Dezeen Magazine

Liberia's former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Mariam Kamara and Sumayya Vally to design presidential library in Liberia

Nigerien architect Mariam Kamara and South African architect Sumayya Vally are collaborating to design a presidential library for Liberia's former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia.

Named the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center), the library is set to be built in Liberia's capital city, Monrovia, alongside the country's presidential residence.

Designed by Atelier Masomi founder Kamara and Counterspace founder Vally, along with Liberian architect Karen Richards Barnes, the building will contain exhibits dedicated to the "history and culture of African women", including Sirleaf.

First presidential library dedicated to a woman

It will also contain the archives of Sirleaf, who was the first elected female head of state in Africa and led Liberia from 2006-2018.

"The project will be a landmark in every sense of the word," said the EJS Center.

"Never before has a woman president founded and commissioned the design and build of a presidential center and library."

Mariam Kamara
The library dedicated to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (top) will be designed by Mariam Kamara (above). Photo is by Stephane Rodrigez Delavega

Along with the archives, the centre will act as headquarters for an organisation led by Sirleaf that aims to be "a catalyst for political and social change across Africa by helping unleash its most abundant latent power – its women".

"It will offer a space for training and networking, present exhibits that inspire women to pursue leadership in all spheres, and be a national and international hub for programs that advance the socio-economic situation of women and girls and uphold their rights and democratic freedom," explained the EJS Center.

Sumayya Vally
Sumayya Vally will design pavilions and exhibition spaces at the centre. Photo is by Mikhael Subotzky

Kamara will lead the overall design of the centre, which will occupy a series of circular buildings overlooking the Atlantic, while Vally will act as scenography, pavilions and exhibition architect.

The building will be constructed from local materials including Liberian rubberwood and will incorporate artworks from African artists, designers, and artisans.

"The use of local materials and traditional architectural styles reflects the center's respect for African artistry and will inspire the same in others, bringing a sense of history, culture, and social context to visitors," added the EJS Center.

Kamara, who was a judge for Dezeen Awards 2020, is currently designing a raw-earth-brick cultural centre in Niger and previously converted a former mosque into a library and community centre.

Counterspace founder Vally recently designed the Serpentine Pavilion in London and was recently named one of Time magazine's 100 leaders of the future.