Located along the Niger River, Niamey began as a cluster of small villages in the 18th century. The new campus design respects and incorporates elements of the Nigerien landscape and historic architecture, where simple materials help to mitigate Niger’s sub-tropical climate. By incorporating rubbed architectural concrete and multi-colored metal panel sunscreens and canopies, the buildings reduce solar heat gain and deflect glare, creating more comfortable interior spaces that require less air conditioning while taking advantage of the abundant daylight. Landscaping throughout the campus is indigenous, featuring plantings that thrive in the local climate and a design that helps manage Niamey’s intense seasonal rains.
The Miller Hull Partnership of Seattle, Washington, is the design architect and B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama, is the construction contractor. Approximately 1,700 American, local, and third-country national staff have been involved construction, with 1,500 Nigeriens participating in the build. This team contributed more than 6-million work hours, contributing $53 million to the local economy.
The project is certified Platinum by U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program. The 712kw photovoltaic cells have the second highest capacity at any U.S. embassy to date. Features such as low-flow plumbing fixtures will reduce the demand on the local potable water supply by 36 percent. All of the buildings’ wastewater is treated on site and reused for irrigation and infiltration (returned to the water table). Ninety percent of the rainwater that falls on the site will be captured and slowly released.
The permanent art collection, curated by the Office of Art in Embassies, encompasses 36 works in a variety of media — paint, wire, steel, wood, fabric, and photography — created by U.S. and Nigerien artists. Installed throughout the public spaces of the building, the collection celebrates the cultural connections between Niger and the United States. Highlights include Du Quotidien (a collaborative photography project between faculty and students in the Studies in Arts and Cultures Program, Université Abdou Moumouni in Niamey and the School of Art + Design, Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina), Tower (Shawn Smith’s large-scale sculpture of the Nigerien giraffe, created to honor Niger’s pride in and conservation efforts for this local species), and 13°30’42” (Mary Babcock’s wall tapestry of reclaimed fishing nets that depicts the meandering Niger River and references its function and use in the lives of many Nigerien people). These works and the others in the collection are a testament to art’s ability to transform the relationship between an individual and a space, transcend language barriers, and build connections among peoples.