The new headquarters building for Africanews in the Republic of the Congo features an elevated six-story cube supported by sculptural concrete columns. Timber, a traditional material in the region, will clad the underside of the elevated structure, which will be shaded from the sun by perforated concrete panels. Mikou Design Studio
The unusual design for the headquarters of Africanews—an international news station to be located in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo—has been revealed.
May 27, 2014—Euronews, a 24/7 news channel that broadcasts to 155 countries in 13 languages, is launching a sister channel in Africa to be known as Africanews. The new headquarters for the operation will be a modern, multifaceted cube located along the Congo River, rising above the capital city of Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo. The Paris-based architecture firm Mikou Design Studio, a company cofounded in 2005 by Selma Mikou and Salwa Mikou, created the design.
The design elevates a six-story, timber-clad structure above four enormous stiltlike columns. Beneath this elevated cube, a two-story glass structure will act as the reception center for the building, a glass-encased stairway and a glass-encased elevator linking the ground level structure with the elevated cube above. The elevated building will house newsrooms, meeting rooms, and offices, as well as a restaurant with panoramic views at the top of the building. An open-air atrium located in the center of the building will provide patio space, while a multilevel rooftop garden will be hidden behind latticework, offering private exterior space for those in the building.
The building design boasts a footprint that both follows and defies the lines of the building site—each exterior wall is staggered in and out to create visual interest. “The Africanews Tower has been conceived as a sculptural, elevated building,” said Selma Mikou, who wrote in response to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. “Its vertical proportion is accentuated by the facets of the envelope in relief and hollows, which stretch it upward and give it a sculptural effect.” The design is meant to evoke “magical contrasts of light and shadow,” she said.
Structurally, the building is a mix of prefabricated, reinforced-concrete elements—columns, beams, and floors—and cast-in-place concrete exterior walls, which shape the perimeter, according to Salwa Mikou, who also wrote in response to questions posed by Civil Engineering online.
“The construction system is conventional, with an external insulation,” Salwa Mikou explained. The walls will be created with a layered system comprising structural concrete panels, insulation, a hollow space, and prefabricated panels in perforated concrete. The perforated surface will form the exterior skin of the building and will follow a “lozenge” pattern, she explained. “These brise soleil have a presealed anchorage in stainless steel fixed to the structure after the form removal,” she said.
The four exterior columns that support the elevated cube are “conceived as sculptural, faceted African totems,” Selma Mikou said. “They are made in reinforced concrete to keep a sense of lightness.” Other elements place the design squarely within its regional context, such as the use of timber in the sunshades and on the underside of the elevated cube to help create multiple shades of ochre, and the repeating geometrical lozenge motif on the building’s exterior, she said.
“The biggest architectural challenge was to design an African project [that] could use local materials and could be built easily,” Selma Mikou noted. “It was also very important to take into account in the design proposal the climatic conditions of Brazzaville, which are very specific. That is why we proposed a structural system in concrete, with an envelope protected by prefabricated, V-shaped sunshades in perforated, openwork concrete, which are easily fixed to the structure.”
Construction of the building will begin early in 2015 and is estimated to take 16 months, according to Selma Mikou.
The Africanews station, which will include a staff of 40 journalists, is expected to launch in the summer of 2015, according to information on the Euronews website. A joint agreement between Euronews and Télé Congo, the nation’s public television channel, established Africanews earlier this year.