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Matthew Maganga

BA (Hons) Architecture Graduate from the University of Kent and Junior Collaborator at ArchDaily. Born and raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; interested in housing, urbanism, heritage - and how we live in our cities.


Architecture and Aid: Reframing Research on Informal Settlements

Almost seven kilometers from the green of Uhuru Park in central Nairobi, lies the informal settlement of Kibera. It is an area whose urban character consists of corrugated iron roofs, mud walls, and a complicated network of utility poles. Kibera, at this point in time, is a well-known place. Much has been written and researched on this “city within a city,” from its infrastructural issues to its navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Informal settlements in Arequipa, Perú. Image © Silvia Pascual via ShutterstockInformal settlements in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima, Perú. Image © Marco Rosales via ShutterstockKhayelitsha Township - Cape Town. Image © Olga Ernst under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.Kuku Town - Cape Town, South Africa. Image © Future Cape Town+ 12

The Commons: Dissecting Open-Source Design

In New Mexico, irrigation channels that have been in continuous operation for three centuries replenish and nourish the wetlands of the American Southwest. These channels are known as Acequias – communally managed water systems built on democratic tradition. Members of the community own water rights, who then elect a three-person team to oversee the channels. In Cairo and Barcelona, Tahrir Square and Plaza de Catalunya have acted as important sites for voicing political dissatisfaction. The Tahrir Square protests of 2011, for instance, resulted in the eventual toppling of an almost 30-year-old government.

Quinta Monroy / ELEMENTAL. Image © ELEMENTALQuinta Monroy / ELEMENTAL. Image © ELEMENTALConakry - Open Street Maps. Image via Open Street MapsMwanza - Open Street Maps. Image via Open Street Maps+ 11

Tents: An Architectural Language

It’s a ubiquitous architectural form. An architectural typology that spans centuries and borders, a staple across cultures. The tent. In its simplest form – it’s a shelter, with material draped over a frame of poles. It’s an architectural language that is intrinsically linked to nomadic living. Yurts, for instance, functions as an easily portable dwelling for the Kazakh and Kyrgyz peoples. At the same time, tents have proved a popular stylistic precedent for architects, the lightweight structures of German architect Frei Paul Otto being a case in point. The tent is a complicated architectural language – one that straddles the line between temporary and permanent, and one that also functions as a symbol of wealth and a symbol of scarcity.

Concrete Tent / DAAR. Image © Sara AnnaAerial View of Zaatari Refugee Camp. Image Courtesy of WikimediaAerial shot of Syrian refugees camp in Kilis,Turkey. Image via Shutterstock/ By savas_bozkayaMaidan Tent /  Bonaventura Visconti di Modrone and Leo Bettini Oberkalmsteiner. Image © Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti+ 9

Water Harvesting: The Ancient Typologies That Sustain Us

The 22nd of March 2022 saw the twenty-ninth commemoration of World Water Day – as a worldwide water crisis continues to leave populations vulnerable. It is an extremely multi-faceted issue. Governance sadly determines water accessibility, with marginalized people disproportionally affected. Urban typologies are another factor. The over-pumping of groundwater sources to meet the water demands of Hanoi, for instance, has resulted in arsenic being drawn into Vietnam’s village wells.

Borsad Stepwell, Gujarat. Image © Wikimedia User Hmk162 under the Creative Commons  Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 InternationalBhandarkhal Water Tank - Nepal. Image © Wikimedia User Suraj Belbase under the Creative Commons  Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licensePushkarani step wells at Hampi. Image © Wikimedia User Mourya06 under the Creative Commons  Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licenseGujarat Stepwell at Sun Temple, Modhera. Image © Wikimedia User Manisitlani under the Creative Commons  Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license+ 10

Adulation and Demonisation: Materiality vs. Morality

For centuries and centuries we’ve built – and the diversity in our global built environment is a testament to that. The many different cultures around the globe have had different ways of building throughout history, adapting locally found materials to construct their structures. Today, in our globalized present, building materials are transported across the globe far from their origins, a situation that means two buildings on completely opposites sides of the world can be more or less identical. 

Rondavel in Lesotho - Vernacular architecture in Lesotho. Image © Rich TracyJaci's Lodges, Madikwe Game Reserve, North West, South Africa. Image © South African Tourism under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.Royal National Theatre, South Bank / Denys Lasdun. Image © Flickr User Rory Hyde under the (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.Tricorn Shopping Centre / Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon - Portsmouth, England (Demolished in 2004) . Image © Wikimedia User Alexanderfbooth under the Creative Commons  Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.+ 10

The Graphic Novel as Architectural Narrative: Berlin and Aya

The comic strip, la bande dessinée, the graphic novel. These are all part of a medium with an intrinsic connection to architectural storytelling. It’s a medium that has long been used to fantasise and speculate on possible architectural futures, or in a less spectacular context, used as a device to simply show the perspectival journey through an architectural project. When the comic strip meshes fiction with architectural imagination, however, it’s not only the speculation on future architectural scenarios that takes place. It’s also the recording and the critiquing of the urban conditions of either our contemporary cities or the cities of the past.

From Berlin by Jason Lutes. Image Courtesy of Drawn & QuarterlyFrom Berlin by Jason Lutes. Image Courtesy of Drawn & QuarterlyFrom Berlin by Jason Lutes. Image Courtesy of Drawn & QuarterlyFrom Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, translated by Helge Dasche. Image Courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly+ 14

Utopian Control: Company Towns

Power Houses - Fordlândia. Image © Dan Dubowitz
Power Houses - Fordlândia. Image © Dan Dubowitz

The built environment we inhabit can be hostile, both on an individual architectural scale and in a wider urban context. Homeless people, for instance, are dissuaded from resting on public benches by the menacing presence of spikes and other forms of exclusionary design. From a global lens, we see the impact that borders have amidst anti-immigration hostility, imposingly exemplified by the Melilla border fence on the Morocco-Spain border. This “hostility” can be found in a large number of settlements around the world, settlements that have been formed as a result of organic migration or settlements predicated on control – like company towns.

Power Houses - Fordlândia. Image © Wikimedia User Amitevron under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.Hershey's Factory - Hershey, Pennsylvania . Image © Wikimedia User Roehrensee under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.American Villas - Fordlândia. Image © Flickr User Babak Fakhamzadeh under the (CC BY-NC 2.0) license.Burg Company Town - Bayreuth, Germany . Image © Wikimedia User Bronayur under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.+ 12

Improvisational Architectures: The High-Rise Scenario

Cities are growing, and they are growing upwards. This is far from just being a contemporary phenomenon of course – for more than a century, high-rises have been an integral part of urban settlements worldwide. This growing of cities encompasses a complex web of processes – advancements in transport links, urbanisation, and migration to mention a few. This growth of cities, however, is all too often linked with governmental failure to adequately support all facets of the urban population. Informal settlements are then born – people carving out spaces for themselves to live amidst a lack of state support.

Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong. Image Courtesy of 'City of Darkness Revisited’Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong. Image Courtesy of 'City of Darkness Revisited’Mary Stuart Hall, Makerere University . Image © Timothy LatimMary Stuart Hall, Makerere University . Image © Timothy Latim+ 15

The Architecture of Museums: The Evolution of Curatorial Spaces

Across the globe, museums function as cultural landmarks – spaces of significance that quite often become defining symbols of a city’s architectural landscape. Historical examples such as the Museum de Fundatie in the Netherlands and The Louvre Museum in France continue to attract millions of visitors, with contemporary architectural interventions to them redefining their spatial contribution to their local context.

Sonorous Museum - Copenhagen. Image © Laura StamerSonorous Museum - Copenhagen. Image © Laura StamerNational Portrait Gallery - Augmented Reality. Image © Art of LondonSonorous Museum - Copenhagen. Image © Laura Stamer+ 12