Niger’s Atelier Masōmī designs to ‘elevate, dignify and provide a better quality of life’

Atelier Masōmī from Niger is part of our series of profiles of architects, spatial designers and builders shaping West Africa's architectural future

Dandaji Market by atelier masōmī
(Image credit: Tino Chiwariro)

Mariam Issoufou Kamara’s practice, Atelier Masōmī, was founded in 2014. Now 16-strong, the firm balances work between its main office in Niger’s capital city, Niamey, and a studio in New York, as well as between architecture practice and research. Drawing from the past and applying learnings to the present, with a view to help shape a future that feels relevant for each respective context, is key for this emerging architect. 

‘I work on ways of creating new interpretations for wisdom that can be found in traditional buildings,’ says Kamara. ‘At the core of our approach is the belief that as architects we have an important role to play in creating spaces that have the power to elevate, dignify and provide a better quality of life. For us, the goal is always to design spaces that bring community together while also honouring the cultural history, context and the people we are designing for.’

Digital drawing of large brown building

(Image credit: press)

West African studios: atelier masōmī

The studio tackles anything from public, cultural, residential, commercial to urban design projects, with current works spread across Niger (it is finishing the Yantala Offices building); Senegal (the Bët-bi Museum is currently in design development); Sharjah (with the Hayyan master plan and housing development); and Liberia (where the team is designing the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center and Library in collaboration with Sumayya Vally). The studio has been building its ethos through important, public commissions that celebrate context-specific approaches – something the architect feels might be missing from the architecture world today: ‘The canon has an incredible tunnel vision elevating works from one small part of the world as universal, which really only narrows the field of references available to us as professionals and for students. When we’re tackling global issues at the moment, would it not make sense for our arsenal of tools and ideas to also be global in scope?’ 

The Ideal City ikea book Atelier Masomi

(Image credit: Photography: Maurice Ascani )

Kamara’s portfolio, from her first projects, right through to those still in development, has stood out for its diversity and richness, as well as its unique take on building using time-honed methods and material. And the world has noticed. She has been shortlisted for a 2022 Aga Khan award; is honoured at the Holcim Awards for Sustainability; and was selected as a mentee by Sir David Adjaye, as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégée Arts Initiative in 2018. 

All her achievements have helped Kamara develop her approach and business further. She recently tried her hand at furniture and immersive installation design (‘[It] has been a fantastic way to switch scales,’ she says), and also teaches, having recently been appointed professor of Architecture Heritage and Sustainability at ETH Zurich. The future is bright for Atelier Masōmī.

work by mariam kamara

(Image credit: James Wang)

West African studios: the series

From Senegal to Nigeria, and from Niger to the Ivory Coast, West Africa is vast and brimming with potential. A powerful mix of peoples and cultures, and in some nations, exponential demographic and economic growth, makes this part of the world a locus of change. The result? A dynamic new generation of studios that operate in the architecture realm and push the boundaries of their field to a promising future. Architects, spatial designers and builders converge here to create a unique, rich melting pot of fresh thinking and innovation that will no doubt reshape the way we think about architecture globally.

Dandaji Market by atelier masomi

(Image credit: Maurice Ascani) (opens in new tab)

A version of this story appears in January 2023 Wallpaper*, The Future Issue, available now in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today (opens in new tab)

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).