Mosque, Niger, Repurposed architecture, Islamic architecture, Natural materials

Atelier Masomi converts deteriorating mosque in Niger into a community library

Atlelier Masomi has repurposed an existing mosque that had fallen into disrepair into a library and community centre in Dandaji, a rural village in Niger.

All images are by James Wang. 

Led by architect and founder Mariam Kamara, the Niamey-based studio also designed a new mosque that is located opposite the new library, creating a link between Islam and the pursuit of knowledge.

At the risk of demolishing the former mosque, the members of the village’s community suggested converting it into a library in order to save the building, which was beyond repair and with a façade that had already completely disappeared.

The building hadn’t been maintained in over 20 years and was essentially melting, according to the architect. She told design and architecture magazine, Dezeen that the aim was to restore the building into its former glory.

The original mason who worked on the former mosque – and who won an Aga Khan award for architecture for a very similar mosque – was tasked to work alongside the architects to restore the façade. Other areas that were rebuilt included large sections of the roof, while the internal structure was upgraded to facilitate the new program.

The architects designed the structural additions to the former building to be modular. Bookshelves have been used as dividers to create spaces for private and group studies, while additional classrooms have been added to accommodate community meetings and adult literacy classes. A wood and metal mezzanine floor was also added to create extra space in the library.

The new mosque, which sits on the same north-south axis as the library, has been specifically designed to interact with the library, creating a sense of natural movement between the two buildings that centre on habit and ritual such as going for the daily prayers.

The primary entrance of the library faces the mosque’s primary entrance, drawing parallels between religious and secular knowledge.

Additionally, a link between the buildings has also been established through the use of landscape design, where paths have been created to lead from one place to the other.

Using locally fabricated compressed earth bricks for the building’s structure allows for very little maintenance unlike mud bricks, while sharing the same thermal qualities.

Mechanised ventilation has also been limited in the new mosque with the use of openings that create natural ventilation and regulate indoor temperatures. 

An irrigation system has also been set up on the site of the mosque to create a cooling effect, using an underground reservoir that captures rainfall throughout the rainy seasons.