3rd Prize

1st Prize - 2nd Prize - 3rd Prize - Honourable Mentions - Special Mentions - Finalist


Project by: Annachiara Trabacchin, Elena Paccagnella, Gloria Aiolfi, Alberto Martini
from Italy

winning team kairalooro 2021


In Senegal, the figure of the woman is historically linked to the activities of the home, even if today, despite the domestic aspect being the main domain in which the figure of the woman is included, at least 36% of women are in the labour market, without their participation being recognised as equal to that of men. The affirmation of women's role outside the home is at the basis of the cultural revolution that the whole world is facing, more or less easily, but as a first step towards solving the undeniable Gender Gap that still hasn't been totally eliminated by any country in the world. Our design process so begins with an awareness of the situation in which we are operating, and in particular by acting with the right sensibility to achieve the creation of a civic centre, which helps women today to leave their homes and take an interest in their own future in a place that welcomes them and makes them feel strong, independent and not alone. The space we have designed therefore aims to become an oasis free of any inequality and prejudice, being mainly available to women, but not excluding anyone who wants to interact with this small reality, respecting those who live it, setting the goal of creating a fair involvement of men and women. The concept is based on the idea of an externally closed and rigid reality, hiding behind it a world which is not given visibility, just like the role of women in society. In fact, if the building appears to be a large monolithic block, as you approach it you find yourself in front of large access openings, which surprisingly frame an internal area characterised by curved surfaces that blend together, welcoming and inviting you to enter. We consciously decided not to design a main access point, so that users could enter through the various openings along the sides of the building, which takes on the role of a catalyst, bringing people together inside, giving them the opportunity to simply walk through. The interior opens up into a large space defined by round walls, contrasting with the building's rigid exterior. This central distributive area takes on the function of an internal square thanks to a large courtyard around which various activities will be carried out, mainly concerning dialogue and confrontation, but it can also simply be used as a rest and pause area. We have entered in a fluid place, which welcomes and envelops those who enter it, creating an intimate and protected atmosphere. The spaces which in plan are complementary to this important and unique access are therefore the rooms: there are four areas in which the different activities are developed, designed to be exploited for the most varied uses thanks to a highly versatile character. The theme of versatility is taken up and consolidated through the furnishings: we have designed a device intended primarily for the laboratories, which varies its function in relation to the occasional use dictated by the activity carried out. Inside the building, this element is attached to the wall because of two rails on which these furnishing structures slide, which can take on the function of benches/tables when aplied "open", while when closed they can be aplied as a blackboard/panel. The reversibility of these devices is shown by the utilize they take on when they are removed from the tracks to be used outdoors: this element becomes a table, designed in particular to be operated during activities carried out outside the building. In fact, our project also extends to the context in which our architectural artefact is collocated: we have thought of a simple space, but one that is functional and can be used at its best. The proposed interventions concern the planting of some species of vegetation, in particular spontaneous and autochthonous species, and some trees, mainly Mango and Acacia, with the aim of improving the quality of the outdoor space, thanks above all to the shaded areas that will be created. Another detail of the exterior concerns the basins placed at two of the corners of the building, in which rainwater is collected thanks to an efficient roof system, and from which the inhabitants can draw.


The technological solution we adopted is very simple and effective, based on the combination of technical data such as the climatic conditions of the place and the need to design an ecological and sustainable structure, and the symbolic aspect we decided to reserve for the building. We therefore chose to make use of materials characteristic of the place, in particular the structure is made of sandbags covered with raw earth. This decision was dictated by two important factors: the economic aspect, in fact sandbags are a material that is easily available locally and very cheap, and another advantage of this construction technique concerns the thermal insulation properties of these walls: it is in fact an excellent solution for keeping the internal temperatures considerably lower. In addition, the roof is made of two layers, one of earth and one of bamboo, to ensure proper ventilation and water collection, and guarantee the necessary thermal insulation even on horizontal surfaces.


Our project is designed to be built with local materials in self-construction. This choice, as well as favouring a low environmental impact, allows easy maintenance and a very economical result thanks to the local population’s knowledge of the area and their full cooperation during the construction process. Moreover, the main work consists of filling the sandbags, and since this is a very simple action, it can be done by anyone, guaranteeing a fair contribution. The piece of furniture we have designed is thought for self-construction, it is also planned to be made from local materials, mainly rosewood, and our model allows it to be easily assembled, disassembled and reassembled. This device is in fact characterised by a system of joints which, combined with the lightness of the material, allows for the rapid passage of the different uses it can assume.

Interview to the team

  Annachiara Trabacchin, Elena Paccagnella, Gloria Aiolfi, Alberto Martini awarded team Kaira looro 2021

Can you tell us more about your team?

We met at university and through transversal experiences in the field of architecture. Annachiara, Elena and Alberto attended "Architecture and cultures of the project" at Iuav University of Venice, while Gloria attended the "Architecture, built environment, interiors" course at Politecnico di Milano. It was the first time we participated in a competition together, we have different visions and points of view, but we realized after this experience that our skills complement each other. What was your feeling when you knew you were among the top projects of the competition?

Initially, we were really surprised by the result, especially since we started this competition mainly for the idea of spending time together and being able to work on something different from our routine, being able to challenge ourselves on a design aspect that we had never tackled before. We are, of course, very happy and satisfied that our project was appreciated, especially given the large number of designers who participate every year.

Can you briefly explain the concept of your project and which is the relationship between it and the Gender Equality?

The meaning that our project wants to transmit concerns the strong dualism that characterizes the shape: an important rigidity and closure towards the outside that contrasts with the fluidity of the interior spaces; recreating a space that symbolizes the role of women in Senegalese society, externally not revealing what is actually behind it. In addition, the form was designed with a concept that runs on two parallel tracks: the feeling of refuge created by the rigidity of the exterior in contrasts with the softness of the interior spaces, which are designed to be welcoming and suitable for collective activities; a space that is for everyone, but does not invite everyone, it must be a place where women in particular can feel free and comfortable.

Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?

Our objective was to ensure that the architectural artefact would be highly communicative, with a significant visual impact, and that it would concretely convey our symbolic as well as functional intentions with respect to the themes proposed by the competition. During the design phase we concentrated on understanding the dynamics of the place and the context in which the project is located, from which we derived our choices in terms of space, technology and construction.

How did the material choice affect your design?

The choice of technological and construction aspects, as we were saying, comes from a careful reading of the context in which the project evolves. We did a lot of research to make sure that the aesthetic aspect was combined with the economic aspect, and above all that it was in line with local customs. The choice of material corresponded to the visual effect we wanted to have for our building. When we realized that it was really simple and effective to use sandbags to seal the perimeter of the building, we immediately thought it was an extremely satisfactory construction technique, and above all one that everyone could afford in terms of both availability and self-construction.

Has your project been inspired by anything-in particular, by some project in developing countries or past projects of Kaira Looro?

Having to deal with a project in a geographical area with a specific climate and technological requirements that we have never dealt with before, it was necessary for us to study other design interventions in the same areas, paying particular attention to the design philosophy of Anna Heringer and Francis Kéré. From the spatial point of view, however, we agreed that it was essential that the shape of the plan followed a horizontal distribution and did not define a hierarchy of spaces, but instead resulted in "democratic" spaces: our gaze was therefore turned to the most sinuous/fluid designs.

How your idea of architecture can improve Women’s Empowerment in developing countries, and how the women community concerned could perceive this architecture?

The contribution that architecture can make to Women's Empowerment is certainly fundamental, but it is also one of the many pieces that would need to work together to overcome the unjust gender inequality. It is difficult to talk about an "idea of architecture" because in delicate cases such as this it is impossible to generalize such a complex concept, even if, as far as our project in particular is concerned, we think it could be appreciated for the quality of the spaces to be lived in and the freedom they want to convey to those who live in them. The ideal for projects of this kind would in any case be to be able to have contact with those directly involved, for self-building is very important for creating a relationship between inhabitants and designers.

From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of architects in dealing with complex issues such as women rights or architectures in developing countries?

The role of the architect is often underestimated: the power that the design of everyday spaces has on society is particularly relevant, especially in developing countries. Designing spaces that enable small communities to meet their social needs certainly affects people's quality of life. It is precisely for this reason that, from our point of view, architects with radically different origins and backgrounds from the context in which they work - as we do in this case - must show particular skills of adaptation, using their experience and cultural background to interact with the right delicacy with local traditions, proposing innovative ideas but maintaining the utmost respect.

The aim of the competition was also to improve the research on the topics of sustainable architecture with natural and recycled materials. How do you feel that contemporary architecture is approaching these topics?

Nowadays the issue of sustainability is much more important and there is much more awareness of it: architecture has to keep up with the times and there have certainly been big changes in favor of recycling, especially thanks to new technologies and materials that do not have a negative impact on the environment. In the case of this competition, our design for sustainability mainly follows the use of simple local materials, not looking for particular construction techniques, but adapting to the means that the territory provides. This type of approach is certainly effective, although, especially as far as sustainability is concerned, the relationship with the context is fundamental, knowing how to adapt to what the places have to offer in order to respect nature and those who live in it.

The competition registration fee, was devolved to the non-profit organization Balouo Salo that helps people in disadvantage area of Senegal. How it has affected you approach to the competition?

The fact of having personally contributed to financing the construction of the project is an extremely important gesture; allowing the actual construction of the project and therefore being able to donate a place to the Baghere community was very important to us, also because of the opportunity given to the winning project and therefore to a young architect like us, who will be able to see one of his projects realized.

The aim of the competition is also to give professional opportunities to young architects with internship prize and visibility at international level, and we wish your team the best achievements for your career. How do you think you will be in next 10 years? According to you, can this award affect your future?

We are four architects, each of us with different predispositions towards architecture, aware of the fact that we will almost certainly take very different paths. All four of us have recently finished our studies and winning a competition of this magnitude and fame has certainly made us more aware of our abilities, giving us a good charge and positivity regarding our professional future. Regardless, in ten years’ time we hope to be professionally satisfied, to love our work and to be able to contribute in our own small way to improving the lives of some people with our way of thinking about architecture. Surely this award will remain our first important achievement outside the academic world, it makes us proud and satisfied that we can really do something beautiful for others people.

Others awarded projects

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