Once upon a time, in the village of Dandaji, Niger, a mosque was built as a place of worship. Over time the mosque became derelict but the village realised that site of the mosque contained enough space to create a library and a community centre to support the new local needs of students and the community in the village.
Mosques are built to provide a space for Muslims to gather for communal prayers and engage in religious activities. Mosques come in various architectural styles, reflecting regional traditions and historical influences. They often feature a prayer hall, a mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of Mecca), a minbar (a pulpit for sermons), and a minaret (a tower from which the call to prayer is made).
The function of Libraries however is different. Libraries are institutions that collect, preserve, and provide access to a wide range of information resources, such as books, manuscripts, periodicals, and digital materials. They serve as repositories of knowledge and promote learning, research, and cultural enrichment. Libraries can be public, academic, or specialized in nature, and they play a vital role in facilitating education and intellectual development.
Further still, a community centre has a different function to a mosque. Muslim community centers serve as multifunctional spaces for the Muslim community, offering social, educational, and cultural activities. Unlike mosques, community centers host non-religious functions such as community meetings, birthdays, graduation ceremonies, weddings, and educational programs. They provide language classes, tutoring, and support services. Community centers aim to meet the diverse needs of the community, fostering social connections, education, and community building.
What were the interesting aspects of the change of use project?
1. Adaptive Reuse: The Hikma complex is an example of adaptive reuse, where a former mosque that had fallen into disrepair was transformed into a library and community center. This approach aimed to preserve the existing structure while repurposing it for a new function that benefits the community.
2. Architectural Jewel: The original mosque was considered architecturally significant and had received recognition, as the mason who designed it won an Aga Khan award for a similar mosque. The decision to convert the mosque into a library was driven by the desire to restore and preserve this architectural gem.
3. Integration of Knowledge: The design of the Hikma complex emphasizes the interaction and dialogue between religious and secular knowledge. By situating the library opposite a newly designed mosque, the architects sought to create a connection and a space where these different forms of knowledge could coexist.
4. Sustainable Design: The Hikma complex incorporates sustainable design principles. The new mosque and library were constructed using locally fabricated compressed earth bricks, which require less maintenance compared to traditional adobe construction. Natural ventilation and thermal qualities of the building materials help regulate interior temperatures, reducing the need for mechanical ventilation.
These facts highlight the thoughtful restoration and repurposing of the former mosque into a library and community center, showcasing the integration of cultural heritage, sustainability, and the promotion of knowledge exchange in the Hikma complex.
In this way, the village of Dandaji, Niger, were able to take a site which could meet many new needs and re-purpose it.