Mariam Kamara takes on the architectural challenges of the future

Nigerien architect Mariam Kamara – tipped by Frida Escobedo as one of 25 creative leaders of the future in Wallpaper’s 25th Anniversary Issue ‘5x5’ project – is the dynamic principle of fast-emerging studio Atelier Masōmī

The Hikma religious and secular complex
The Hikma religious and secular complex.
(Image credit: James Wang)

An emerging architect with a wealth of accolades under her belt, Mariam Kamara heads Atelier Masōmī, a boutique architecture practice in Niamey, Niger. The architect gained global recognition in 2018 when she was chosen for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé scheme and mentored by Sir David Adjaye over the course of two years. She was also shortlisted for the prestigious 2019 Royal Academy Dorfman Award and has been announced a 2020 Honorary Fellow at The Royal Institute of Canada. She was also part of the 2019 Wallpaper* Architects Directory

Her studio was set up in 2014 and has been going from strength to strength. Kamara considers collaboration a crucial part of her work. ‘With each collaboration we push the needle further but also learn so much from the people we collaborate with,’ she explains. ‘The Hikma Religious and Secular Complex allowed us to work with local masons to reinterpret traditional Hausa architecture.‘

Dandaji Market, Nigeria

Dandaji Market. 

(Image credit: Maurice Ascani)

‘The same is true for our Niamey 2000 housing project,’ she continues, ‘where our inspiration came from pre-colonial cities in the region such as Timbuktu in Mali, Kano in Nigeria, or Zinder in Niger. [With] the Dandaji Regional Market, we managed to achieve our goal to create a space that projects a sense of confidence and aspiration for the current and future users of the market.’

Kamara’s design for the Niamey Cultural Center is currently in construction, while also being exhibited at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, where the architect is additionally showing an installation responding to the theme ‘How Will We Live Together?’, created in collaboration with the Tuareg Sculptors Collective in her home country.

Despite undeniable challenges ahead, the future feels exciting for Kamara. ‘What’s exciting about the future of architecture is the chance to tackle some of our biggest challenges at the moment. The demographic explosion in the Global South is one such challenge. How do we think about building capacity and infrastructure to meet this challenge while also trying not to exacerbate the climate crisis?’

Niamey housing project

Niamey 2000. 

(Image credit: united4design)

Niamey residential courtyard

Niamey 2000. 

(Image credit: united4design)

INFORMATION (opens in new tab)

A version of this article appears in Wallpaper’s October 2021, 25th Anniversary Issue (W*270), on newsstands now and available to subscribers – 12 digital issues for $12/£12/€12 (opens in new tab).
Meet more creative leaders of the future nominated by architect Frida Escobedo here.

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).