Redesign of Tambacounda Hospital Opens Today
May 10, 2021

We’re delighted to unveil the new Maternity and Pediatric Hospital in Tambacounda, Senegal, a transformative development designed pro bono by acclaimed architect Manuel Herz.

The Tambacounda Maternity and Pediatric hospital builds upon 15 years of extraordinary work in rural eastern Senegal by the Albers Foundation and Le Korsa. Echoing Josef and Anni Albers’ shared ethos and belief in the use of “minimal means for maximum effect,” this project goes far beyond a single architectural structure, embedding itself within the local community, economy and landscape.

Tambacounda Hospital – the only major hospital in the region – is a vital resource servicing around 20,000 patients per year from the surrounding area, stretching across the border into Mali. The doctors had previously been working under extremely difficult conditions, with the original design leaving the communal spaces severely overcrowded. The design of the new Maternity and Pediatric Hospital brings a sense of coherence and greatly improves the comfort of patients and their visiting families. Herz’s structure comprises a two-story building in a curvilinear form which brings two clinics – pediatrics and maternity – together under the same roof and offers approximately 150 hospital beds. The extensive length of the building allows for the smooth circulation of staff and patients and accommodates multiple communal spaces both between the rooms and in the courtyards formed by the bends of the S-curve, turning it into the truly social spine of the hospital.

Herz’s design includes several passive climate design innovations to combat the challenges posed by the extremities of the local weather, and to help forgo the need for air conditioning. The building is characterized by a narrow width of only seven meters, a feature which allows for all the rooms to be aired and cooled naturally through cross ventilation. In addition, his mashrabiya-inspired use of lattice-like brickwork with apertures has the advantages of blocking sun and facilitating air circulation, whilst also giving the hospital its distinctive recurrent visual motif and its beautiful play of light and shade. A second roof covers the primary roof of the extension, repelling most of the direct sunlight and creating a chimney effect which draws the heat upwards and out of the rooms below.

Herz has collaborated at all stages with local leader Dr. Magueye Ba and depended upon the expertise of the community, working almost exclusively with craftsmen and engineers from Tambacounda and the surrounding villages, and thereby helping to provide employment and support for the rural economy. The holistic nature of the project has helped generate further infrastructure for the area beyond the hospital; a façade created at an early stage by Herz and Ba to examine how the bricks functioned in the climate was subsequently incorporated into a new school Le Korsa was building in a nearby village. In addition Herz and his wife have designed a playground for the hospital. A sensitivity to the local landscape has also been a key facet of this multi-dimensional project, with Herz’s design endeavoring to create as little disruption as possible to the local trees. Following the completion of the Maternity and Pediatric Hospital, Herz will build staff quarters to help attract more doctors from the city, in a design inspired by a print by Anni Albers.

Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and Founder and President of Le Korsa, says: “With our many projects in eastern Senegal, we at Le Korsa felt that it was unconscionable, and unnecessary, for three premature babies to be put on a small surface less than a meter square, with a light bulb hanging over them, instead of in a proper incubator. Dilapidated structures, inadequate plumbing, and a grim atmosphere: surely it was possible to do better. And so we have worked with the brilliant architect Manuel Herz, selected in a competition of first-rate architects, on a building that functions beautifully, is upbeat in appearance, deflects the brutal temperatures of the region, and provides a joyous, inspiring, salubrious setting to all who enter it. Please join us in congratulating Manuel Herz and the people of Tambacounda on this fantastic achievement.”

Manuel Herz says: “Designing and building the Pediatric and Maternity clinic at the Tambacounda Hospital has been maybe the most rewarding experience in my architectural career so far. From the very start, it has been a process based on collaboration with the wonderful doctors and staff at the hospital, with the amazing team of the Albers Foundation and Le Korsa, and with a fabulous group of builders and craftsmen around Dr. Magueye Ba as a general contractor. This collaborative process has led to designs that were surprising, that are much more interesting, better adapted to the local conditions and more beautiful than any single-authored project could have delivered. Building in Tambacounda has taught me so much for my future architectural work, not only on the African continent, but anywhere in the world.”

At the Venice Biennale of Architecture in May 2021 Manuel Herz will present “The Many Lives of Tambacounda,” an installation exploring the multiple narratives and lives that the Tambacounda hospital is embedded within.

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