The word KOÉ was born from the imagination of 9 year old Jamie Rowland.
For him, KOÉ is a philosophy, a peaceful state of mind where balance exists between man and nature.
Proto-sinaitic symbols depict his humanistic worldview.
According to this ancient alphabet, the letter K was depicted by the palm and five fingers of the hand, symbolizing openness and human exchange.
The letter O, represented by the eye and its capacity to take in and reflect back light, symbolized the sun, inner and outer vision and the cycles of nature.
The pictogram of the letter E showed man at prayer, arms raised, linking the earth and sky through the give and take of breath. The ‘HEH’ expelled during the renewal of breath represents existance, the soul and the wind.
We thought KOÉ was the perfect name for our design studio, which specializes in the conception and realization of resilient and respectful projects.
Atelier KOÉ is a collaboration of complementary people and disciplines.
Richard Rowland, self taught architect and designer.
Richard has been designing, building and practicing since 1986. After completing residential and commercial projects in France, Portugal, and the Carribean, he moved to the United States in 1997. There, he received the equivalent of a Master of Fine Arts based on his achievements from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
He then went on to practice in Los Angeles and New York. Moving to Georgia in 2005, he designed and consulted on several sustainable projects while studying at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he sat as a jury member.
He moved with his family to Senegal in 2008 where he built « Keur Leah » an off the grid earth house reviving millenary construction techniques. His experimental projects implement sustainable solutions for construction, energy production, and water recycling.
Hippolyte Gilabert, co-founder, completing his Masters degree.
Hippolyte grew up in France, where he studied at L’École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Nantes. As a dynamic student, he participated in various study opportunities, including workshops. He was awarded an Architectonik laureate twice in a row in 2012 and 2013.
In 2013, he obtained his Bachelors degree in architecture and flew to Sénégal to join Richard in order to learn more about earth building techniques and expand his horizons.
Together they founded Atelier KOÉ, a design and building practice. In 2014, he resumed his studies in France and Greece to complete his Masters degree, while continuing his collaboration with KOÉ.
Clément Dagneaux, multicultural licensed architect.
Clément grew up in France, Italy and the United States in a multicultural family.
At an early age he become interested in archaeology, taking part in heritage site restoration projects, before turning to interior design. In 2009, he began studying at l’Ecole Nationale d’Architecture in Nantes where he became friends with Hippolyte. He obtained his Masters degree in 2014. That same year he flew to Senegal twice to connect and work with Atelier KOÉ. In 2015, after several collaborations in french architecture firms, he obtained his Habilitation à la maîtrise d’œuvre en nom propre (authorization to practice).
Soon after, he decided to join forces with Atelier KOÉ, collaborating on new projects and expanding his design and construction horizons with Richard and Hippolyte.
Along with Ellen, Sunny and Jamie Rowland, Atelier KOÉ forms an encompassing familial practice.
Atelier KOÉ, bringing an optimistic and holistic approach to each project
Our workshop accompanies individuals, organizations and cooperatives searching for a constructive adventure which veers off the beaten path. Seeking a human approach leaves room for exchange, often informal, that can lead to simple advice, as well as a shared creative story.
With a positive and optimistic mindset, we envision simple and coherent projects in addition to resilient and respectful buildings. Atelier KOÉ provides design documents and carries out complete proposals through architecture, engineering, structure, energy, budget, and planning.
Atelier KOÉ, offering alternatives, ...
Faced with a lack of solutions for bringing our drawings to life, it naturally made sense for us to get involved in the building process.
We brought together our own construction team and directly outsourced small artisans, eliminating the typical profit margins made by entrepreneurs.
... by providing services which allow clients to build at cost, ...
By simplifying the system, our overall project cost is 30% below conventional market price.
Atelier KOÉ’s time spent for technical assistance represents the only additional fee.
... step by step through the entire process.
Our services include:
- Budgeting and accounting
- Human ressources
- Purchasing management
- Insuring the construction site
The success of each KOÉ project relies on teamwork.
Since 2013, we have trained and employed more than 80 bricklayers, many of whom had never worked with earth and are now an integral part of the building process.
Our team has remained consistent, providing daily work to between 20 and 30 local earth masons on any given project. In addition to onsite training, we strive to empower women by employing female construction supervisors and engineers.
In order to create a working community based on mutual trust and a common respect for the environment, few materials are imported. Instead, we rely on local wood and metal workers, stonemasons, painters, engineers and alternative energy providers.
By locally sourcing materials and artisans and building a team based on mutual respect, we’ve been able to provide consistent results with a positive social impact.
Exploring vernacular construction techniques.
We’ve been studying earth building techniques since 2007. These last eight years have allowed us to experiment with rammed earth, adobe and compressed earth blocks. Each project continues to be an opportunity to learn, consider, analyze and improve our techniques.
Building techniques in general are continually evolving, many with an eye towards ecology. Earth construction has a history of over 10,000 years, but is often associated with poverty.
Cement, in contrast, is a relatively new building material, too young to imagine that it could fully replace earth. Poured earth, stabilized and amended with treated water, has shown to be a promising alternative technique for larger projects such as community buildings and public housing programs.
Once the stigma of poverty is removed by showing examples of good earth architecture applied to modern needs, the environmental benefits of building with earth should stand out on the landscape of innovative design.
Meanwhile, we will continue to advance one project at a time in order to deepen our knowledge and experience.
Keur Leah - 2008/10
Special mention, Terra Award 2016
After having worked and lived in Europe and the United States, the Rowland family relocated to the continent of Africa in 2008 to live in the Senegalese community of N’gaparou. Inspired by the rich landscape of their new country, the family of four imagined and designed an intimate life project in the bush: « Keur Leah ». The idea was to create a simple, healthy living environment in harmony with its natural surroundings with a minimal environmental impact. The living wing of the L-shaped home holds the children’s room, master room, bath, living area and kitchen. Separated by a shaded outdoor corridor and a natural swimming pool, the other wing welcomes a guest bedroom and the work area.
On a 600 square meter parcel, Richard Rowland and his initial team of local masons unearthed a clay-rich soil which they used to erect a simple, elementary structure. Through a process of trial and error, they experimented with rammed earth, building the family home room by room. Despite skepticism among a neighborhood dominated by cement, Keur Leah has resisted the harsh rainy seasons over the seven years since its construction, its earth walls curing under the sun with each successive dry season. Perfectly adapted to its environment, it has become an unlikely source of local interest.
The Rowland family still calls Keur Leah home, a constantly changing oasis warmly shared with the curious passerby. It was within these walls that the idea of KOE was born, a design and building atelier respectful of man and nature. A place to live, work and exchange ideas, Keur Leah is an environment conducive to inspiration and serenity.
Al Hamra - 2012/14
Tene Toubab, Sénégal
Honorable Mention YAA, 2014 Venice Biennale
The project Al Hamra (الْ َح ْم َراء - « red ») resulted from a meeting between a young client in Dakar and Atelier KOE. The buzzing capital of Senegal led him to explore a remote area of the bush, where he eventually wanted to settle.
The question was how to build and live in this seemingly hostile environment?
Atelier KOE found the response to both the architectural aesthetic as well as energy autonomy. The spacious residence, built entirely with stabilized earth bricks, totals 400m2 divided into six suites, a large living area, kitchen and dining room. This house was built as a place of open hospitality, welcoming guests with an interior peristyle and quiet fountain. A 12 meter wind tower helps circulate fresh air throughout the building year round.
More than a relaxing escape from the city, the site was also designed as a working farm, where livestock and agriculture thrive on the land. The entire property is planted with fruit trees, grains, peanut, vegetable and grain crops. This natural vista emerges through the large arched doors and windows of the villa with additional views of the stables and chicken coup.Working around the idea of autonomy, Atelier KOE developed a multi-faceted project which offers different levels of privacy, tranquility or activity. Social, cultural and agriculture dynamics seamlessly interact, inside and outside the building.
The architecture, inspired by the site and its surrounding terrain, have brought the land to life. As both villa and farm, Al Hamra functions in its beauty and purpose.
Khamsa - 2012/14
Saly Joseph, Senegal
Khamsa House is a two-bedroom, private residence located on the coast of Senegal, an hour and a half south of Dakar. The creative process was inspired by the Khamsa symbol – an amulet charged with warding off the evil eye and protecting its owner – for which the home takes it’s name.
Built with respect for the surrounding natural environment, the principal building (300m2) and its auxiliary structures are built with stabilized earth bricks using the clay-rich soil dug directly on site. Constructed by lo- cal masons and blacksmiths, the intention of the project was to combine local talent and materials to develop an architectural and vernacular identity.
The house relies on voluminous spaces with northern exposure, each opening onto a pond and natural swim- ming pool featuring an aquatic plant filtration system. The project was designed as a continuum of spaces, each with its own « framed » vista.The naturally chan- ging light eases the indoor/outdoor transition and plays with the perspectives in a quietly serene environment. Atelier KOE’s design and use of local materials is meant to show that it is possible to create a contemporary li- ving space using construction methods dating back over 10 000 years. The 45cm thick walls ensure the house stays cool without the need for mechanical air-condi- tioning.
The entire project is off-grid, using a hybrid energy system of solar panels and wind turbine, resulting in a minimal environmental impact. Both the house and the natural landscaping are a reflection of the client’s needs and the creative investment of each acting participant with respect for local resources and good, basic building sense.
Océanium - 2012/14
The Oceanium Foundation is a Senegalese organization dedicated to protecting the local environment. Created in 1944 by Jean-Michel Kornprobst, the foundation’s initial motivation was to sustainably preserve Senegal’s rich marine life.Today, led by Haidar El Ali along with a team of professionals and volunteers, its efforts extend over land and sea both in Senegal and neighboring countries.
In 2014, The Oceanium Foundation challenged Atelier KOE to redesign and build its headquarters in Dakar. This collaboration led to the idea of a mixed-use site, combining its business premises with a club house overlooking the ocean in the renowned « corniche » area of Dakar.
Year after year, our human encounters grow into visible projects.
The monumental building, anchored to the adjacent hillside, offers a welcoming and convivial lower floor with a relaxing view, while the two upper floors house the foundation’s administrative offices.
It’s thick walls, overall linear symmetry and supporting pilasters give the building’s shell a solemn aspect in contrast to the warmer characteristics of the natural materials used in construction.
Large openings allow natural light into each expanse and promote natural cooling through the circulation of sea air from East to West.The thickness of the facade in combination with a vertical wall of vegetation reduces thermal accumulation and provides a sane and comfortable working area.
The project, financed exclusively by the foundation, began in April of 2014 and is currently in the final phases of construction. In both it’s development and use, the building was conceived as a tribute to the environment.
Atelier KOÉ, continually exploring and searching for new adventures.
Our small workshop has been gradually growing and gaining experience off the beaten path. Our work has been mainly based in Senegal, despite the fact that our ideals can be applied universally.
Our young team simultaneously works on theoretical and research materials to synthesize our collective knowledge and individual experiences and to facilitate future projects.
This everyday work defines our humanistic and building philosophy, guiding us to tackle relevant urban and social issues while sensitizing politicians and influential figures as well as local communities and citizens.
Offering tailored solutions to an eclectic array of projects.
Collaborating with architects on high-end residential buildings in Senegal.
Helping a workers cooperative to design and build an autonomus village for 120 families.
Promoting earth construction through visible architecture projects.
Sketching a cooking school and an organic farming village on a Greek island.
We look forward to creating with you.
Keur Leah - N’Gaparou, Sénégal
(+221) 77 882 19 93