The population of Bamako, the capital of the Republic of Mali, has risen rapidly in recent years to over one million inhabitants, creating new demand for housing and public facilities. In this context, the need for far-sighted urban planning was crucial. The Government’s response was to define the outlines of the National Park of Mali, a space of 103 hectares within a larger protected forest reserve of 2,100 hectares, which forms a significant greenbelt in this mainly arid country. Under the terms of the public-private partnership, the Government asked AKTC to concentrate on the Park’s 103 hectares, a large, semi-circular canyon of protected forest that lies beneath the terraced outcrops of the Koulouba plateau, between the National Museum and the Presidential Palace Complex.
Given the Park’s natural attractions, its large size and its location next to the National Museum Complex, the Park was designed to offer large open spaces for leisure and educational activities for the general public, school groups and tourists. The project brief called for the unification of the sites of the National Museum and the existing Botanical Garden and Zoo into a single cultural/ecological park of significant value, with natural and cultural attractions. Phase 1 included the rehabilitation of 17 hectares of open spaces and gardens and the construction of several new facilities. The Park features a comprehensive pedestrian circulation network and formal promenades throughout. It contains fitness, jogging, cycling and mountaineering tracks of varying difficulty and diverse interpretive awareness trails for botany, birds and nature. The pedestrian network provides easy access to the 103 hectares of the Park and connects existing facilities, such as the National Museum and the amphitheatre. The latter is dedicated to education and the performing arts. Phase 1 also included the redevelopment and integration of eight existing facilities. The architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, an Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient in 2004, was commissioned to design a primary and secondary gate, an entry building, a youth and sports centre, a restaurant, public toilets and several kiosks. The garden spaces feature indigenous flora in varied settings, from open lawn areas to flower gardens, wooded areas and a medicinal garden. The installation of a range of interpretive educational signs and displays, and the development of trained guides, is expected to offer new educational experiences for visitors.