Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School

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Guinea, Koliagbe
 
 

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Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School, 2000
Center Avicole Kahere
Architects: Heikkinen-Komonen Architects
Patron: Eila Kivekas

The remarkable story of the Kahere Eila Poultry Farming School began in the early 1980s, when Alpha Diallo, a Guinean agronomist, and his uncle Bachir Diallo, a veterinarian, formed the idea of establishing a poultry farm to help improve the Guinean diet. Both men earned scholarship to study in Europe and while Alpha was in Hungry, he developed an interest in the Finnish language, which is related to Hungarian. As a result he translated the Finnish epic poem The Kalevala into Fulani, and visited Finland, where he met Eila Kivekas.

When Alpha died suddenly in Finland in 1984, Kivekas arranged for his body to be returned to his home. Soon afterwards, Bachir, then in Canada, received a phone call from Kivekas: She proposed that he return to Koliagbe near Kindia, a town 120 km inland from the coast of Guinea and create, with her support, the poultry project that Alpha had discussed with her. The farm was started in 1986, and in 1989 Kivekas founded a development association called "Indigo", which went into partnership with the poultry farm. From the farm's inception, education was one of its primary missions. In 1997, when the facilities could no longer accommodate the volume of students and trainees, Kivekas proposed to Bachir that school facilities be provided near the main part of the farm. To build the school, she commissioned the Finnish firm of architects, Heikkinen-Komonen, who had worked on earlier Indigo projects, translating Finnish structural ideas to local craft conditions.

In the areas around Kindia, the oldest form of dwelling is a round structure with a conical thatched roof. Three variants on this type, each with a distinct function, are grouped around an open space, usually with a large tree in the center, which is the site for household activities such as food preparation and laundry. The most common material for walls remains earth bricks, fired in local kilns. The quality of the finished material is poor, and a considerable amount of wood is required for firing.

For the new complex, three main areas were required: a classroom, student quarters for up to 12 people and teachers' quarters. In the tradition of local dwellings, these are organized around the courtyard, at the center of which is a tree. The plan is based on a 1.2-meter grid, which imparts a simple but formal elegance to the architecture.

The architects introduced wood-frame technology in combination with weight-bearing walls made from a double layer of specially developed, stabilized earth-blocks. These blocks dispense with the need for firing, helping to conserve resources. They also act as heat collectors, moderating room temperature, and their hard, smooth finish means that they do not need rendering. The wider span of the classroom is covered with the aid of simple metal trusses combined with the wooden beams. The tallest columns, those of the classroom porch, are made of four posts fastened by intermediate wooden blocks and steel bolts, an economical way of overcoming a shortage of long pieces of hardwood. All primary materials were sourced locally.

The significance of introducing new building techniques is best illustrated by the example of the school's head mason. After training in the stabilized earth-block technique, he has gone on to use the blocks in private houses, small industrial installations and even a mosque, which has helped boost the area's production of the blocks.

The Kahare Eila Poultry Farming School is a rare example of architecture that bridges distinct cultures and building methods, while maintaining the local characteristics of its context. The humble yet elegant design combines the timber structures typical of Finland's native architecture with local materials, improved by simple technological advances.

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Aga Khan Award for Architecture
 
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