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 steel 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 materials 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 (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 Charles Newman of Afritekt

Originally published on InterconOhioan and -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 sustainability 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 – 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 ’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 Kickstarter 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 Ghana.

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 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 – 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 Africa, that is a design-build challenge at the Abetenim Arts Village near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of .  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

 

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Last summer,  we shared SHoP’s 270,000 sqf office and research building for Botswana, , 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, , 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.

OMA Announces New Partners

Today announced the appointment of Iyad Alsaka and David Gianotten as new partners in the company. Architectural and research projects in North , the Middle East and Asia have been increasing for OMA and this recent appointment signifies their investment to grow and develop projects within these regions.

Be sure to take a look at some of our featured OMA projects in these regions:   Taipei Performing Arts Center, Mahanakhon, Prada Transformer, The Interlace, Edouard Malingue Gallery

A New University for Angola / Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company

perspective

In a bold move meant to transform the future and fate of young people in the Bié province of , the non-profit, SHAREcircle, awarded the commission of a master plan for a new university to U.S.-based Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company, architects and planners. The plan, which will include the design of a first academic building for Angola Central Highlands University, was the result of an international design competition. More images and project description after the break.

Arts Village / Mihai Dorcu, Stefan Padurariu & Vlad Burclacu

art center view 01

The goal for the design of a model arts village in , Africa was to be easily built from local and local labor at a low cost with a budget of $42,000-$62,000. For final year students, Mihai Dorcu, Stefan Padurariu and Vlad Burlacu, their challenge was to provide a comfortable and multi-use space for the international arts community in the rural part of the country. They would go on to achieve this by tapping into local resources for sustainable development to integrate art into architecture for a more sustainable future. More images and description after the break.

Botswana Innovation Hub / SHoP Architects

SHoP Architects

Ousting 17 other companies from Europe, and , SHoP Architects was awarded first prize for their design of the Botswana Innovation Hub.  The 270,000 sqf office and research building will be a testament to Botswana’s support of research, as well as her promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship.

More about the winning design after the break.

Football for Hope Centres in Africa

Khayelitsha Football for Hope Centre / South

As the FIFA World Cup kicks off, Architecture for Humanity in partnership with streetfootballworld, honors the architects, designers and building professionals across Africa who have helped design sustainable Football for Hope Centres as part of the Football for Hope movement.

The first centre, located outside of Cape Town, South Africa, was completed in December 2009. Centres in Nairobi, Namibia and Mali are currently under construction and aim to be completed around the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

The Football for Hope Centres are part of a movement created by FIFA and streetfootballworld to strengthen local community-based organizations in promoting social development within their community. The buildings house facilities to promote public health, education and football initiatives. Find more about the projects here.