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Kéré Architecture

Opera Village

"When I was first confronted with the question of an opera house for Africa, I initially thought it was a joke. Such a fantasy could only come from somebody who either doesn't know Africa, or who is so saturated that all he can think up is nonsense. That was my first, spontaneous reaction." (Francis Kéré)

But when Francis Kéré met Christoph Schlingensief, the initiator and visionary of the projekt "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 proud country with proud peoples. What many people don't know - Burkina Faso is the centre of African film and African theatre. Christoph Schlingensief managed to convince Francis Kéré 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 can construct this building with his methods, by integrating local people, using local materials, involving people and their concerns there, then this project is also right for such a poor country.
Burkina Faso fell victim to 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 was a witness of this flood and the destruction it 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. But this site, located at the intersection between official and informal settlements, didn't exist anymore. It had simply been washed away by the flood. The people who had been living there happily had lost everything within a few hours. After this experience, they realized that one shouldn't just speak of the opera house project, but more important of a way to help people rebuild their houses by developing a house prototype that would be suitable 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. This catastrophe was the initiator for the project 'Operndorf Afrika'.

The Opera village arises on a 12-hectare land on a little rise 20km north-east from the capital Ouagadougou, overlooking the West African landscape of the Sahel zone. The infrastructure provision is given by connection to the main road in the west of the site which is going to Ouagadougou. Planned is a festival theatre, workshops, a health station, guest houses, as well as solar panels and a well, a school for up to 500 children and teenagers with music and film classes. Central part of the project is the festival hall with the total theatre inside. This stage with auditorium was designed and constructed for a piece of theatre in Germany and not used anymore afterwards. Now it is going to be transformed in Burkina Faso for the needs of the Opera village. To be maintained is the support construction of the stand and the rotating stage. The seat rows and interior walls will be covered with Burkinabe fabrics. The total theatre will be completely enclosed by a 15m high covering to shelter it from the climatic conditions. Simple basic modules, which depending on the equipment differ in quality and function , constitute the entire village. The most simple modules should be built in self-construction. Local materials such as clay, laterit, 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 big overhang of the roofs, air conditioning could be disclaimed in most buildings. The theatre hall should be a place of encounter and exchange for people of different cultural and family background.