amalgam architecture designed digital oyster, a robust but multidimensional space for female encounters in baghere village, senegal, west africa. the proposal aims to break preconceptions based on gender division by creating a social ‘cloud’ that refers to a virtual space that creates worldwide communities thus brings international recognition. digital oyster, even though framed between thick panels, is vast and limitless. women enter the inside world of independence that serves as a fortress from mundane, farm life.
all images courtesy of amalgam architecture
amalgam architecture used shellcrete for the outer walls as an illusion for the hidden, soft, bamboo rooms, from which information spreads worldwide. the designed spatial intervention breaks taboos of black women in rural communities and connects to having life improvement locally. it is an important institution for the empowerment of women in the entire region of west africa. it gives a voice to women who are often ashamed of their needs. the designed space promotes and strikes causes such as women change, discrimination, unequal payment, activities division, violence, and objectifying of women’s bodies.
digital oyster offers a new type of space, which the architects call an audience building. it is not public, as it is designed mainly for use by women who own the inside of the oyster. although the inside is visible online. therefore, everyone can virtually be in such a place, but only a few selected can enter. events and meetings are being streamed and being seen by the masses. the audience building becomes a new type of civic. the space creates an inclusive narrative of common belonging, established by common goals. it builds a social framework of a space of feminine unity and allows females to express themselves freely while building up their identity, free from the influence, of very often, conservative relatives.
the structure builds upon the typology of server rooms that are the most protected spaces in institutions around the world. they provide the flow of information between different nations, creating invisible but important connections. they are hidden and protected where the outer structure is made out of tabby, shell-mud-cement envelope. the gaps between panels allow all passersby to lurk inside the women’s world. they provide light from all sides and allow for cross-ventilation, making inner space cooler and fresh. on some days, they gather scents from the gardens.
an important part of amalgam’s proposal was the shell– a living organism, very tough and protective from the outside, hiding the most precious elements of our world: pearls on the inside. it is split into two units, creating a passage, which is placed on the south-east/north-west axis grasps the wind. the passage creates courtyards, which are hidden behind gardens with indigenous species. both parts of the structure are inclined to the outside, gathering the rainwater for the use of females, who otherwise have to walk kilometers to collect it. the gathered water serves for private use, maintenance of the building but also for the irrigation of the gardens.
inside the space, vertical partitions are porous, friendly, and made out of bamboo. an outdoor garden is positioned behind the building surrounding it and creating the shape of a border. it aims to subtly claim the space for future events or possible expansion. this particular way of claiming the land is very common in the sub-saharan context.
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