On the west coast of Middle Africa, Senegal is by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Senegal River to the east and north.
The capital city of Senegal, Dakar is located at the westernmost tip of the country on the Cap-Vert peninsula.
The geography of the region, particularly Senegal’s distinctive Boabab trees, an important landmark in Senegal’s dry savanna plain and known for their enormous girth and life of over a thousand years has provided inspiration for the design of the Dakar Congress Center.
In oral histories baobabs are cited as ‘loci of battles’, or as marking borders between states. Many of these historic trees have been classified as historic monuments by the Ministry of Culture and were once public spaces where coronations and policy decisions took place.
These ideas have been translated into the centers serene design such as the one-piece roof which, like the Boabab canopy, encases the building stacks and guards the construction against weather conditions such as high winds and direct sunlight.
The building complex becomes a natural harbor for presidential meetings providing a serene and secure atmosphere. The units of the complex connect via water and bridges linking the separate blocks and accentuating notions of the community’s foundation and creation, duration and continuity and harmony and order, in both social and environmental realms.
The rectangular blocks are nested in semi-transparent metal envelops as a shield protecting it from strong light and creating a sence of security. This mesh application further flows around the building, protecting the inner glass walls to reduce the heat in order to improve the building’s energy efficiency.
The twisted blades forming the texture of the mesh screens behave like sun-breakers and grant a shady interior without hindering the feeling of transparency. The building with its elegant veil visually merges to the surrounding water and creates eternal reflections over the water.
Through the placement of panels at different levels and angles, the façade is perceived as an assortment of playful geometries glittering with day light, echoing the colors and tones of the sky.
The three-dimensional effect of the mesh curtain creates the sense the building is floating over the surrounding reflection pool and at night, when the interiors are illuminated, the beams patterns become even more playful on the water.
Entry to the the complex is possible from all sides. The Presidential entrance leads to the main conference hall on the first floor, an auditorium where 1500 delegates can gather. The hall is further accessed through the main lobby. The public entrances are through the public restaurant and before the open-air fair zone, adjacent to the press & administration building, both units on the west-side of the complex.
The VIP entrance is from the east end of the complex, between the museum unit and the VIP unit, which is a separate block linked to the main hall via a transparent connection bridge; the upper level is reserved only for the President of Senegal, and from that level the VIP unit directly connects to the VIP restaurant situated above the museum, on the second floor. On both sides of the conference hall backstage, there is the Experts' hall and VIP rooms. All interiors are spacious, and create a wide circulation zone.
The balance of light and shadow, from the transparency of the communal spaces to the confidentiality of affairs of state is carefully thought through and realized in the project, and contemporary congress requirements such as acoustic and technical equipment as well as security are integrated into the architecture. In recognition of its function as a meeting place for presidents, the building is strong and symbolizes the modern; it is simple but functional and elegant.
As a place where leaders will meet up beneath one roof, Dakar International Conference Center stands strong. Like the powerful ancient baobab tree –the center will welcome the delegates of nations under its roof for peace, as a step forward for an African union, like the motto of Senegal "One People, One Goal, One Faith".