Niger’s capital, Niamey, has been growing at an exponential rate in recent years, relentlessly pushing the boundaries of the city further outwards. Over the past twenty years, Niamey’s expansion has accelerated to unprecedented levels, putting greater distance between its citizens and their workplaces. The municipality has also struggled to provide the new settlements with basic infrastructure, such as water and electricity. These issues, coupled with rampant real estate speculation, have created an unprecedented housing crisis in the city. 

The Niamey2000 project is a direct response to the current housing and socio-economic conditions found in the city. It proposes a new model that increases density in order to counter the city’s aggressive growth. Because towers and apartment buildings are not culturally appropriate and do not respond to the social norms of the country, they were not considered for this project. However, Niamey is a city of mostly one-story homes, and a certain degree of densification could easily be achieved by simply adding a story or two. In this context, going up in height and decreasing the typical building footprint dramatically increases the number of homes that can be built on a particular site. 

While this modest approach to increase the height of a typical home is new to Niamey, it takes its inspiration from pre-colonial cities in the region such as Timbuktu in Mali, Kano in Nigeria, or Zinder in Niger, which were all dense urban centers in their day. Their organic layouts of intricately intertwined homes were often two to three stories in height, while still managing to maintain a sense of privacy and intimacy. In addition to building economically, maintaining a sense of privacy is key to the project and is one of the central conceptual drivers. However, the project strives to be more than simply affordable and culturally appropriate. It takes a firm position on material selection by using locally abundant earth and passive cooling techniques to protect against Niger’s scorching temperatures. As is the case in many parts of the world, local materials are increasingly being abandoned in urban centers in favor of concrete. This project reintroduces these materials in a contemporary design that offers a serious alternative to expensive concrete homes. 


Status: Completed May 2016
Location: Niamey, Niger.
Size: 958 m²
Design: Yasaman Esmaili, Elizabeth Golden, Mariam Kamara, Philip Sträter