtained during this first mission, we are evaluating the main challenges and the results obtained during the process, in order to meet as much as possible the community’s expectations.
So far, the Center will provide a space for activities of all sorts: different trainings and capacitation courses, which open new job opportunities; events to foment access to culture (cinema, books, music...); a space for associations/group meetings; environmental awareness activities; among other possibilities… Ultimately, the center will become a hub where the community, at all social levels, will share the goal of a better future.
Finally, the architecture plays an important role in this context. Several aspects of the construction are being considered to respect Gandiol's local environment, culture and way of life. For instance, we work with eco-friendly and local materials (such as adobe, BTC and local wood). The architectural language of the buildings also respects the environment, using big external areas with shadows, making a reference to the lush African trees where the community gathers. Also, we work with materials of better thermal resistance, techniques of cross ventilation and the use of solar energy.
The community participatory approach designed for the Center is composed by three main axis: (1) Design and Construction Workshops, where community members can learn new abilities and create job opportunities; (2) Community Joint Actions, where, through events at Hahatay's plot, the community develops recreational and construction activities, while increasing the appropriation of the space; and (3) Presentation and Debate Forums, where the project is discussed among different social groups and associations (women, youth, etc..), in order to get feedback and ideas, while starting to sketch the Center's management model.
Our team is multidisciplinary, composed by professionals from different parts of the world and with vast experience. The two technical coordinators (Thaisa Comelli and Ana Navajas) are architects with a Master on International Cooperation in Sustainable Architecture. They have worked in projects in Cameroon, Mexico and Brazil. We also work with three communication professionals (Roberto Gamarra, Ignacio Iruarrizaga and Lorena Lacar), who manage social networks and produce graphical content. One professional with experience in budget and financing, trained by the European Union (Ainhoa Pérez-Arróspide), who coordinates all financing and logistic matters. Finally, two local managers (Laura Feal and Mamadou Dia), who live in Gandiol and have been working with several projects for this community since 2012. They both have years of experience in cooperation and humanitarian projects, having worked with organisations like the Red Cross, Habitat Africa and the Cooperation Andaluza.
Also, other people from all over the world participated in this initiative, donating their technical support or participating though the first steps of the crowdfunding, organizing concerts, races, street markets, lottery sale, merchandising, parties, and all sorts of events.
This team was formed to work in posthumous honor for the cooperant and humanitarian architect Nerea Pérez-Arróspide, who collaborated with Hahatay and designed the first drawings and guidelines of such Center.
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