7 Architects Designing a Diverse Future in Africa

As the legacy of the Cold War fades and Western preeminence gradually becomes a thing of the past, population booms in Asia followed by the growth of a vast non-western middle class have seriously challenged the Western perception of the world. The East has become the focal point of the world’s development.

If East Asia is the present focal point of this development, the future indisputably lies in Africa. Long featuring in the Western consciousness only as a land of unending suffering, it is now a place of rapidly falling poverty, increasing investment, and young populations. It seems only fair that Africa’s rich cultures and growing population (predicted to reach 1.4 billion by 2025) finally take the stage, but it’s crucially important that Africa’s future development is done right. Subject to colonialism for centuries, development in the past was characterized by systems that were designed for the benefit of the colonists. Even recently, resource and energy heavy concrete buildings, clothes donations that damage native textile industries, and reforestation programs that plant water hungry and overly flammable trees have all been seen, leaving NGOs open to accusations of well-meaning ignorance.

Fortunately, a growth in native practices and a more sensible, sensitive approach from foreign organizations has led to the rise of architectural groups creating buildings which learn from and improve Africa. Combining local solutions with the most appropriate Western ideas, for the first time these new developments break down the perception of monolithic Africa and have begun engaging with individual cultures; using elements of non-local architecture when they improve a development rather than creating a pastiche of an imagined pan-African culture. The visions these groups articulate are by no means the same – sustainable rural development, high end luxury residences and dignified civic constructions all feature – but they have in common their argument for a bright future across Africa. We’ve collected seven pioneers of Africa’s architectural awakening – read on after the break for the full article and infographic.

Diébédo Francis Kéré and Architectural Energy in Burkina Faso

“Architecture is much more than art. And it is by far more than just building buildings” says award winning Burkina Faso architect Diébédo Francis Kéré. In the latest video from Louisiana Channel, Berlin-based Francis Kéré deliberates on the purpose of architecture in a changing society and the influence exerted by his home nation, Burkina Faso. For Kéré, context and medium are key: ”I try to use local material: mostly clay and wood, to create buildings that are modern,” he says. Kéré’s clay modernism represents a new Burkina Faso, using natural and renewable materials as shown in School Library Gando. ”If we build with clay we will have a better future, because we will use the resources we have,” he adds.

“My people are proud, and that can deliver a lot of energy,” says Kéré, optimistic for the future of architecture in Burkina Faso. Watch the video above to find out more about Kéré’s approach to his European-based African practice, and read on after the break for ArchDaily’s own Interview with Kéré from July.

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.

In Progress: School Library Gando / Kere Architecture

Courtesy of

Architects: Kere Architecture
Location: Gando,
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: Courtesy of Kere Architecture

Women’s Health Centre / FARE

Architects: FARE

Location: Ouagadougou,
Project Architect: Riccardo Vannucci
Project Team: Giuseppina Forte, Joao Sobral, Erika Trabucco & Emanuela Valle
Site supervision: Erika Trabucco, Joao Sobral
Client: AIDOS [Associazione Italiana Donne per lo Sviluppo] Voix des Femmes
Financial Promoters: Partito dei Democratici di Sinistra, European Commission
Design Year: 2005
Construction Year: 2006-2007
Site Area: 1,600 sqm
Constructed Area: 500 sqm
Budget: US $267,067
Photographs: FARE

This project just won the Health Category Award in the World Architecture Festival.

Project description and some great pictures of the construction process after the break.