As part of a partnership between India and Niger, the Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre was established in Niamey as a flexible and functional meeting place built to honor the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a 16,000m² development with the capacity to host 3300 guests. The centre comprises a presidential hall, a multi-function meeting and banquet hall as well as an exhibition/museum depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
The design of the building is inspired by the natural landscape of Niger and from the motifs and symbols of the local culture.
The Presidential Hall is designed to resemble a Calabash – a bowl-like decorated container used to carry food and other goods by the locals in Niger. Its façade design resembles local salt pan patterns whilst the canopy roof structures used in the periphery of the buildings were designed using the baobab tree as a model. Despite several logistics and technical challenges, the project was successfully delivered within 13 months from the commencement date, which was only possible by using a design & build approach to the project, as it had to be completed on time in order to host the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Conference of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union in 2019.
Grankraft fabricated and installed the bowl-shaped building façade consisting of the glass curtain wall and aluminium perforated screen cladding. The pattern of the 3500m² screen cladding consisted of 10 different panels arranged in seven rows with 120 panels in each row that are combined together to give a random pattern similar to the salt pans patterns found in Niger’s nature.
The original design was optimised to improve repetition of panels whilst maintaining the design intent. The pattern was laser-cut into the aluminium sheets, which are coloured to represent the local heritage with some being partially open while others feature a tinted acrylic sheet, creating a dappled light and shadow effect in the main circulation area surrounding the multifunctional hall.
Part of the scope was to also fabricate and install the steel tree canopies surrounding the buildings which provide shade to the visitors. The columns which vary in height from 4m to 14m were built on site by others and Grankraft provided the top panels of the canopy. The canopy consists of rectangular (10m x 6 m) and curved panels which have been fabricated using 5mm thick mild steel for the main frame and 2mm thick aluminium for the secondary pattern. One of the challenges was to accurately fix the canopy panels on to the 23 columns which ended on a sloping plane with a bespoke connection design between the panels and branches to maintain the aesthetic look of a BaoBao tree. To achieve this design intent, it took a team effort from all parties involved in order to deal with the demanding program and site conditions.
The logistical challenges due to the project’s location had to be considered from the get go. Niger is a land-locked country in West Africa surrounded by seven other countries. Whilst Niger has road and air connectivity, the nearest port is about 1100km away and there is no rail connection to Niamey.
Given the very tight construction program and the increased lead time for procurement of fabricated steel in Niger, the steel roof structure was fabricated in India and airlifted by chartered air cargo.
Any delay to the procurement would have led to stoppages on-site and therefore required a close coordination of all involved with specialist subconsultants and subcontractors to react to unforeseen challenges. One of which was the use of RC columns for the support of the tree canopy instead of the originally designed steel columns due to the subsoil conditions.