23.2.2021

Benin National Assembly

Having outgrown its current building, which dates back to the colonial era of its past, the parliament of the Republic of Benin has entrusted Kéré Architecture to design a new national assembly that will embody the values of democracy and the cultural identity of its citizens.

The project takes inspiration from the palaver tree, the age-old West African tradition of meeting under a tree to make consensual decisions in the interest of a community. The palaver tree is a timeless symbol, having borne witness to previous generations and inspiring respect for the majestic forces of nature.

The assembly hall is located on the ground floor, its spectacular ceiling created by the dynamic reach of the structure, which supports the functions above. The crown is comprised of offices and auxiliary functions, set back from the deep façade, which filters the strong sunlight. The trunk is hollow, creating a central courtyard that allows circulation spaces to be naturally ventilated and indirect light to penetrate the plan. A spiral staircase in its centre connects the assembly hall on the ground floor to the offices above. On the top floor, a roof terrace offers sweeping views over the city and the lagoon in the distance.

A large part of the site is dedicated to a public park, which will showcase Benin’s native flora while providing Porto-Novo with an extensive recreation space. To create a sense of openness and transparency, the park will extend to the foot of the palaver tree, offering a generous shaded space where citizens can gather and deliberate, analogous to the assembly hall on the opposite side.

In the southeast corner of the site, a public square marks the civic façade of the building, across from the former national assembly where Benin’s independence was historically declared. Further facilities for government services are integrated into the park’s topography with planted roofs, and form a façade along the southern limit of the site.

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