Within the context of L’école des communs // Sicap Jet D’Eau – Dakar
Proportionally to young children population between 0 and 14 years old that represent about 40% of total inhabitants of Senegal, spaces dedicated to recreational and sport pursuits in the capital city of Dakar are nearly nonexistent. 
The city is permanently growing without taking into account youngsters and children’s needs in terms of personal growth (in relation to sports and culture).
A social lab, in the scale of Sicap Liberté Neighbourhood (Dakar) based on artistic experimentation, free culture and shared knowledge.
“The commons describe that goods that are available for everyone but that do not belong to anybody. Water, air, woodlands and oceans; a language, a landscape, a source code, knowledge, public space, artistic creations, they all can be treated as common goods, as soon as a community of people is connected by the will of sharing and taking care of this collective resource.”
“But the commons aren’t just the collective management of resources (natural or not) they also include the activated communities and the governance rules they put in place for their existence. It’s about immaterial common goods that constitute social practices, abilities, and the will to exist and act together in order to manage and ensure the ties that bind us together.”
Background and description.
Following the social fórum held in Dakar in 2011, Kër Thiossane has started a real workplace around common goods and has produced, in two years, a great amount of materials, both reflections and contents, that have been shared in local and international levels (
Kër Thiossane has organized a series of breakfasts in Senegal that have, from the very beginning, created great interest and have effectively contributed to emergent networks that aim to put in practice the commons in different inter-cultural contexts, essentially in the North, enriching them with perspectives from the South (
While the Commons movement started to create Schools on a People’s Universities way, Kër Thiossane wished, in 2013, to formalise the actions undertaken after several years in Sénégal by opening a school where the Commons could be experienced daily, on the neighbourhood, around a SHARED GARDEN and a FABLAB, at the heart of public space.
L’École des Communs is an open space for transdisciplinary research, crossing art, technology, urban ecology, economy and good neighbourly relations.
Context and achievements
Kër Thiossane chose to base this school among Sicap – Jet d’eau buildings, a neighbourhood that is known in Dakar as the first residential district in the capital city after the Independence process. The site is very close to Kër Thiossane and it used to be a garden that became unhealthy because it was mainly used as a garbage dump, until Kër Thiossane, in agreement with neighbours and institutions, has proposed to locate the garden and the fablab.
The work of the garden has been carried out by French artist Emmanuel Louisgrand, and his GreenHouse team, in collaboration with a team of local artisans and gardeners, on the occasion of a construction site that took place between end of April and mid-May, during the Afropixel#4 festival.
On this site, with a polluted and poor soil that needed to be cleaned, a true work of land art was accomplished, a work that continues to grow and change, everyday.
Emmanuel Louisgrand came back to Kër Thiossane in April 2015 in order to continue the works in the garden with the realisation of an interior coverage that will permit a wider use and attendance of the garden by all neighbours and residents.
With reference to “folies”, those faux ruins, caves, fountains, kiosks and pavilions, temples and pagodas, that used to be known at the 18th century as constructions of the unnecessary or utopian architecture, Emmanuel has imagined a Senegalese versión of these constructions with a dome that will be covered by vegetation the time passed and that will shelter the central part of the garden.
“Do it with others” – placed on the back part of the garden, is a space for digital manufacturing machines pooling, is part of a process of spreading free culture, where the notion of sharing and common goods enrichment are the key.
This workshop for digital manufacturing follows and continues the work and reflections carried out by Kër Thiossane around digital art and open technologies, since 2002, specially through the project Rose des Vents Numérique: — 137
Within this framework, Kër Thiossane has started to offer digital and artistic contents, based on free culture and sharing of knowledge.

After the independance process, the real state company Sicap S.A had imagined Sicap Liberté as the ideal modern neighbourhood, with its famous Jet d’Eau (wáter stream), the first collaborative hábitats, its villas and shops, its library, green spaces and playgrounds.
In 2015, those living conditions that were implemented at the end of the Fifties, do not exist anymore, that what affects everyone.
Nowadays, its by nature that kids occupy public spaces and streets in order to play football at the Sicap.
The social rehabilitation center placed behind the Jet d’Eau garden shelters a nursery with more than sixty children and no outdoors space at all. Teachers have to train the kids motricity at the disposable space, a rough and stony soil at the entrance of the place.
The project for the École des Communs initiated by Kër Thiossane was based on the acknowledgement of a crisis of urban space in Dakar, a crisis related to neighbourhood disputes, to a lack of investment on common living spaces and a denigration of public space with insufficient infrastructures. The project is based on the idea of collective and citizenship creativity being able to ward off these realities, and it suggests creative approriation dynamics of the city by its inhabitants in order to make it more hospitable, more pleasant and safer.
The project relies on a vision of continual re-creation of new african urban spaces, by means of detecting and revealing cultural and aesthetic expressions, knowledge, inventions that can be found between tradition and cosmopolitan practices, meeting places. It is about transforming the city into a test area able to produce new possibilities, being able to look at the city as a urban space in continuous transformation.
This open air lab is the place where Kër Thiossane, in collaboration with la Companyía, has invited PKMN architectural collective to imagine a system of urban furniture, something as a playground and meeting point and projection area for the neighbours, children and district residents.
Beyond playful purposes this structure would support local cinema projections program. These free and regular projections would give back to Sicap inhabitants the collective experience of cinema, now lost at the expense of television and internet.
Young neighbours and students of architecture school would be linked to the construction process of this playground in autumn 2015. It would be made by community artisans with the support of the fablab.
Some discussion and exchange sessions would be scheduled in order to support the construction of the structure. These sessions for shared discussion are aimed to understand and create an ontology of urban spaces in order to emphasize their codes, their capacities to produce possible futures and social bonds in a context of precariousness. It would also be an opportunity to think on the possibilities of citizenship self-organisation.
This collaborative project would also be the occasion to questioning the role of design on urban spaces, on sharing emotions and on the construction of a common living.
IMAGES OF THE PROJECT PARTICIPATIVE PLAYGROUND — General view // View of the belvedere
INVOLVE INHABITANTS in preparing the workplace, in engaging the construction process and in commiting to manage these future public amenities. Test out a possible CITIZENSHIP SELF-ORGANISATION around this playground.
ENCOURAGE YOUNGSTERS TO BECOME ACTIVE AGENTS ON THEIR NEIGHBOURHOODS by involving them on the construction of the playground.
ENCOURAGE LOCAL KNOWLEDGE through imagination and innovation linked to community craft as a way to improve living conditions on African cities.
REGISTER THE PROCESS and the technical side of the project making it sharable and APPLICABLE IN OTHER NEIGHBOURHOODS OR EMERGING CITIES such as Diamnadio, where the common and shared spaces for young people are frequently forgotten.
Participate on a concrete and effective way on the SUSTAINABLE AND CITIZEN DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC SPACES IN DAKAR through sustainable design.