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.
The much anticipated Treetop Walkway through the Arboretum in Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is now open to the public. Located 11 metres above the ground, the galvanised steel and timber structure offers breathtaking views from the treetops. The project, a collaboration between Mark Thomas Architects and Henry Fagan & Partners consulting engineers, has been nicknamed Boomslang - a large, highly venomous African tree snake – due to its elevated, twisting form. Check out the stunning photographs by Adam Harrower, a horticulturist at the garden, after the break.
The Guga S’Thebe Arts and Cultural Centre in Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township, is expanding to include a theatre exclusively for children and adolescents. The main component of the theatre, set for completion this fall, will be a large, multi-functional space for hosting performances. The project, a collaborative effort between future users and international architecture students, is aimed at stimulating sustainable development while widening the possibilities for the target demographic. To check out more project images, continue after the break.
The city of Cape Town has adopted a new strategy for improving informal settlements – re-blocking, “the reconfiguration and repositioning of shacks in very dense informal settlements in accordance to a community-drafted spatial framework.” Re-blocking serves to create communal spaces, make neighborhoods safer, and improve dwelling structures – among many other things. To see how it has been implemented and where, head to Future Cape Town and continue reading here.
Imagine forty-two, 33 meter high concrete tubes each with a diameter of 5.5 meters, with no open space to experience the volume from within. The brief from the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) for London-based Heatherwick Studio was to “reimagine the Grain Silo Complex at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront with an architectural intervention inspired by its own historic character,” calling for a “solution unique for Africa” in order to create “the highest possible quality of exhibition space for the work displayed inside.” Heatherwick’s response will be the creation of a “a new kind of museum in an African context.”
Architects: StudioMAS, Luis Mira Architects, Sergio Aguilar
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Design Team: Sean Mahoney (StudioMas), Michael Lumby (StudioMas), Charlton Botha (StudioMas), Sergio Aguilar (Plus Arquitectura), Katie Irvine and Luis Mira
Principal Agent: Luis Mira Architects
Area: 1610.0 sqm
Photographs: Wieland Gleich
“People tend to forget that play is serious.” – David Hockney
PLAYscapes, an international design competition launched earlier this year asking people to “submit a plan or proposal to turn a neglected forgotten part of your city into a playscape,” has announced their winning entries. Set up by Building Trust International, the competition called for “professional and student architects and designers from cities around the world to propose ideas which encouraged public interaction and turned redundant city spaces into fun creative places.”
Find out more about the winning professional entry from the City of Cape Town, entitled Cape Town Gardens Skatepark, along with the winning student entry from the Lusiada University of Lisbon, entitled Bring a Pal and Have Fun, after the break…