I have recently been getting a lot of questions about what it was that brought me over here to Africa. I realized I never mentioned that in my blog! Fail. So here is the context.
A number of years ago (1993 I believe) I met Ronna and Wague. I was the project architect for the NE Police Precinct and Walnut Park Center (NE MLK Jr Blvd and NE Killingsworth in Portland OR) and Ronna and Wague were chosen to be the artists contributing to the project. Together, the three of us worked to bring the architecture and the art together into a whole that was greater than its parts. And a wonderful friendship was borne.
Fast forward a few years and we found our children all attending Buckman Elementary together. And the friendship deepened.
A few years after that, the idea for the KoFalen cultural center was borne and they asked me (among others) to help them with the original design. That was fun, and Wague took the drawings to Bamako and got this thing built.
Back in March of this year, I attended a lecture on KoFalen and I got to see the video footage of the construction. It was moving to see it come together and to place it in context with the stories I had heard about the workshops being offered here. In talking with them after the lecture (with me telling them how much I missed not being there for the construction), they told me that it was time for the next phase; the second floor!
And that is what I am doing over here now. The ideas for the second floor are many and although they are all great ideas, they are somewhat mutually exclusive. My Job, should I chose to accept it (and why wouldn’t I?) was to help them with the design again and make it work.
The first job is to do an accurate model of the as-built conditions of what exists now. That is underway, as well as my basic research and observations of conventional materials and design used in this region of Mali. Its all very fascinating and I feel that I am getting closer to an understanding that will allow me to start the design. This trip up to Timbuktu and back through Djenne will mark the completion of the research and the beginning of my design work.
Once the design is completed and we are back in Portland, we start the fundraising.
PS. To be honest, it is also great fun to be a part of the KoFalen experience here in Bamako and to be allowed the opportunity to travel with such great people.