PROGRAM: Ministry of Parks

SITE: Bord de Mer + Quartier Louis

CONTEXT: Libreville, Gabon, Africa

The identity of ‘Ministry’ reinterpreted as an entity that mediates the public and the government while presenting an optimistic future. Buildings do not last long in the rainforest. Regardless, as a series of pedestrian bridges and a gateway to Libreville, the building serves as the link between park systems and established neighborhoods and will remain a useful part of the built fabric instead of a privatized workplace.

Gabon contains some of the most incredible untouched natural ecosystems on the planet. Because of the scarcity of tourists and means of ecotourism within the country, very few people have ever experienced or have knowledge of these parks.

Dedicated in 2002, Gabon’s 13 national parks cover 10% of the country. As 'Africa's Eden', Gabon is trying to modernize while simultaneously preserving some of the most unique and last remaining rainforest habitats on the planet.

The African forest elephant is its own species apart from the African plains elephant. 85% of the remaining African forest elephants now reside within Gabon’s borders and national parks.

Even though the national park system was a positive stance on protecting Gabon's natural resources, statistics show that measures taken to protect the forest elephant population are not enough. It is estimated that they will become extinct within the next decade unless drastic measures are taken to prevent this tragedy to occur.

The poaching of forest elephants is an endemic problem that is taking top priority in the government. Measures to stop poaching include military training, education, and monetary opportunities for tourism.

To enforce, research, and organize the National Park effort, the National Agency for National Parks (ANPN) was formed in 2002.

Led by Lee White, the ANPN is responsible for the implementation of government policy on national parks that includes:

1) Protection of parks and resources through policy and procedures

2) Development of the park network via research + management

3) Enhanced parks through information, education and tourism

Opposing the privatized park system to the north, the site proposes the first large public park in Libreville.

With the increase pressure to develop alternatives to oil production, Gabon has bets on ecotourism and sustainable resource management. The future of economy is dependent on the widespread influence and acceptance of the ANPN as a force for good.

STRATEGY: The Bord de Mer follows the coast from the airport to old town Libreville. The new port, under construction to the south, will inevitably be disconnected unless a link is made. The determined project building straddles this edge.

The final form establishes a lifted pedestrian surface of bridges above the busy boulevard while linking programs and transportation in a triangular procession above newly established parks. Unique elevations are determined as a continuation of the modernist tradition of differentiated facades and profiles.

The project sites itself as this link connecting the busiest night life district and revitalized neighborhood park in the north, the largest beach front in the city to the south, and establishes the cities first large public plaza and recreation fields adjacent to the new building.

The program sits on a knuckle of controversial forces (the public beach, the country’s primary road, the new Chinaled port development, and the end of the government zone) and presents itself as a manifestation of the mutual integration of these forces.

(1) Massed program (2) Lifting for the road—bridges for pedestrians (3) Hollowing out an interior (4) Push down to meet the new public park (5) Continue the park (6) Helipads reference the flow of circulation (7) HQ faces the park and the city

CIRCULATION: cores at two corners, bridge connecting across road. Interior circulation is triangulated around the center while daily commuters get stacked layers of movement for their daily routines.

(B1) Storage/Mechanical (0) Park restrooms, lockers, showers, bus station, art lobby (1) Community center spaces, art gallery (2) Main Lobby, art gallery, cafe (3) Exploration center, military open space (4) Exploration center, military offices (5) ANPN main offices, exterior auditorium, military conference (6) Military conference + main offices, exterior park (7) Interior conference hall (8) Conference hall and lounge (9) Rainforest research offices (10) Rainforest research offices (11) Research library and meeting rooms (12) Research library and computer workstations (13) Open conference center (14) Kitchen and exclusive bar (15) Observation deck and restaurant

Botanical gardens and helipads simultaneously step up the layers of the building. The building is an extension of the transportation network and a nursery for the new park system.

The sectional shifting of programs allow each corner to serve as a lobby for the three independent occupants within the building—ANPN, Parks research, and community center.

Helicopters are currently the best means of visiting the remote national parks and for monitoring the elephant population. When available, the helipads will be leased for tourism

Unlike the standard 'Ministry' building, the private functions of the ANPN are sandwiched by yet independent of the public functions. A few slight shifts in the security will allow the public to visit and talk to those protecting their national parks.

Gardens are pulled through the building as a laboratory for raising rainforest plants within the city while offering opportunities to educate children and adults about the rainforest situation.

Tiered auditoriums stack and face outward to the parks and the sea. Events will be visible from the new park below and accessibility is guaranteed via the public staircase on the interior of the building.

Above the road and linking the parks with diverse functions, the Ministry of Parks is representative of a necessary shift in the power of parks, tourism, and culture as political and social foundations for a new national identity.