Advanced Design Studio: Wood

Wood: Libreville

Boulevard Triumphant


Design and Visualization




with Brantley Highfill

Ecological infrastructure, architecture, modernization, and the image of the city

Course Description

Gabon is a small country in West Africa with big ambitions. The nation is currently embarking on its second modern wave of urbanization and development. Its first, following liberation from France in the 1950's and the discovery of oil off its coast in the 1960's, resulted in a master plan for the capitol Libreville by early eco-urbanist Marcello Di Olivo and a number of optimistic, modernist buildings and infrastructure. This new wave, initiated by President Ali Bongo Ondimba, has the goal of moving the country into the ranks of emerging economies as oil supplies taper, through a transition towards industrialization, services and green jobs and development.

This studio will focus on one of the two major axes created by Di Olivio's plan- the Boulevard Triomphal- as the locus of a new, forward-looking image for the city. This boulevard leads inland from the seacoast and is the location of major public buildings including the Gabonese Parliament and many embassies and government ministries. We will look at how the introduction of new sustainable infrastructures- including transportation, waste and energy can both transform the boulevard and create the opportunity for new representative public architecture- by extension providing a physical manifestation of the country's goals and providing a model for a progressive 21st Century Africa.

The class will research precedents of other transformative infrastructures, from Haussman's Paris to Foster's Masdar, as well as general research into contemporary Africa. We will develop together a new master plan for the Boulevard Triomphal in advance from our trip to Libreville in February. In Libreville, we will be hosted by the Agence National des Grands Travaux, currently carrying out more than 70 large-scale infrastructural and architectural projects throughout the country. The remainder of the semester will be spent developing individual projects for new public buildings and complexes along the boulevard.