Hanging About

Portable refuge, or portable prison? The decision is yours ...

ex.studio, Barcelona

Project team

Iván Juárez, Patricia Meneses


Trapped or tranquil? Or simply a nice garden ornament?


Architect EX.STUDIO

The second of two projects by Barcelona-based ex.studio was possibly the most eye-catching and unusual of all the premiated submissions.This witty, humorous response to the visual richness of Senegalese culture elicited a warm glow from the judges; indeed, what's not to like about a glorious technicolourTambabox?

The savannah region of eastern Senegal may be one of Africa's poorest,yet it is culturally prosperous, mainly due to the preservation of indigenous crafts and customs, but also because of its geography, which encourages encounters and exchanges with five neighbouring countries, including Gambia and Mali.Tambacounda,the region's capital, is the setting for ex.studio's experiment in colour, light, textiles and human curiosity. Inspired by the dazzling diversity of the brightly coloured textiles employed by the Senegalese to make their distinctive boubous (kaftan-like dresses and robes), the wonderfully onomatopoeic Tambabox is a timber-framed cube clad in a patchwork of assorted clashing fabric panels. Some have tailored sleeves attached to them for that essential touch of cross-cultural surrealism.

The vividly coloured textiles filter and regulate the sun's glare, so that from inside, the taut panels shimmer and pulsate with coloured light like stained-glass windows.At night, lit from inside, the fabric clad structure is transformed into a glowing polychromatic box that contrasts

with the inky darkness of its surroundings. Shadows of visitors are projected and revealed on the kaleidoscopic backdrop. Tambabox combines architecture, sculpture, textiles and tailoring in a simple yet highly lyrical way, transforming the ordinary and the everyday into something gorgeous and extraordinary.

To build and assemble the Tambabox, ex.studio worked with local carpenters and tailors, and the compact structure has an engaging robustness that seems well suited to its context. The architects' competition submission slightly spoils this effect by including some portentous (and doubtless lost-in-translation) observations on their African adventure (eg, 'the textiles that delimit this architecture are murals in which the body is partly transformed becoming part of the linen cloth'), but with such seductive visuals, the judges were happily hooked. C. S.

Architect ex-studio, Barcelona Project team Patricia Meneses, Iván Juárez Photographs


Architect EX.STUDIO

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