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Photo: James Wang

Creative Mind: Mariam Kamara

Hailing from Niger, the fast-rising architect mines the West African nation’s rich architectural legacy for inspiration

Mariam Kamara. Photo: Courtesy of Atelier Masōmī

Hailing from Niger, fast-rising architect Mariam Kamara mines the West African nation’s rich architectural legacy for inspiration, focusing on the Sahel region. “What I do in my work is not so much reinterpret traditional architecture but rather learn from it and see which of those lessons still apply today,” says Kamara, who founded her firm, Atelier Masōmī, in 2014. 

The Dandaji Religous Secular Complex in Niger, designed by Atelier Masōmī. Photo: James Wang

Building blocks: Kamara aims to address the country’s housing shortage in an eco-friendly way. The first model dedicated to that purpose was completed in 2016 and features passive cooling elements and bricks made of local earth. 

Dandaji Market by Atelier Masōmī. Photo: Maurice Ascani

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Model mentor: Kamara was paired with David Adjaye as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. “Spending time with Sir David has made me appreciate the generosity and humility that it takes to lead as well as the importance of working toward a higher ideal,” she says. 

The intricate ceiling of the Dandaji Religous Secular Complex by Atelier Masōmī. Photo: James Wang/Courtesy of Atelier Masōmī

The Dandaji Religous Secular Complex by Atelier Masōmī. Photo: James Wang/Courtesy of Atelier Masōmī

“What I do in my work is not so much reinterpret traditional architecture but rather learn from it”

Mariam Kamara

A rendering for Artisan Valley, designed by Atelier Masōmī. Photo: Courtesy of Atelier Masōmī

Up next: Among Atelier Masōmī’s latest projects is Artisans Valley, a public promenade in Niamey, Niger, that prioritizes local makers. Kamara also recently revealed renderings for an innovative cultural center in Niamey. “I wanted a place where the community would feel seen, where they could enjoy the arts without feeling too intimidated to engage with a typology that often comes off as elitist.”

A space at the upcoming Artisan Valley. Photo: Courtesy of Atelier Masōmī

Click here to see the full list of “Creative Minds.”

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2021 Spring Issue under the headline “Creative Minds.” Subscribe to the magazine.

Photo: James Wang

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