2017 AIA Awards – Architecture

Firm: Toshiko Mori Architect

Owner: Josef & Anni Albers Foundation

Location: Sinthian, Senegal

A hub for the village of Sinthian, Senegal, as well as the larger region of Tambacounda, Thread is a vital socio-cultural center that provides space for local and international artists as well as access to fertile land, agricultural training, and gathering space for villagers.

Designed to accommodate multiple roles—including library, children’s play gym, and village cellphone charging center, among others—Thread is a flexible and ever-evolving space. While such a varied program could be viewed as troublesome, the project’s functions have allowed it to become deeply embedded in village life as it invites artists from across the globe to access the raw materials and inspiration found in the rarely visited locale.

The construction of Thread relied exclusively on local materials and techniques. Its traditional structure comprises bamboo and compressed earth blocks that were formed on site. Recycled shards of colorful tile were used to finish the floors throughout.

The structure’s thatched roof, the result of a clever inversion process, creates a series of courtyards surrounded by shaded studio areas. The roof’s particular geometry also ensures that an optimal amount of rainwater can be collected and stored in two on-site reservoirs, to help combat the region’s eight-month-long dry season. As a result, a new association of 100 women has been able to raise crops at Thread during the dry season, further supporting their families and helping pay fees for their school-age children.

A team of 35 workers from Sinthian and surrounding villages were tapped for the year-long construction process. In addition to providing the community with a sense of ownership and simplifying efforts to maintain it, employing local workers provided training for residents of a very remote area where entrepreneurship is scarce.

Making a strong case for design equity, Thread occupies the intersection of art and architecture, and transforms both into infrastructure that supports its community.


Mark Reddington, FAIA (Chair), LMN Architects, Seattle

Gregory P. Baker, AIA, HNTB Architecture, Los Angeles

David Cordaro, AIAS Representative, Urbandale, Iowa

Leslie K. Elkins, FAIA, Leslie K. Elkins Architect, Houston

Timothy J. Johnson, AIA, NBBJ, New York

William Q. Sabatini, FAIA, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Adrian D. Smith, FAIA, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Chicago

Beatrice Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, Pittsburgh

Marilyn Terranova, PhD, Interim Superintendent, Pocantico Hills CSD; Sleepy Hollow, New York

Image credits


Iwan Baan

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Iwan Baan

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Iwan Baan

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Iwan Baan

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Iwan Baan