Project Description and Mission:
Tread is a socio-cultural center that houses two artists’ dwellings along with ample indoor and outdoor studio space for local and international artists. In addition to the artists’ residences, Thread is a hub for Sinthian and the surrounding villages, providing agricultural training, fertile land, and a meeting place for social organization—here, the most important mechanism for sustainable development. The innovative roof design collects and retains rainwater, creating a viable source for the majority of these new agricultural projects during the eight-month dry season.
The mission of Thread’s residency program is twofold: to allow artists access to the raw materials of inspiration found in this rarely-visited area of the world; and to use art as a means of developing mutually respectful linkages between rural Senegal and other parts of the globe. The mission of Thread as a whole is to be a flexible and evolving public space. As such, it exists at a crossroads between (inter)national artist residency, agricultural hub, community farm, water source, exhibition and cultural center, library, children’s play gym, and village cell phone charger.
While so varied a program might be problematic in some situations, the multivalent and ever-evolving functions of Thread’s building have allowed it to quickly become a part of village life on a local level, and an exciting new precedent on a global level. The success of its atypical plurality proves why art and architecture should not be considered tertiary privileges, but instead rights of all people: at Thread, incorporating agricultural, medicinal, and educational efforts of aid in the cultural sector has allowed international and local actors to achieve a far more sustainable, and encouraging relationship with those they are supporting.
Materials, Construction and Technology:
Relying exclusively on local materials and construction techniques, the building’s traditional structure is formed primarily of large bamboo members sourced locally and compressed earth blocks made on site. Climatic considerations figure prominently in the building’s form and specify the orientation of the studios and covered gallery areas. Climatic comfort is reinforced through multiple overhangs and spaced-brick walls that absorb heat and allow for airflow through the building interior.
In the design, a parametric transformation of the traditional pitched roof is achieved through a process of inversion, inscribing a series of courtyards within the plan of the building and simultaneously creating shaded studio areas around the perimeter of the courtyard. The inversion of the roof through its particular geometry enables an optimal amount of runoff rain water to be collected through a series of pitched canals and two reservoirs.
Inspired by Senegalese building typologies and in an effort to save resources, regional materials and the skills of local laborers were utilized during the construction of Thread. This approach has and will simplify efforts to maintain the compound. It also provides the community with a further sense of ownership, as opposed to Thread being viewed as a foreign construction.
Toshiko Mori, principal of Toshiko Mori Architect and Visionarc
Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design (Tenured 1995 & Dept. Chair 2002-08)
2016 Tau Sigma Delta National Honor Society Gold Medal
2016 Architectural Digest’s 2016 AD100
2015 arcVision Women and Architecture Prize finalist
2015 “Living Anatomy” -Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
2015 “Afrika” -Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark
2014 Office US - Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
2015 Hudson gallery + compound -Hudson, NY
2015 Brooklyn Public Library Master Plan -Brooklyn, NY
2014 Buffalo Botanical Gardens Master Plan -Buffalo, NY
2013 Center for Maine Contemporary Art - Rockland, ME