The scheme drawn up by the Berlin firm of Francis Kéré for Porto-Novo, the capital of Benin, takes inspiration from the ‘word tree,’ the western African tradition by which the community gathers under a tree to make collective decisions.
Facing the old National Assembly, where Benin declared itself independent from France in 1960, the new construction harbors its central piece, the parliamentary chamber, on the ground floor, with beams left exposed and evoking the branches of the venerated tree. Surrounded by a staircase, the central courtyard represents the hollow ‘trunk,’ which lets natural light and air in while connecting with the higher levels containing private offices and auxiliary functions. The uppermost part, a reinterpretation of the treetop, gives views of the city and shades the lower part, from which stretches a public park, where further facilities for government services blend in by means of planted roofs.
Construction is to start in March 2021, for completion in 2023.