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The Albers' vision lives on with this art centre in a remote African village

In 1971, Josef Albers established a not-for-profit organisation The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation to further the "revelation and evocation of vision through art".

Left is Josef, and right his wife Anni Albers, both leading pioneers of the abstract 'modernist' art movement in the 20th century.

The foundation was to preserve and continue to promote the work of Josef and Anni Albers' aesthetic and philosophical principles in which they lived.

Both among the leading pioneers of 20th century modernism, Josef was best known for his 'homages to the square' and for his innovative 1963 publication 'Interaction of Colour'; and Anni, a textile designer, weaver, writer and print-maker inspired a reconsideration of fabrics as art form. The couple met in 1922 at the Bauhaus Art School in Germany.
Left is Josef Albers' 'Homage to the Square'. Right is Anni Albers' cotton weaving 'Open Letter'. Both are clearly reflected in the new 'Thread' art & cultural centre in Senegal.

'Thread', a new artists' residence and cultural centre in a small village in remote Senegal, Africa was designed pro bono by New York architect Toshiko Mori and was initiated by the Albers Foundation is a living testament to the Albers' vision and aesthetic and philophical aspirations.

On opening day this past March, more than 1,000 people from Sinthian and surrounding villages flocked to the center. In one of the light-filled courtyards, community members delivered hours of speeches, dances, rap music, and skits.

The design cleverly responds to the hot and dry climate, as well as to taking into account the local and cultural traditions, labour and materials.

Flexible open space and courtyards provide ample room for children to use and play.

Low-slung brick walls perforated in a geometric pattern resembling Josef Albers' work provides ventilation and light whilst keeping dust out. A parametrically undulating roof rests upon these solid walls, constructed of 3 layers of bamboo topped with thatch.

The undulating roof is constructed by local workers with native bamboo and thatch. Community members contribute to the center’s maintenance.

The sloping roof directs rainwater into canals which then drain into covered cisterns, allowing the water to be harvested.

The figure eight plan accommodates two artists' residences in the north-west and south-east corners, while two circular courtyards serve as venues for performances and meetings. Open/flexible space allows further for any activity the community desires.

The project successfully "threads" the local with international (and modern) abstract vision. A testament to how architecture can both respond to concept and physical change.


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