The herb market is situated at the northwest corner of the Medina Coura market, in Bamako, the capital of Mali. The project occupies a very small part of the market (440 m2) and consists of 10 baked-brick cupolas built on a stone platform and disposed in circle around a patio. Each cupola shelters two market stalls for the sale of medicinal herbs.
The architect's intention was to exlore as much as possible, local materials (earth and stone), avoiding the use of wood ("not to contribute to desertification"), and of imported materials such as concrete and steel. Ten brick cupolas are disposed within a circle with 10.5 metres radius, on a slightly raised, round platform made of stone. The central patio they form is partially shaded by a structure consisting of the lower third of a central brick dome which connects all the cupolas and provides shade along the patio circulation area. In the centre a raised bench defines a circular bed where a tree grows. Each cupola shelters the storage and exhibition areas of two stalls. The platform was divided into twelve parts, two being for the entrances and the rest for the cupolas. These were disposed asymmetrically in two groups of six and four cupolas, so that the entrances to the ensemble were oriented to the most favourable accesses from the rest of the market.
The constructive system is based on the exclusive utilisation of structures working by compression: arches, vaults, and domes. The materials were local stone for the ground platform and baked earth brick for the arches, vaults, and cupolas. The arches and vaults were built with the help of wood forms made on site. The mortar used in both cases was made of sand and cement. No renderings or finishes were required.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture