Adjaye Associates reveals The Africa Institute campus building in Sharjah

The four wings of the campus are connected by a series of open-air courtyards

Adjaye Associates has revealed the design for The Africa Institute, set to be located in downtown and will become the first centre of its kind dedicated to advanced study, research and documentation of Africa and the African diaspora in the Arab world.

Designed by David Adjaye, the red-hued building comprises an enclosed campus complete with four wings ranging between four and seven stories each  and connected by a series of open-air interior courtyards. These are punctuated with by large overhangs that produce shade and relief from the sun and heat. Inspired by a desert typology, the low carbon concrete structure’s open-air courtyards span the first and ground floors and are punctured by water features and native planters to improve air circulation and provide cooling.

The almost 32,000m2 campus is set to include spaces of varying scales and character in order to host classes and seminars while also hosting a research library and climatised archive facility as well as a flexible auditorium and performance space, a restaurant and cafe, and a bookstore.

The entryways on each of the four facades of the building will welcome the public while also connecting  the campus with surrounding institutions and public walkways. The Africa Institute will also be commissioning artists to create site-specific installations throughout the public spaces of the new building.

“I am deeply humbled for the opportunity to design The Africa Institute in Sharjah, a project which introduces an entirely new type of thinking and mission into the global academic arena,” said Adjaye, founder and principal. “I envision the new campus as a springboard for the concretization of the incredible history of Africa, the African diaspora, and the Arab world.”

The Africa Institute’s president Hoor Al Qasimi said: “We selected David Adjaye to create the first purpose-built home for this vital institution because of his experience in designing buildings that foster learning, collaboration, and community building.

“We started working together in 2017 so that the vision for The Africa Institute and the building that supports its critical mission would be developed hand-in-hand. David’s ability to create such a beautiful sequence of diverse spaces and welcoming sense of place will make The Africa Institute a nexus for knowledge-building and learning that will serve people in the region and our partners across Africa and around the world for generations to come.”

Since its establishment in 2018, The Africa Institute has organized international symposia and conferences, art exhibitions and artist commissions, film and performance series, and public programs. Beginning in 2023 – when the building is scheduled to open – the Institute will welcome its inaugural class of M.A. and Ph.D. students in the field of African and African diaspora studies and also launch certificate programs in African languages, helping shape the next generation of leaders in the field.

The development of The Africa Institute is spearheaded by Salah M. Hassan, who was appointed its founding Director in 2018, working in close coordination with the Institute’s president. The Institute has already launched an annual country-focused season exploring one African country or diaspora community in depth each academic year, beginning with Ethiopia in 2018-19 and continuing with Ghana in 2021-2022.


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