Dezeen Magazine

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development in Monrovia, Liberia, by Mariam Kamara / Atelier Masōmī

Atelier Masōmī designs raw-earth-brick presidential library in Liberia

Niger-based Atelier Masōmī has unveiled a library in Monrovia dedicated to Liberia's former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which will contain exhibitions designed by South African architect Sumayya Vally.

Informed by Liberian palava huts, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center) will consist of a cluster of dramatically mono-pitched structures.

It will house the archive of former president Sirleaf – the first elected female head of state in Africa who led Liberia from 2006-2018, making it the world's first presidential library dedicated to a female leader.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development
The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development is set to be built in Monrovia

"The design is a direct response to the history, climate, cultural and architectural heritage of Liberia," said Atelier Masōmī founder Mariam Issoufou Kamara.

"The project is an introspection on the challenges faced and on the strength and hope brought about by inspirational leaders such as madam Sirleaf," she continued.

"The first woman head of state on the continent, her ability to bring communities together, and be supported by those communities in return, particularly women, was an important component of the conceptual vision of the project."

"The objective was to design a building that captured the sense of humility, service to a people, grounded in cultural authenticity and great vision that symbolizes madam Sirleaf's work."

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development in Monrovia, Liberia, by Atelier Masōmī
It will be designed by Atelier Masōmī

Designed by Atelier Masōmī with Liberian architect Karen Richards Barnes acting as local architect, the library is set to be built on a site overlooking the sea near Liberia's presidential residence in Monrovia.

It will consist of nine blocks topped with tall, mono-pitched roofs informed by local palava huts. The shape was designed to aid natural ventilation and the buildings will be grouped to "embody a sense of community".

The structures will be built from a combination of local materials including raw earth bricks, fired clay bricks, rubber wood and woven palm leaves.

Between the blocks will be a series of courtyard spaces that will be used for events and workshops.

Interior of Liberia presidential library
It will contain teaching and exhibition spaces

The building will contain a series of exhibition spaces designed by Counterspace founder Vally, along with a digital archive, teaching spaces and cafe with views across the ocean.

It will also contain the headquarters of the EJS Center, which was founded by Sirleaf to be "a catalyst for political and social change across Africa by helping unleash its most abundant latent power – its women".

"The project will be a landmark in every sense of the word," said the EJS Center when the project was first announced last year. "Never before has a woman president founded and commissioned the design and build of a presidential center and library."

Atelier Masōmī is working on a number of cultural buildings. It recently revealed visuals of the megalith-informed Bët-bi museum in Senegal and is designing the raw-earth Niamey Cultural Center in the capital of Niger.