Initiated by the German film and theatre director, actor and artist Christoph Schlingensief, the Opera Village is an arts education project operated by Festspielhaus Afrika. When Francis Kéré first heard the idea of an opera house for Africa, he thought that it was crazy until he met Christoph Schlingensief, the initiator and visionary of the project "Opera House for Africa”. The architect’s commission was based on his unique building methods that integrate local people, using local materials, involving people and taking their concerns into account for a culture that needed socio-economic uplifting.
Following the major floods that hit Burkina Faso in August 2009, the architect and Christoph’s stage designer who had witnessed the floods, set out to locate a site in the capital, Ouagadougou that Christoph had identified as a possible location for the opera house. The disaster floods had rendered the people living there homeless and the proposed site non-existent. Compelled to help the people rebuild their homes, rather than initiate the project, Francis began to design a suitable housing prototype. As an architect and urban planner, this was an opportunity to develop a module that could be integrated into the project and out of a catastrophe, the opera village was born.
Built by the local population who have undergone construction training and designed by Kéré, who places value on air conditioning, achieving cooling by using his specially developed construction materials, the Opera village is constructed on a 12-hectare site on a little rise in Laongo, one hour’s car drive from the capital of Burkina Faso and overlooking the West African landscape of the Sahel zone. The main infrastructure connection is the main road to the west of the site, leading to Ouagadougou. A festival theatre, workshops, medical centre and guest houses are planned, as well as solar panels, a well and a school for up to 500 children and teenagers with music and film classes. Central to the project is the festival hall with the theatre inside. This stage and auditorium were designed and constructed for a piece of theatre in Germany and not used again afterwards.
Now it is going to be transformed in Burkina Faso to meet the needs of the Opera village. The support construction of the stand and the rotating stage will be maintained. The seat rows and interior walls will be covered with Burkinabe fabrics. The theatre will be completely enclosed by a 15m high covering to shelter it from the outside conditions.
Simple basic modules, which vary in quality and function depending on the equipment they house, comprise the entire village. Most of these modules will be self-constructed. Local materials such as clay, laterite, cement bricks, gum wood and loam rendering will be used for construction. For reinforcing elements such as beams, columns, ring-beams and foundations, concrete will be used. Due to the massive walls and large overhang of the roofs, air conditioning could be discounted in most buildings.