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The ‘Longest Cantilevered Building’

The ‘Longest Cantilevered Building’

Desi Scene Dubai informs that Dubai is set to break another record for the ‘Longest Cantilevered Building’. It is by Viraj Asher.

30 October 2020

Fresh off from a Guinness World Record for the largest water fountain, Dubai is now looking to set the benchmark in architecture after completing the ‘longest cantilevered building.’

Simply put, cantilevered buildings are structures built horizontally and are supported only from one end, with the other half left suspended. Chances are you have spotted these gravity-defying architectural marvels in science-fiction or superhero movies.

Spanning a whopping 226 metres and standing tall at 100 metes above ground level, the aptly-named ‘The Link’ is set to break the world record for the ‘longest cantilevered building.’ The structure will connect the two towers of Dubai’s hotly-anticipated mega project, ‘One Za’abeel’ and is slated to complete construction in 2022.

Once completed, ‘The Link’ will play host to observation decks, Michelin-star restaurants, an infinity pool, a luxury spa and panoramic views of Dubai. The best part, ‘The Link’ will feature a glass-floor and glass-wall section where you can feel like you’re floating mid-air.

Ithra Dubai is the developer behind ‘The Link.’ Lifting the structure took over a span of 12 days and was “one of the heaviest lifting operations in the region” weight more than 8,500 tons. 55 jacks and 1.2 km of strands were used in lifting the building.

The ‘Longest Cantilevered Building’
Photograph credit: Ithra Dubai

“The completion of The Link at One Za’abeel is the sum of effort, imagination, collaboration and the desire to create a meaningful and timeless contribution to Dubai. We are thrilled to be part of the city’s narrative and to join its long list of firsts.”

ISSAM GALADARI, DIRECTOR AND CEO OF ITHRA DUBAI

Read: DUBAI IS ABOUT TO GET THE WORLD’S TALLEST HOTEL BY 2023

Read: ARABTEC, THE BUILDER BEHIND BURJ KHALIFA AND LOUVRE ABU DHABI, FILES FOR LIQUIDATION

(Featured photograph credit: Ithra Dubai)

Social Housing and Settlements

Social Housing and Settlements


archdaily proposed article titled Social Housing and Settlements: Potential Promoters of Community Living written by Hana Abdel gives in few pictures an idea of all prevailing trends in the world. In so far as the MENA region is concerned, the WEF recommended a couple of years back that all Urban centers to rev up their preparations for the future.


Social Housing and Settlements: Potential Promoters of Community Living, © Filip Dujardin
© Filip Dujardin

When considering “How Will We Live Together”, it is important to note the projective and future tense of the phrase. The idea not only encompasses ways we already share our built environment but targets the anticipated issues that are to be tackled to facilitate communal and mutually beneficial ways of living.

When looking at what is to come, despite the most recent health concerns, economic disparities, and environmental and social calamities the world is still heading towards dense urbanization with more people moving to cities and requiring safe and healthy housing, which is not always easy to come by. In fact, a recent UN report suggested that “nearly one-quarter of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments, most in developing countries but increasingly also in the most affluent. Living conditions are shocking and intolerable. Residents often live without water and sanitation, and are in constant fear of eviction.”

However, if these same settlement spaces are well-conceived and provide dignified living conditions, they can surely promote the development of close-knitted communities among individuals from different regions and backgrounds who were joined by similar aspirations and desire for growth. It is therefore important for architects and designers to consider and suggest settlement interventions and social housing projects that offer healthy personal and common spaces.

Social Housing and Settlements © Ricardo Oliveira Alves
© Ricardo Oliveira Alves

Below are a few examples of projects that are bringing people together and suggest practical ways of communal and cooperative living, be it through shared space usage (kitchens, halls, courtyards…) or activities engagement and maintenance of the complex (gardening, cooking), all providing opportunities for displaced, disfavored, economically challenged populations to help each other.

Shelter for Migrants and Travelers / Atelier RITA
Social Housing and Settlements © David Boureau
© David Boureau

The emergency engage to essential architecture. The first question is: How to offer dignity and functional qualities to a vulnerable population, with different cultures? The project is thought like a little town, a common notion of « habiter » regardless of geographic origin. Between public space and the most intimate space, everyone easily accommodates with a life in community.

Expandable House Part 02 / Urban Rural Systems
Social Housing and Settlements © Carlina Teteris
© Carlina Teteris

The expandable house (rumah tambah in Bahasa Indonesia, or rubah for short) offers affordable and sustainable dwelling options to the rapidly growing populations of Asia’s largest cities. Combining lessons from existing informal settlements, incremental housing precedents and principles of sustainable tropical building, the expandable house is designed to adapt to the fluctuating patterns of resource consumption and expenditure, or metabolism, of its residents.

Pemulung House / IBUKU
Courtesy of IBUKU
Courtesy of IBUKU

To improve this image, IBUKU was commissioned by a large company to develop a project that would create healthy, well organized housing compounds for garbage collectors while becoming a mean for social transformation.

SOS Children’s Village In Djibouti – Urko Sanchez Architects
Social Housing and Settlements © Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

A –  It is a medina for children – A safe environment, with no cars, where the narrow streets and squares become places to play

B – It is a medina with plenty of open spaces – Public and private spaces are clearly defined. And in the private, the inside and outside areas melt, allowing residents to maintain certain outdoors living.

C – It is a medina with lots of vegetation – Where the inhabitants are encouraged to take care of their plants and benefit from the result.

The AYA Housing / Studio Twenty Seven Architecture + Leo A Daly JV
Social Housing and Settlements © Hoachlander Davis Photography
© Hoachlander Davis Photography

Care is taken to organize separate entrances to the Health Clinic and Short Term Family Housing on different faces of the building. The building is intended to complement the developing SW skyline while creating an optimal living experience for the tenants with natural lighting and views out to the city.

White Clouds / POGGI & MORE architecture
 © Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

A new social housing project in Saintes has totally reinvented what living together means. A seemingly inhabited cloud effortlessly signals the entrance to a recently rehabilitated working-class neighbourhood, known as ‘Les Boiffiers’, dating back to the 1970s.

Centre Village / 5468796 Architecture + Cohlmeyer Architecture Limited
Social Housing and Settlements © James Brittain Photography
© James Brittain Photography

Serving underprivileged families, Winnipeg’s Centre Village housing cooperative utilizes design to help revitalize a neglected inner-city neighbourhood and to provide its residents with a unique setting that inspires pride and encourages community-building.

Apartments on Ave. Maréchal Fayolle / SANAA
Social Housing and Settlements Courtesy of SANAA
Courtesy of SANAA

There is an inherent dynamism to the distribution of buildings: the courtyards appear to open and close as you walk through them, establishing an open dialogue between communities.

Social Complex in Alcabideche / Guedes Cruz Arquitectos
© Ricardo Oliveira Alves
© Ricardo Oliveira Alves

The central building, within the same modelling and principles, contains all of the common services necessary for proper functioning and quality of living.

Bogerse Velden Social Housing / META architectuurbureau
Social Housing and Settlements © Filip Dujardin
© Filip Dujardin

The repetitions not only create rhythm in the streetscape, thereby enhancing clarity and recognisability, but also forge a collective identity.

Note: The quoted texts are excerpts from the archived descriptions of each project, previously sent by the architects. Find more reference projects in this My ArchDaily folder created by the author.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: How Will We Live Together. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics here. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact archdaily.

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Why It’s Not Quite Time to Give Up City Living

‘Future Schools of Kuwait’ project shortlisted

‘Future Schools of Kuwait’ project shortlisted

Pace, one of the Gulf region’s leading architecture and engineering practices’ ‘Future Schools of Kuwait’ project shortlisted is acknowledged to be its second international accolade, recognizing its progressive and adaptive design approach.

‘Future Schools’ design shortlisted for World Architecture News Award

19/08/2020

KUWAIT: The Public Authority for Housing Welfare (PAHW) announced that the design of the ‘Future Schools of Kuwait’ project has been shortlisted for the World Architecture News (WAN) Award 2020 in the ‘Future Projects – Education’ category. This is the project’s second international accolade, recognizing its progressive and adaptive design approach.

‘Future Schools of Kuwait’ project shortlisted

In its efforts to improve the standards of education in the country, PAHW had collaborated with Pace – a leading Kuwait-based multidisciplinary firm in the region – to embark upon a program to radically redesign schools within the country and to offer more student-centered, technological and experiential forms of learning. The partnership between PAHW and Pace began following a design competition launched by authority, which the firm eventually won. The prototype design model is set to be replicated and developed for schools across the country, in an effort to address the needs of a new generation of students.

On this occasion, Nasser Khraibut, Deputy General Manager for Planning and Design Sector at PAHW, said: “We are very pleased to have won yet another prestigious global award for this promising future project in collaboration with Pace. The ‘Future Schools of Kuwait’ design initiative came as part of our commitment to develop educational facilities with modern and progressive standards, in line with Kuwait’s National Development Plan emanating from the His Highness the Amir’s Vision 2035.”

Known across the region as a partner of national development for decades, Pace had delivered initial prototypes to develop primary and middle government schools. Speaking about the Award, Architect Tarek Shuaib, Pace CEO, said: “We are excited to witness our ‘Unbuilt’ future design garnering international recognition for its innovative approach. We are confident enough to say that the project succeeded in critically examining the outdated platforms found in a region desperate for change in the educational model, which are in need of an open and creative educational adaptation.”

Generation Alpha

Speaking about the project, Khraibut said that PAHW’s vision was to design a school for the next generation, Generation Alpha, that will live through the next 50 years and transition Kuwait from an outdated schooling model into the future of education – with experiential learning being a big part of it. He explained how Alpha are considered the first generation to be born entirely within the 21st century, not having experienced the world without technology and smart devices.

As for the design itself, Shuaib noted that Pace’s award-winning concept designs for the schools break down the boundaries of conventional learning by extending the functionality of the building to spaces, such as corridors, staircases or outdoor areas, with more flexibility to house multiple activities. “The highly-functional designs ensure that they respond to the site and program, as well as being adaptable, sustainable and inclusive of future change,” he added.

Elaborating further on the design, Khraibut discussed how it is centered on creating open and transparent spaces to foster a safe and secure environment, eliminating “dead areas” that are more concealed from sight. According to Khraibut, this reduces opportunities for bullying and helps create a more controlled environment where students feel safe to learn and explore. The designs are also led by their belief in creating completely accessible spaces that are inclusive of people of all different capabilities.

In terms of sustainability within the buildings, Shuaib pointed out that it has been achieved in the design primarily through passive cooling methods such as shading and the extensive use of vegetation, which also creates a pleasant environment for kids to play and will encourage them to explore their outdoors while being friendly to the environment.

“Our design aims to reduce temperature-controlled spaces and maximize outdoor covered areas in order to reduce load. In addition to cooling techniques, sustainability is also used as a learning tool. The future generations can be taught to be more conscious of their environment by providing space for outdoor classes, planting gardens and other green areas,” he said.

It is worth mentioning as well that the ‘Future Schools of Kuwait’ project had previously won the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Merit Award in the ‘Architecture Unbuilt’ category. The AIA jury recognized the project at the annual AIA – Middle East Conference and Design Awards 2019.

Reducing the carbon footprint of concrete production

Reducing the carbon footprint of concrete production

On 28 July 2020, Reducing the carbon footprint of concrete production was claimed by an Australian university associated with two civil engineering contractors. This solution could be envisaged for all developments in the MENA region. The image above is of Santiago Calatrava’s auditorium in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands cuts a striking figure against the Atlantic Ocean. Inside the structure, completed by the Spanish architect in 2003, a performance space is enclosed by curving abstract concrete forms. It can be seen as proof of the non-destructibility of all things concrete; it can also be visually as attractive as any other masterpiece of art.


A new manufacturing research project brings together industry technology and engineering experts from UTSBoral, and Southern Highland Concrete Constructions to develop advanced technology for manufacturing, placing and curing novel ultra-sustainable concrete in Australia.

aerial view of cross-shaped concrete pillars and aqua green water
Low-carbon concrete to be the future of the construction industry. Image: Tim Johnson on unsplash

The two-year project is co-funded by Boral and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) with both organisations investing $770,000 cash into the research as part of an overall $6m investment. The project aims to overcome current technological barriers of low-carbon concrete manufacturing and accelerate the development of Boral’s lower carbon ENVISIA® concrete.

Boral General Manager – Innovation Development, Dr Louise Keyte, says that ENVISIA® already performs as well as conventional concrete while containing a sizable cement replacement, achieved through the inclusion of alternative binders.

Our ambition, through the collaboration with UTS and Southern Highland Concrete Constructions, is to accelerate our research into new binders and develop the next generation of ENVISIA® concrete. We want to push low carbon boundaries even further while maintaining the practical properties of regular concrete.

Low-carbon concrete uses supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) such as ground granulated blast-furnace slag, fly ash and calcined clay as binders, instead of ordinary Portland cement (OPC). OPC is a major contributor to carbon emissions after fossil fuels.

To date, the percentage of SCM in low-carbon concrete products has been limited to 50% to ensure blended concrete meets set workability, durability and strength requirements without demanding specialised high-temperature curing schemes or the use of highly alkaline activators.

The project team led by Professor Vute Sirivivatnanon combines UTS academic knowledge with the experience of Boral’s innovation team.

Our aim is to push the technological boundaries of binder and chemical admixture technology and lift the maximum replacement rate of OCP while maintaining the fresh and early hardened properties of concrete for optimum construction efficiency. In addition, all durability properties critical to the achievement of design life for concrete structures will be optimised to deliver truly sustainable building.

The core research will be undertaken at the UTS Boral Centre for Sustainable Building at UTS Tech Lab in Sydney, where the researchers will develop and test new ultra-sustainable concrete and evaluate the effectiveness of proposed manufacturing approaches to tackle strength development and improve surface finishing techniques.

Once lab-tested, the team will work with Southern Highlands Concrete Construction, a growing SME specialised in placing and curing concrete, to trial the ultra-sustainable concrete on construction sites.

Benjamin Clarke, Managing Director at Southern Highland Concrete Constructions, highlights that low-carbon concrete will be the future of the construction industry.

We are excited to be part of this project, sharing our expertise and techniques to make sure this next generation of low-carbon concrete achieves its desired strength and durability, and can be deployed cost-effectively.

CEO and Managing Director of IMCRC, David Chuter, describes the project as a great example of pushing industry boundaries by investing in research and development to produce new materials and products. 

This Australian research collaboration will see Boral, which is at the forefront of low-carbon concrete development, progress an ultra-sustainable concrete that will be the first product of its kind and will lead the way in reducing the carbon footprint of concrete production, domestically and internationally.

, Discover more of Tech Lab’s industry-led research projects

Three Interrelated Elements: Art, Technology, and Culture

Three Interrelated Elements: Art, Technology, and Culture

Architecture is first and foremost, the combination of three interrelated elements: art, technology, and culture.
An architect’s mission is to create and visualize an organized space, via a 2D-3D drawing, corresponding to the premises needs of a given activity, while respecting all the binding or favourable factors.

After the preliminary stage of the documentary research and the usual surveys, the architect will then analyze the physical, regulatory and financial data to draw the basic directions of the construction programme and this before the start of the design work. On the other hand, the ideological orientation of the designer remains decisive as to the optional choices of the project if the client master of the works does not relay them explicitly.

The type of education provided in our architecture schools was supposed to meet the quality and quantity exigences of the national market. This is far from the case at the EPAU (Ecole Polytechnique d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme) of the 1970s. The art of building largely European inspired the type of training offered, thus unsuited to the reality and needs of the country. Foreign teachers with foreign pedagogical support without the slightest anchor to the existence of the public building have made us, inevitably, international architects in our own country and in other words, formed by Europe, for Europe. As proof of this reality, during our various internships in German architectural agencies, we were well-integrated, and our level of competence was relatively satisfactory, (Neufert and Mittag oblige). In addition to national market-oriented training, the contemporary model should not be overlooked and will be integrated into the curriculum. This will give the architect a level of competence that is acceptable on a global scale and will allow him to master the various stages of the design process for an international-style project.

The legal vacuum in the construction sector has severely reduced the curricula of their regulatory content. To this end, a complementary module should have been provided at the end of the course of study in the form of courses documented and presented by specialists from the relevant ministries.

It was not until the Planning Act 90-29 of 1 December 1990 that this void was finally filled. This law was promulgated, for the first time, under the leadership of the very far-sighted political leader, Mouloud Hamrouche.

In the world of work, this inadequate training forced new graduates to endure the vagaries of the profession under the orders of authoritarian directors, “party activists”, state-backed architectural consultants of the time. This situation of weakness was mainly due to the fault in the architect designing technical and regulatory elements specific to the field of the public building for which the latter, freshly graduated, was not or unprepared.

With the passage of time and experience in the field of planning: permits, demolitions and plots, the weak point of the planning files relates to two elements of great importance: integration into the site and planning regulations.

The first element requires respect for the built environment at the architectural level (style, and material) (alignment and height, etc.).

The second element is to master the existing building and urban planning regulations to comply with them without diminishing the architectural quality of the project. For example, the work presented by a colleague shows, at first sight, a small building built on sloping ground. This highly coloured and glazed building shines with its lack of integration within the site, and as a result, it follows a very straight and visually disturbing urban image.

Chirac, then mayor of Paris, had to refuse to grant a building permit to the posterity project presented by Mitterrand because of its unsuited style and appearance for the built environment. Similarly, in Blida, a billionaire had a castle built in a former residential area of the 1950s. The result is shocking because of the incompatibility of styles, an unnatural marriage. He copied a villa in the upscale suburbs of Stockholm and glued it to his property. It’s like building a Moorish house in the middle of Manhattan !!!

In conclusion, I believe that the designer architect, through his project, will impact on the lifestyle of future users; thus, his gesture becomes a social act. Design work must begin with all elements of site integration and current regulation in mind. Respect for general alignments, the heights of the buildings do not exceed the width of the access roads with the H≤L formula due to the sunshine requirements of the facades. Avoid overly greedy ground rights.

The city of tomorrow must be somewhat airy and sunny (sanitary distancing) with large planted or not green spaces. These bouquets of greenery will be the lungs of the city and its places of relaxation and socialization. The dormitory cities are to be banned and replaced by living neighbourhood units, integrating daytime activity, and joining the periphery of urban centres, thus promoting constructive and soothing social relations. Provide quality accompanying equipment related to unit density. The latter should be limited to 150 dwellings max per hectare to allow structural integration (roads, networks and equipment) to the existing urban neighbourhood. Make the most of locally available materials, taking climate change into account. Prefer non-fossil fuels for urban transport. Great importance is to give to non-polluting traffic with a network of bike paths and numerous pedestrian walkways. The narrow alleyways of the former centres will be transformed into a pedestrian zone and decorated with decorative elements planted and removable in case of emergency. Leisure and tourism businesses will be privileged. This view is very sketchy and does not include all the problems related to architecture and urban planning. Besides, the establishment of collective social housing developments will have to be distributed over several external sites following the rules of density and height. Never schedule too much housing construction on the same location.
Always split these locations to less than 500 dwellings maximum per site. This beneficial condition will allow the future neighbourhood unit to integrate quickly and easily within the existing urban fabric and will not overwhelm the capacity of the surrounding facilities. Finally, it should be noted that northern Algeria is located on a seismic zone of type 2, medium intensity, therefore subject of periodic and unpredictable seismic movement. This natural characteristic requires respect for a building height not to exceed ranging from R-5 to R-7 to the maximum. Moreover, recent studies on high-rise buildings have shown that the quality of life in a high-rise dwelling is inversely proportional to its distance to the ground. People living on the 15th floor tend to have more chronic diseases than those of the 7th and lower levels.

The typical habit of local authorities to happily substitute for town planning specialists has done a great deal of damage to the development of cities. Decisions involving the future of the city for at least a century should have been discussed with all the specialists in the field: architects, urban planners, and sociologists in order to find the best proposals and thus avoid the disastrous and irreversible effects of unplanned developments. A city council should be created, headed by local officials, and assisted by technicians with proven competence. This council should discuss, request changes, and possibly approve all development plans for the city under a program set out by the PDAU (Plan Directeur d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme) containing the basic guidelines and itself in line with the regional development plan.

Updated on 2020 06 26

Replastering of the Great Mosque of Djenné

Replastering of the Great Mosque of Djenné

The evening before the crépissage, the annual replastering of the Great Mosque of Djenné, Balphady Yaro is throwing a party for his friends and neighbors in the town’s Konofia neighborhood.


06/2020 Escape


As militant attacks get closer, Katarina Höije tells the story of a Malian town defiantly continuing its annual tradition of replastering a mosque. Here is :

An Ancient Mud Mosque Annually Restored

Rickety plastic chairs and tables line the winding streets around Djenné’s main square, where the mosque looms over the town’s low mud-brick houses. There are plates of riz au grastasty rice with meat and vegetables—and chilled soft drinks. Ivorian Coupé-Décalé music reverberates on soft mud walls. Djenné, a town of about 35,000 in the central region of Mali, is famous for its traditional mud-brick architecture and its UNESCO-protected mosque. Fifty-two feet (16 meters) high and built on a 300-foot-long (90-meter) platform to protect it from flooding, the mosque is the world’s largest mud-brick building.

The Annual Restoration of An Ancient Mud Mosque, photo by Annie Risemberg
Young men and boys run down the front steps of the mosque after dropping off baskets of mud. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)

Touching up its walls each year—crépissage, the French word for ‘plastering’—is a proud and exuberant ritual that involves the whole town. “The crépissage is the most important event of the year, even bigger than Eid al-Fitr, Tabaski (the Malian equivalent of Christmas), and marking the end of Ramadan,” says Yaro, a 30-year-old lawyer and host of the celebration known as ‘la nuit de veille.’ Sitting under a tarpaulin strung between two neem trees, Yaro watches as the crowds sway through the street.

The partygoers won’t sleep until after the event. The revelry will strengthen them ahead of tomorrow’s big task, Yaro claims, sipping a soft drink. “Tonight we party, and tomorrow we will celebrate our mosque and Djenné’s cultural heritage.” The residents of Djenné come together to put a new layer of clay on their mosque every April, just before the rainy season. The crépissage is both a necessary maintenance task to prevent the mosque’s walls from crumbling and an elaborate festival that celebrates Djenné’s heritage, faith, and community. It’s also an act of defiance.

The increasing instability in Mali’s central region—fueled by inter-tribal conflicts and growing numbers of militant and jihadist groups exploiting the absence of state security forces—now threatens Djenné and its sacred annual ritual. Local militants—some linked to the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), formed by the 2017 merger of several extremist groups operating in Mali—have invaded towns, destroyed markets, and spread their influence in central Mali.

The Annual Restoration of An Ancient Mud Mosque, photo by Annie Risemberg
A group of women carrying water needed for the mud mixture. Men and boys are responsible for bringing the mud to the mosque, while and women and girls are tasked with bringing water from the river. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)

So far, Djenné and its mosque have been spared, but the security situation in the region continues to deteriorate, and more frequent attacks are being carried out in Djenné’s orbit. “We knew that the militants were getting closer to Djenné,” says town chief Sidi Yéya Maiga at his home the day before the crépissage. This year the town council even took the extraordinary step of debating whether or not to cancel their cherished tradition.

In an act of collective resistance, they decided the show must go on. On the day before the crépissage, Nouhoum Touré, the master among Djenné’s 250 masons, heads down to the riverbank to check on the mud that has been left to soak for 20 days.

The Annual Restoration of An Ancient Mud Mosque, photo by Annie Risemberg
The crépissage is the most important event in Mali. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional

It’s the height of the dry season, and the river has shrunk to shallow puddles and inlets. The round pools that store clay until it’s time for the crépissage look like pockmarks on the riverbed. The mud comes from further down the river and is transported here by trucks and donkey carts. Younger masons then break the blocks into smaller chunks and mix them with water. In the final stages, rice husks are added to the mud, turning it into a soft and sticky paste. The rice works like a glue, holding the mud together and keeping it from cracking as it dries. The young masons then carry the mixture, in wicker baskets, to pits in front of the mosque in preparation for the event.

Early in the morning on the long-awaited day of the crépissage, Djenné’s residents gather by the mosque and wait for Touré to smear the first blob of mud on the wall. This is the starting gun.

There is a roar from the crowd as dozens of young men—some masons, some apprentices—run to the mosque. Smaller groups of boys raise wooden ladders against the mosque wall. Carrying wicker baskets full of dripping-wet clay from the pits next to the mosque, the young men begin scrambling up the façade, using ladders to reach the wooden poles protruding from the walls. Perching perilously on the wooden scaffolding, they pick up large blobs of clay and smear them on the walls.

The Annual Restoration of An Ancient Mud Mosque, photo by Annie Risemberg
The Djenné mosque the day before the crépissage. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional

Nientao, the mosque’s guardian, weaves through the crowd, his pockets filled with sweets for the workers. Thousands of muddy feet trample the paths around the mosque. As the sun begins to rise over Djenné, turning shapeless shadows into dark silhouettes, a group of boys and masons tackle the minarets from the roof of the mosque.

Four hours later, the morning sun shines on the newly plastered mosque. Dark, wet clay patches on the dried mud give it a sickly look. Touré is covered in mud all the way from his plastic sandals, which have miraculously stayed on his feet, to the top of his turban. “I think we did very well,” he says, sitting in the shade of the mosque. “Normally, we re-mud the mosque over two days. This time we managed to get it done in only one day.”

The Annual Restoration of An Ancient Mud Mosque, photo by Annie Risemberg
Residents carrying mud, from pits to the mosque ahead of the crépissage. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)  

A little later, there is a crack as the loudspeakers come on, then the sound of Djenné’s mayor, Balfine Yaro, clearing his throat. Everyone looks on in silence as he makes his way to the front of the crowd. He declares Djenneka Raws the winning team. Djelika Kantao and Yoboucaïna have prevailed. For the winners, there is pride, honor, and a cash prize of 50,000 West African francs, or about $90 (€80). “With the money,” says Kantao, beaming with pride, “I will buy new solar panels for the neighborhood, so we no longer have to live in darkness.”


Delve into a world of traditions being kept alive unique individuals through The New Traditional. This story and images are featured in the book.