How Simple Earth Blocks Could Revolutionize Construction for the African Island of Pemba

Local block maker Ali Cedric making blocks for sale in Pujini, Pemba Island. Image © Craig Norris

Pemba, a small Tanzanian island off of Africa‘s Eastern coast, is undergoing something of a construction boom. With half of the population aged under 30 and a culture in which a man must build a house before he can get married, a wave of new informal housing is sweeping the island. Historically, construction methods used by the islanders have been problematic: traditional wattle & daub construction typically survives for just 5-7 years; its replacement, bricks made of coral, not only require large amounts of energy to extract but have a devastating effect on the environment; and modern cement bricks most be imported at high costs.

Sensing an opportunity to help the islanders at a critical time in their development, Canadian NGO Community Forests International is promoting a solution that combines the economy and of wattle & daub with the durability of masonry: Interlocking Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks (ISCEBs). Find out how this simple technology can help the island community after the break.

Sebastian Irarrazaval Proposes Urban Solution to Political Turmoil with Trans-Border African Cities

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As the continent with the fastest growing population in the world, African frontiers will soon become attractive areas for urban settlements and the potential for conflicts arising from colonial borders may inhibit necessary economic growth. Colonialism’s legacy continues to spark conflict revolving around arbitrary borders established by Europeans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with no regard for ethnic, linguistic, and religious disparities across the continent. These decisions resulted in the separation of cultural communities within each nation and the creation of political boundaries that often did not reflect shared civil interests. Consequently sub-Saharan Africa has experienced sustained conflicts in the years following independence, resulting in diminished potential for further economic development in many regions. Today, border disputes have led to a rise in separatist movements in numerous countries, but African governments are hesitant to abandon the colonial borders to avoid further disruptive conflicts.

As political approaches to this issue continue to be extremely contentious, an architectural intervention at the urban scale proposed by Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos may be the key to a prosperous cultural and economic future for Africa. In their concept for an ideal African city, Sebastian Irarrázaval and his team have conceptualized their solution as a network of trans-border cities. This set of “bi-national urban entities” will serve to erase the old colonial borders and “will reintegrate the continent as it was prior to European domination when cultural and economic exchange flourished.”

Find out how the proposal aims to address some of Africa’s longest-standing social and political problems after the break

Valode & Pistre Set to Break Ground on Africa’s Tallest Tower

© Valode & Pistre / iceberg.fr

Valode & Pistre is set to break ground on ’s tallest tower next June. More than doubling the height of Johannesburg’s 223-meter Carlton Center, which has been the continent’s tallest building since 1973, the Al Noor Tower (Tower of Light) will most likely rise 540-meters on a 25-hectare site in the Moroccan city of

It’s program will center around business, providing accommodations with a 200-suite luxury hotel, a trading platform, conference hall and large art gallery, as well as an astonishing 100-meter-tall atrium that hollows the tower’s base.  

12 Projects Win Regional Holcim Awards 2014 for Africa Middle East

GOLD: Eco-Techno Park: Green building showcase and enterprise hub. Image Courtesy of Holcim Foundation

Teams from Turkey and Lebanon have received top honors in the 2014 regional Holcim Awards for Africa Middle East, an award which recognizes the most innovative and advanced sustainable construction designs. Among the top three winners is an “Eco-Park” sustainable research and technology center embedded within the terraced, industrial landscape of Ankara.

The 12 recognized projects will share over $300,000 in prize money, with the top three projects overall going on to be considered for the global Holcim , to be selected in 2015.

The full list of Africa winners, after the break…

In Discussion With David Adjaye

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Image © Adjaye Associates

In an interview with Rowan Moore for The Observer, British born architect David Adjaye discusses his work, personality and ambitions as head of the one of the fastest growing internationally operating practices. With Moore’s immersive descriptions and expertly written narrative, the “breadth of Adjaye’s vision” becomes apparent. Featuring precise descriptions of some his upcoming projects, including the designs for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and a number of smaller buildings in London, Moore’s discussion ultimately explores Adjaye’s early (and successful) steps into the African architectural market. You can read the interview in full here.

How Chinese Urbanism Is Transforming African Cities

The Great Wall Apartments, a Chinese style residential compound in Nairobi, Kenya. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

This article from delves into China’s urban development of many African cities, and the effect this has had on the architectural quality of those cities. Chinese contractors and architects are able to propel a city’s growth at lower cost and on schedule, but in doing so, they out-compete local companies and ignore cultural context. Is this an acceptable trade-off? Read the full article and decide for yourself.

The factory of the world has a new export: urbanism. More and more Chinese-made buildings, infrastructure, and urban districts are sprouting up across Africa, and this development is changing the face of the continent’s cities.

Or so says Dutch research studio Go West Project , who have been tracking this phenomenon for their on-going project about the export of the Chinese urban model to Africa. Since 2012, the group, made up of Shanghai-based architect Daan Roggeveen and Amsterdam-based journalist Michiel Hulshof, have visited six African cities to do research. Roggeveen and Hulshof recently released their preliminary report in an issue of Urban Chinaa magazine focusing on Chinese urban development.

Bamboo: A Viable Alternative to Steel Reinforcement?

bamboo reinforcement. Image © Professorship of Architecture and Con- struction Dirk E. Hebel, ETH 3) Zürich / FCL Singapore

Developing countries have the highest demand for steel-reinforced concrete, but often do not have the means to produce the to meet that demand.  Rather than put themselves at the mercy of a global market dominated by developed countries, Singapore’s Future Cities Laboratory suggests an alternative to this manufactured rarity: bamboo.  Abundant, sustainable, and extremely resilient, bamboo has potential in the future to become an ideal replacement in places where steel cannot easily be produced.

TED Talk: How to Build with Clay… and Community / Diébédo Francis Kéré

In this TED Talk, Aga Khan Award-winning architect Diébédo Francis Kéré explains how to build a community with clay. With his firm Kéré Architecture, the Burkina Faso native has achieved international renown by using local building and techniques to engage and improve local expertise. Watch as explains how he applied his personal success to benefit the small African village he grew up in.

MASS Design Group Joins African Education Initiative

Butaro Hospital. Image © Iwan Baan

Together with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), MASS Design Group is helping to build 15 conservation primary schools over the next 10 years in African landscapes, home to some of world’s most important wildlife populations, including elephants, rhinos, great apes, and lions. They will design non-traditional educational campuses for primary school children that offer lessons and other services extending beyond the classroom walls.

Why LEED Doesn’t Work in Rural Africa and What Will

Learning Center embellished with thousands of bottle caps; Courtesy of of Afritekt

Originally published on InterconOhioan and Africa-based architect Charles Newman, LEED AP discusses the pitfalls of LEED in rural Africa. Newman, who is currently working for the International Rescue Committee in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, is dedicated to the integration of  in communities worldwide. Learn more about his work and travels on his blog Afritekt

While in a small southern town of the Democratic Republic of Congo in mid-2012, a colleague of mine approached me for some guidance on a large health proposal he was putting together. A portion of the grant would be earmarked for the construction of hundreds of clinics across the DR Congo, and he mentioned that the donor would be very interested in “green” building standards. Knowing that I was a LEED Accredited Professional, he began asking how we might be able to incorporate such building standards into the designs for the pending projects. I rattled off some general guidelines such as using local materials – recycled ones if available, incorporating existing infrastructure, natural ventilation, etc. He jotted down a few notes, then began to pry a little deeper. “What about the LEED point system? Could we incorporate that into our strategy?”

My response was frank: “No, not really. LEED doesn’t work here in rural Africa.”

Kickstarter: New Model Library in Africa

With only 3% of Africa’s 1 billion population capable of accessing broadband internet and the wealth of information it provides, a multidisciplinary team, led by a strategic partnership between , Gensler, Son & Sons, Librarians Without Borders, has embarked on an ambitious campaign to create a network of low-cost, digitally powered, revenue-generating libraries “deployed along the expanding fiber optic infrastructure in the developing world.”

If successful, Librii will become the first library to actively engage users as content creators, while operating on a sustainable business model and maximizing the potential of high-speed information exchange in developing markets.

Learn more about this initiative and support their Kickstarter campaing here

How to Re-Invent the African Mud Hut

Courtesy of Nka Foundation

It’s not often that a project requires you to bulk up on your haggling skills.

Then again, it’s not often that a project requires you to re-invent the African Mud Hut either. But that was exactly the task presented to Karolina and Wayne Switzer, participants of the Nka Foundation’s “10×10 Shelter Challenge” to design and build a 10 by 10 feet shelter deep in the heart of .

The pair, who just completed their project this month, were dependent upon the local community to make the shelter a reality, and had to learn early on how to communicate with the locals – not just to negotiate prices for materials and labor, but to overcome the local stigma associated with mud architecture (usually only used by the very poor).

The result was a contemporary, durable shelter built with a construction method inspired by local tradition: the pounding of the fufu root, a diet staple for the community, which uncannily paralleled the pounding of fresh soil into the forms. Hence the local’s name for the structure: “Obruni fufu” (white man’s fufu).

If you’re interested in getting involved in the 10×10 Challenge (open to students and graduates of design, architecture, art, or engineering, until October 2013), check out the Nka Foundation’s website, www.nkafoundation.org, or email at info@nkafoundation.org

Full description of the project, after the break….

WORKac to design new Assembly Hall in Central Africa

© WORKac

WORK Architecture Company (WORKac) has won an international competition to design new Assembly Hall in Libreville – the capital city of Gabon – for the 2014 Summit of the African Union. The City firm impressed the jury with their proposal L’Assemblée Radieuse, which offers a self-shading, circular structure that maximizes active and passive design while incorporating the vibrant ecology of the Gabonese Republic.

The new landmark is scheduled to break ground in February 2013 and will be completed in June 2014. Continue reading for the architects’ description.

Ghana: Nka Foundation announces 10X10 Shelter Challenge

2011 Mural Project by Artmakers Inc, Courtesy of Nka Foundation

The Nka Foundation has announced a new competition, open to all students and graduates of design, architecture, art, engineering and schools interested in rural community projects in , that is a design-build challenge at the Abetenim Arts Village near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.  The 10×10 Shelter Challenge is an on-site competition structured as a “design-build camp for learning-by-doing” in African Architecture.  There are no fixed deadlines with 5 available month long periods to sign up,  the first beginning this October, 2012.

Join us after the break for more details on this unique competition.

Mosquée d’Algérie / KSP Juergen Engel Architekten

Courtesy of

As part of the celebrations of ’s National holiday on November 1st the foundation stone for the new “Mosquée d’Algérie”, designed by KSP Juergen Engel Architekten, was laid at an official ceremony in Algiers. This formal act marks the beginning of the construction of the world’s third largest mosque after the Islamic pilgrimage sites in Mecca and Medina. With its prayer hall for up to 37,000 people and the approx. 265-meter high minaret, the Mosque will in future be one of the largest religious buildings in the Islamic world. The complex offers space for up to 120,000 visitors daily and, in addition to the prayer hall and the minaret, boasts further facilities such as a cultural center, an Imam School, a library, apartments, a fire station, a museum, and a research center. More images and project description after the break.

Update: Botswana Innovation Hub / SHoP

 

© SHoP

Last summer,  we shared SHoP’s 270,000 sqf office and research building for , , a winning proposal that surpassed 17 international competitors.   The Innovation Hub is a huge investment for the Botswanan government as an attempt to diversify its ecomony which is primarily based upon diamond extraction to move toward a more “knowledge-based economy.”  A lot is at stake for this $50 million project.  With thousands of sqf of office space to fill, many wonder if the building and its location can attract the latest researchers; yet, SHoP’s initiative to create an environmentally friendly haven attempts to do just that.   “The goal was to create an incubator to invite new startups and other companies into Botswana,” says SHoP principal William Sharples, “and get the country into another economic line besides just diamonds.”

More about the project after the break. 

Experimental Urban Area for Africa Ideas Competition

In , urbanization is more rapid than in any other part of the world; it is estimated that by 2030 more than 750 million Africans will be living in cities (more than the urban population of the entire western hemisphere), 45% more than current figures. The challenge is on: ’s urban agglomerations will have to be designed to withstand demographic and migration pressures and the challenges of governance, balancing the needs of economic development with those of social inclusion and sustainability.

Out of this scenario comes the idea to launch an International Ideas Competition to design an innovative, expandable and replicable model of an urban area which can provide structural solutions to the challenges/needs of African urbanization. An additional aim of the competition is to focus the best ideas and design capabilities currently available among young European and African architects and engineers on this topic. For more information, please visit the competition’s official website.

Sightlines: New Perspectives on African Architecture and Urbanism

Organization of African Unity - Photo courtesy Mary Jo Arnoldi - © Donald Hurlbert

The Museum for African Art, , and Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies, Committee on Global Thought, and Center for African Education have announced the creation of Sightlines: New Perspectives on African Architecture and Urbanism, a lecture series devoted to Africa’s rapidly changing urban environments.

Sightlines will comprise talks by distinguished practitioners of architecture, urban planning, and architectural theory, each of whom will apply his or her particular area of expertise to the exploration of contemporary African cities as unique built environments. The lectures, which will be open to the public free of charge (see schedule below), will examine the architectural, social, physical, and emotional contours of the cities, while also addressing the global relevance and applicability of this emerging field of discourse. Sightlines additionally includes a lecture by Senegalese artist Viyé Diba, whose work is tied to urbanization.

Complete lectures schedule after the break.