Francis Kéré unveils nature-inspired Benin National Assembly

Francis Kéré's new design for the National Assembly for the Republic of Benin is inspired by the West African country's culture, traditions and nature 

A digital exterior view of the building photographed behind plants and trees with people walking down the path
(Image credit: press)

The parliament of the Republic of Benin has commissioned Francis Kéré of Berlin-based studio Kéré Architecture to design an assembly building in the country's capital of Porto-Novo. The new National Assembly will come to replace the parliament's current home, which was in need of a refresh. 

Kéré drew on a local West African tree for inspiration. The architect was influenced by the palaver tree, and ‘the age-old West African tradition of meeting under a tree to make consensual decisions in the interest of a community.' The team aimed for the new architecture to read as a symbol for democracy and the country's culture. As a result the structure is divided in two distinct sections – the trunk-like lower part and the upper ‘crown', which alludes to a tree's foliage.

A digital image of the exterior view of the grand assembly hall with people all around , photographed from across the road during the day.

(Image credit: press)

The grand assembly hall is located on the lower section, making the most of the dynamic curves and permeable nature of the structure. An open air courtyard sits at its heart. The upper areas contain offices and auxiliary functions, protected behind a series of undulating, vertical ‘fins' on the facade.

Responding to Porto-Novo's hot climate, Francis Kéré and his team placed a strong focus on outdoor areas and natural ventilation. Deep recesses on the facade make sure the interiors get plenty of shade, while all circulation areas are easily ventilated through the central courtyard. A large part of the site is dedicated to greenery and becomes a public park full of native West Afircan flora, while a roof terrace at the top offers sweeping views of the city and water.

A digital view of the open space courtyard in the grand assembly hall showing different levels of the buildings with palm trees and people walking through the courtyard

(Image credit: press)

A digital design of an auditorium in the building with theatre seating arrangement and a balcony level filled with people seating

(Image credit: press)

The lobby of the grand assembly hall featuring clear glass floor to celing on the right. on the left is lobby reception desk with vertical wood design detail and someone standing behind the desk. The celing of the lobby area is supported by brown pillars

(Image credit: press)

An office space in the grand assembly hall building featuring clear glass floor to ceiling panels, grey sofas with matching coffee table. Behind the sofa is an office desk chair with oak coloured cabinet on the right.

(Image credit: press)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).