International Conference Center
in Ouagadougou by CAAU


Lille office Coldefy & Associes Architectes Urbanistes (CAAU) have designed a conference centre for Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Called International Conference Center in Ouagadougou, the centre will have a capacity of 3,000 seats and be surrounded by a park for use by residents and visitors.

The projects comprises three main buildings that will house the conference centre itself, a banquet hall and a VIP building, plus a fourth structure that will contain administrative offices.

The dish-like forms of the buildings were inspired by the local calabash plant, traditionally dried and used for offering water to guests.

These forms will be surrounded by a pond, which together with double walls and the domed roofs will encourage cooling airflow through the structures.

Construction is scheduled for 2012.

Here's some more information from the architects:



Coldefy & Associés have recently been announced the winners, out of 18 participants, of the competition for the design and construction of the International Conference Centre (CIGC) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Launched by the Burkina Faso Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the contracting authority, the future Conference Centre, complemented by an immense urban park, will be located in the OUAGA 2000 district, at a popular strategic crossroads. The CIGC covers approximately 10 hectares of the 213 hectare site intended to house the entire project, delimited towards the North, South and East by the OUAGA 2000 development and towards the West by the main road leading to LEO and the border with Ghana.

This prestigious central location overlooks the urban park, the entrance to which will be differentiated depending on the status of visitors. The programme established by the contracting authority reflects the ambitious goals and extremely high standards that lie at its foundation. The future Centre, offering a capacity of 3,000 seats and a surface area of 17,800 m2, aims to provide a high-level international forum for government leaders and their foreign partners as well as a relaxation area within the urban park for both the town residents and visitors.


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Another of the programme’s requirements was to ensure that the architectural project reflected the contracting authority’s goals in terms of architectural innovation, aesthetic appeal and harmony with the landscape. Lastly, adherence to the target cost was a non-negotiable aspect of the programme.


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The symbolism

When studying the interactions between the architecture and the environment, Coldefy & Associés chose to explore the emotions likely to be expressed in such an international setting and to mirror these emotions in the architecture. Based on the relationship between a building’s scale and spatial qualities as an essential concept, they addressed the themes of bringing people together and serenity as the key behind harmonious relationships and constructive human dialogue. Natural elements, our relationship with time and traditional values are reassuring factors that mankind relates to when endeavouring to resolve existential or political quarrels. These factors are at the source of a universal quest in which architecture can be the driving force.

Two major symbolic themes, water and the vernacular reference, inspired the architectural design of the conference centre, uniting, harmonising and putting the various practical buildings in resonance with each other to create one logical unit.

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Calabash is an herbaceous plant, cultivated for its fruit, or more commonly used in dry form for making various objects. The calabash is used for serving welcome water called zoom koom as well as for serving water to the ancestors.


Interpreted as a calm and transparent mirror, water inspires reflection and, as a symbol of responsibility and self contemplation, it accentuates the sacred nature of the architectural space.

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The architectural project

The site plan

The complex consists of three main buildings: the conference room and its related functions, the building housing the banquet room and the "VIP Block" building. A fourth “satellite” building groups together the administrative offices for the entire complex.

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The building volume

Inspired by the calabash, the pure volumes, incorporating gentle curves and circular elements, are characteristic of the conference centre's architecture. Water, a spiritual and timeless aspect, unites the buildings, blending them together in a harmonious whole. The fluidity created by the curved surfaces is emphasized in the pathways that seem never-ending. The building volume is constructed from prefabricated architectural concrete, which has been perforated or imprinted over the inside walls in the form of multiple circles, inspired by the traditional calabash plant, that have a decorative function and a practical one, acting as a sun-filter on the second wall. The open space created between the two cavities of each building allows air to circulate naturally in order to keep the internal temperature of the centre cool.

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The immense conference room is shielded by a large textile-membrane dome, creating a temperature buffer for the internal space and an aesthetically pleasing canopy on the external promenade, a prestigious walkway intended to lead heads of state and government officials to the complex. The juxtaposition of the convex shape with the concave elements express the centre’s quest for balance, which is at the same time open yet sheltered, eye-catching yet discreet, exposed yet intimate.

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The various natural features – the pond, the double-walled spaces, and the domed over-roofing element – generate a constant supply of cool air around the conference centre thereby reducing the consumption of air conditioning.

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CAAU Architects, winners of the international competition in July 2009
Project: International Conference Centre (CIGC)
Location: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Project team members: Thomas Coldefy, Bertrand Coldefy, Isabel Van Haute, Laurence Ployaert, Emmanuelle Maudens, Rodolphe Mazairat
JVC Architecture, associate architect
AIC, associate architect, local correspondent
Atelier LD, Landscape architect
Surface area: 17,780 m2
Provisional budget: 11 149 269 500 FCFA
Provisional schedule: Delivery 2012

Posted on Tuesday November 24th 2009 at 12:51 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • huge nice

  • roel

    very, very, very impressive and inspiring!

  • forms reminds me of Niemeyer.
    but the skins with the circular cutouts complicate it.

    I like the purity of Niemeyer’s forms much more.

  • ARS

    I like although the ‘umbrella dome’ seems to be a common place for some french architects, but I like: the doomed roofs creates an interior and paceful mini landscape, inviting and kind, and of course the pond.
    At the same time, please, have a look again to the Brasilia Niemeyer architecture. It is always an inspiring work.

  • m!

    Oscar Niemeyer revisited.
    Well, at least they included trees.

  • mias

    Burkina faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. please take that into consiceration mr & mrs architect if you discuss and plan somthing like this.
    i’m deeply agitated by anger and concern if people are planing something like this. AND MAKE A HUGE FENCE AROUND IT.


    • Fran

      Remember what L. Kahn has done in the poorest country in the world in Dahka Bangladesh

  • ju

    it reminds me of Brasilia, capital of Brazil!!!
    veeery nice ;))

  • Finners

    @ mias.

    I Agree. Why does Burkina Faso Need a vast and expensive looking international conference center?!?!
    Surely time, money and resources would be better spent providing schools, universities, hospitals, sustainable energy sources, all of which would be a fraction of the cost of this vast and ridiculous building.

  • DN3

    swim in case of emergnecy!!

  • This just the conform copy of Le louvre Abu Dhabi ( Jean Nouvel design)

  • Ernesto

    Nouvel has not invented the dome feature, stop considering those superexposed architects as gods ! ; The Dome has been used for ages in architecture, look at stadiums all over the world or even religious buildings , this project has nothing to do with the Nouvel building if you can read a plan!

  • gabs

    I don’t see why poor countries cannot have spectacular projects like these. ¿Is great architecture destined only to the first world?? I find this project amazing and beautiful. Just think of all the jobs and income a project like this will produce. It’s so refreshing to see a project in Africa, thanks Dezeen!!

  • Konga


  • Tyler

    Oscar Niemeyer meets the Superdome. I like it? Kind of?

  • Berenyi

    Clear, simple. THAT is what I call the new architecture.

  • ss_sk

    Re-read Finners post. Which part did you not understand?

    Nobody claims that ‘poor’ countries aren’t worth good architecture – only that priorities should be different.

    Just three months ago the city faced the worst floods in decades. How helpful is this Center going to be to the thousands of homeless people? Unless the rest of the world is desperate to run their conferences in Ouagadougou (and bring along their money).

  • CUSH

    A GDP of $1200 per capita and they build this? I am sure the locals will thoroughly enjoy the banquet rooms, VIP area and compound perimeter fence……”raise the drawbridges, the locals have got past the guards”

    For a true example of how to build in poverty stricken countries see Louis Kahn – Dhaka Assembly (sensitive local materials, craftsmanship, contemporary form).

    Sure this may bring short term jobs to the people of Burkino Faso, but is anyone else a bit worried about what it will look like in 10 years – if it ever gets off the ground.

  • Wow! Burkina Faso will take a debt just for to stay in the world’s architecture starsystem.

  • gbot
    A little too similar – but maybe one dome might be built.

  • mias

    @Finners: thanks for the support. @gabs: you obviously don’t get it: it’s not, that great architecture should be a privilege to first worlds countries (wtf?)

    It is the ignorance of building a huge converence center in a 3rd world country and doing a spiky fence around it. (copying the sceme of a gated community)

    AND there IS the question of who are we planning for – To work for a authoritarian dictator who is keeping his people down and supporting large industries might not be a good idea.

    there should be a discussion about ethics in architecture not about those renderings.

  • artimon

    Love the big lake when the Burkina is dying from drought on a regular basis (check year 2005).

    The big fence is a big symbol of integration.

  • Nico

    Mind you I should have done some research about the demographics/political climate of the area before posting but purely based on aesthetics, I appreciate this building. The forms are elegant and the plan is nicely executed. The site plan is as gestural as it is beautifully composed. I don’t mind the circular punches but agree that a more subtle approach would have been cleaner.

  • Matthias

    I think this is the appropriate symbolism for a poor African country, where the lifetime dilemma is a FULL BOWL versus an EMPTY BOWL.
    The children staring from afar will wonder to whom the overflowing bowl belongs.

  • Jorge

    DEJA VU… It really seems like Oscar Niemeyer’s Parliement in Brasilia!

  • Luiso

    On the other hand, what if other first world countries stop building “lovely” thing and start helping those who cant on their own??

    Or are we done thinking global?

  • jean

    the sketch with the warm air going down is my favourite. also a nouvel-ty!

  • artimon

    Jean: well spotted, I had missed that one, cold air going up and warm air going down… Is-it inverted in the south hemisphere? But hold on, Burkina is in the Northern…

  • clarence somerset

    Why in the world does Burkhina Faso even need such a big complex?

  • Timtim

    This is an amazing stand-alone design. Properly executed.
    [This building could easily be placed anywhere]

    Its context however is compleletely off, they don’t build with brown brick in burkina faso for no good reason.

    And ironically the government would be very enthuasistic to express it’s power and monumentality using this design.

  • Abdu

    To you people who like to give lessons to other,
    Do you know the living conditions of people in Rome when Vatican was build? when there was no technology, and people have to do everything by hand and many people get killed, how many of these cases you have in Europe and around the world? or you think that when the tween tower were build every one in New York was rich? It s always been like this in human history, there are and there will be always better priorities, Burkina is building schools, hospitals and dams for water (by the way THIS COUNTRY IS one of the rare African country to have the best budgeting, and borrow less, got this a ministry in Burkina make 1500000 Fcfa a month which is less $ 2000 US) for agriculture. They are countries in Africa with lot of resources who can't even pay teachers salaries without borrowing money from abroad, guess what BURKINA is the only one who never borrow money to pay government workers so please respect. If you people are jealous that s your problem. live your life and let other people live theirs. Go Faso !!!!!!!!

  • kader

    poor or not every country need development and this is part of development. why u people r against it. there are poor people everywhere. burkina faso is one of the best country in this world and right now the most stable in africa.