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Africa

Why African Vernacular Architecture Is Overdue for a Renaissance

09:30 - 20 February, 2018
The Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Djenne_great_mud_mosque.jpg'>Wikimedia user Ruud Zwart</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/nl/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 2.5 NL</a>
The Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali. Image © Wikimedia user Ruud Zwart licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 NL

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Making a Case for the Renaissance of Traditional African Architecture."

Last September, Nigerian Afrobeat musician Wizkid played to a sold-out house at the Royal Albert Hall in London, joining a growing list of illustrious African musicians, such as Selif Kaita, Youssou Ndour, Miriam Makeba and others, that have performed at that prestigious venue. This event affirmed the unfolding cultural renaissance across the continent, but it also signified the rising global influence of African music, movies, fashion, cuisine and the arts.

Sadly, traditional African architecture, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, has not profited from this renaissance and has instead steadily lost its appeal across the continent. In spite of its towering influence in the pre-colonial era, it has largely failed to develop beyond the crude earthen walls and thatch roof architecture; for this reason it has remained unattractive to homeowners who often associate it with poverty. Consequently, the neglect of indigenous architecture has resulted in the dearth of skilled craftsmen knowledgeable in the art of traditional building, a reality that has further dimmed hopes for a revival of this architectural style.

Kaira Looro Architecture Competition for Cultural Center in Africa

18:00 - 20 January, 2018
Kaira Looro Architecture Competition for Cultural Center in Africa, Kaira Looro
Kaira Looro

Hundred-year-old cultures give birth to communities, being transmitted through rhymes of those who are narrating it and interpreting the past through wisdom. One’s accomplishments result from rituals and metamorphosis, bonding the human being to its own roots through dance, history, music, colors, flavors, materials and landscapes. Space and matter relate themselves to the power of rituals, drawing together the lines of an architecture encharged of passing and preserving history.

TED Talk: Christian Benimana of MASS Design Group on Founding a Design School for Africa

09:30 - 30 December, 2017

Are we going to follow a model of unsustainable building and construction similar to what I witnessed in China—or can we develop a uniquely African model of sustainable, and equitable development? I'm optimistic we can.

In this recent TED TalkChristian Benimana talks about his journey as an architect—growing up in Rwanda, studying in China, and finally returning to Africa to see the beginnings of a building boom very similar to what he witnessed in Shanghai. Given this background, he then explains why he and MASS Design Group founded the African Design Center, a school and innovation center that intends to be a catalyst for positive urban development on the continent.

How African Cities Are Failing People with Disabilities (And What Architects Can Do About It)

09:30 - 27 December, 2017
How African Cities Are Failing People with Disabilities (And What Architects Can Do About It), A paraplegic man, entering the Nigerian House of Representatives, is forced to crawl down the steps. Image <a href='https://twitter.com/SaharaReporters/status/938102600817348609'>via Sahara Reporters on Twitter</a>
A paraplegic man, entering the Nigerian House of Representatives, is forced to crawl down the steps. Image via Sahara Reporters on Twitter

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Africa’s Undeclared War on the Disabled."

Recently I spent part of a week in the company of a multidisciplinary group of academics and researchers from Europe, the US, and Africa, at a workshop entitled “The Practice and Politics of DIY Urbanism in Africa.” Jonathan Makuwira, a professor from the Malawi University of Technology, delivered a compelling paper on “Disability and Urbanism in Malawi,” highlighting the many challenges of the continent’s disabled population, using that city as a case study.

The lecture reaffirmed my sentiments on the gross inadequacies of urban public spaces for the disabled. It’s an issue that formed the basis for my 2016 entry for the Richard Rogers Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), where I had proposed to use the fellowship to develop a prescriptive accessible design blueprint for public spaces in the city of Abuja.

Winners of First-Ever Africa Architecture Awards Announced

12:30 - 16 October, 2017
Winners of First-Ever Africa Architecture Awards Announced, Grand Prix winner: Umkhumbane Museum, South Africa / Choromanski Architects. Image Courtesy of Africa Architecture Awards
Grand Prix winner: Umkhumbane Museum, South Africa / Choromanski Architects. Image Courtesy of Africa Architecture Awards

The winners of the inaugural Africa Architecture Awards have been announced. Established by St. Gobain with the goal of “stimulating conversations about African architecture as it cements its place in a global continuum,” the event represents the first ever Pan-African awards program of its kind, with more than 300 projects from 32 African nations being considered by a steering panel led by Professor Lesley Lokko, ambassador Phill Mashabane, advisor Zahira Asmal, and architect David Adjaye. 

“The Africa Architecture Awards are very critical,” said Adjaye. “Now is the time to promote excellence and best practice on the continent. The Africa Architecture Awards are particularly important because this is the moment that a lot is happening on the continent in terms of development, in terms of the architecture that’s being produced.”

Grand Prix winner: Umkhumbane Museum, South Africa / Choromanski Architects. Image Courtesy of Africa Architecture Awards Grand Prix winner: Umkhumbane Museum, South Africa / Choromanski Architects. Image Courtesy of Africa Architecture Awards Grand Prix winner: Umkhumbane Museum, South Africa / Choromanski Architects. Image Courtesy of Africa Architecture Awards Winners of First-Ever Africa Architecture Awards Announced + 14

Experience Contemporary African Architecture Beyond Stereotypes

06:00 - 2 October, 2017

Africa is a diverse continent with different contexts that go beyond the stereotypes imagined and propagated by those who do not know it. These stereotypes also cover the architectural field. African architecture is always remembered for its beautiful vernacular projects or works by Keré, but other languages developed by architects on the continent are almost forgotten. 

For this reason, in order to increase the panorama of contemporary architecture built in Africa, we have gathered here a selection of buildings that have been realized in fourteen different countries. Be inspired by the eighteen selected projects below. 

MASA Studio’s Competition-Winning Hostels Combine Modularity and Tradition for Cancer Patients

16:00 - 3 June, 2017
MASA Studio’s Competition-Winning Hostels Combine Modularity and Tradition for Cancer Patients, via MASA Studio
via MASA Studio

With a modular composition inspired by traditional sub-Saharan African building typologies, MASA Studio’s safe lodging proposal for Tanzanian cancer victims has been selected as the winner of the Hostels for Hope competition, which called for solutions to issues of health and safety in regards to the rehabilitation of cancer victims away from home in rural Africa. Organized by Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an international foundation combatting women’s cancers, the competition responds to the unfortunate decision that thousands of Tanzanian women have to make every year – to travel great lengths for unaffordable treatment and lodging, or to remain at home unable to fight the disease.

via MASA Studio via MASA Studio via MASA Studio via MASA Studio + 10

The Tragic Human Cost of Africa's New Megacities

09:30 - 24 May, 2017
The Tragic Human Cost of Africa's New Megacities, A rendering of Eko-Atlantic City, Lagos, Nigeria. Image <a href='http://www.ekoatlantic.com/media/image-gallery/'>via ekoatlantic.com</a>
A rendering of Eko-Atlantic City, Lagos, Nigeria. Image via ekoatlantic.com

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Tale of Two Cities: Unravelling the Brutal Backstory Behind Africa’s Emerging Megacities."

In the last two decades, the African narrative has changed phenomenally. The tired, age-old storyline—largely woven around the stereotypes of poverty, disease, and bloody civil wars—has been replaced with one celebrating the continent’s unprecedented economic growth and relative political stability. This new narrative is also about Africa’s gleaming skyscrapers, massive shopping malls, and ambitious “smart” cities being designed and built from scratch: Ebene Cyber City in Mauritius; Konza Technology City in Kenya; Safari City in TanzaniaLe Cite du Fleuve in DR Congo; Eko Atlantic in NigeriaAppolonia City in Ghana, and others.

There are currently at least twenty of these new cities under construction in Africa and about twice that number in the works. These developments have permanently altered the continent’s urban outlook, and have offered it something different from the bland pastiche of colonial architecture that it was once known for. As a designer, I was initially excited by the quality of some of the architecture. Though I must admit that these new cities are eerie mimicries of similar developments in China, Singapore and even the UAE, and that they’re largely bereft of any cultural connection to Africa.

These Maps Show Why It's a Bad Idea To Make Things Up

04:00 - 5 May, 2017

It's difficult to imagine an uncharted world. Today, GPS and satellite maps guide us around cities both familiar and new, while scanning and mapping techniques are gradually drawing the last air of mystery away our planet's remaining unexplored territories. At one time, however, cartography was based on little more than anecdotal evidence and a series of educated guesses. But map-making in the 16th and 17th Centuries was an art nonetheless, even if these examples testify to the fact that just because you're missing important facts, total fabrication may not be the best way forward.

How Combining Traditional Asian and African Design Could Minimize Diseases in Rural Tanzania

09:30 - 9 October, 2016
How Combining Traditional Asian and African Design Could Minimize Diseases in Rural Tanzania, © Konstantin Ikonomidis
© Konstantin Ikonomidis

Architecture firm Ingvartsen Architects has turned their gaze towards “cultural exchange architecture”—not with the aim of exploring identity or experimenting with aesthetics, but with a practical purpose in mind: to minimize the spread of diseases. The Magoda Project combines Asian elements with traditional rural African building methods in the village of Magoda, in the Tanga region of Tanzania, taking shape in the form of eight prototype homes. The design goes to show that cultural exchanges in design and architecture can make great contributions towards problem solving for a humanitarian purposes, not only to improve health and hygiene, but also comfort and happiness.

© Konstantin Ikonomidis © Konstantin Ikonomidis © Konstantin Ikonomidis © Konstantin Ikonomidis + 26

Call for Entries: Hostels for Hope

20:37 - 20 June, 2016
Call for Entries: Hostels for Hope

The Tanzanian Hostels for Hope Design Competition is an international design competition to attract the best design ideas and solutions from architects and architectural students from around the world to create a place of healing and rest on two sites, near to Tanzania’s primary cancer treatment hospitals. Participants in the competition may submit designs for either site or a prototype solution that are adaptable to both Tanzanian sites.

Primary School in Gando / Kéré Architecture

03:00 - 22 April, 2016
Primary School in Gando / Kéré Architecture, © Siméon Duchoud
© Siméon Duchoud

© Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk © Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk © Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk © Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk + 8

  • Architects

  • Location

    Gando, Burkina Faso
  • Architect in Charge

    Diébédo Francis Kéré
  • Client

    Schulbausteine fuer Gando / Gando Village Community
  • Area

    310.0 sqm
  • Project Year

    2001
  • Photographs

Exhibition at Chicago's Graham Foundation to Examine African Modernism

07:00 - 21 January, 2016
Exhibition at Chicago's Graham Foundation to Examine African Modernism,  Rinaldo Olivieri, La Pyramide, 1973, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Image © Iwan Baan
Rinaldo Olivieri, La Pyramide, 1973, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Image © Iwan Baan

new exhibition opening later this month at Chicago's Graham Foundation seeks to explore the complex history and legacy of modernist architecture in sub-Saharan Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. Architecture of Independence: African Modernism will feature nearly eighty buildings in commissioned photographs by Iwan Baan, Alexia Webster, and Manuel Herz. Alongside archival material, the exhibition "imparts a new perspective on the intersection of architecture and nation-building in Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia and investigates some of the most compelling yet under-studied examples of 1960s and 1970s architecture worldwide."

Call for Submissions: Localizing Coordinates

10:30 - 29 October, 2015
Call for Submissions: Localizing Coordinates, To submit photos and videos please email localizingcoordinates@gmail.com or SMS / WhatsApp to +1 315 314 2277
To submit photos and videos please email localizingcoordinates@gmail.com or SMS / WhatsApp to +1 315 314 2277

The story of the African built environment is often told through historical perspectives of colonization and political crises, emphasizing the difficulties that African people have faced. Economic perspectives such as poverty, development and globalization also create stereotypes of the continent. Often missing from these are the transformations in space that result from daily and repeated use. These transformations emerge from ideas exchanged between people and their movements through their neighborhoods, cities, regions and countries. The quality of spaces that we may find will paint a complex picture of Africa.

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Designs Low-Income Housing Prototypes in Mozambique

06:00 - 22 October, 2015
Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Designs Low-Income Housing Prototypes in Mozambique, © Johan Mottelson
© Johan Mottelson

The Department of Human Settlements at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts' School of Architecture, Design, and Conservation has developed a new low-income housing prototype for Maputo, Mozambique in southeast Africa as part of the Casas Melhoradas research project. The prototype reinterprets the area’s traditional “Casa de Madeira e Zinco,” which is made of wood and corrugated iron sheets, and the "Casa de Blocos," which is composed of concrete blocks.  

MASS Design Group to Propose “Bauhaus of Africa” at UN Summit

09:30 - 25 September, 2015

In designing and building multiple successful public buildings in central Africa and around the world, MASS Design Group has employed and guided thousands of local craftsmen, curating the building process to inspire dignity. Now, they wish to help the African people obtain the skills necessary to guide the process themselves. At the United Nations Solutions Summit this Sunday Christian Benimana, a program director for the non-profit design studio, will present plans for what they are calling the “Bauhaus of Africa”: three “African Design Centers” to be built over the next 10 years in strategic locations throughout the continent. The design centers will house an education program tasked with training a new generation of African architects - a workforce certain to be indispensable as Africa enters a period of unprecedented urban growth.

3 Experimental Homes Address Hyper-Urbanization in Africa

06:00 - 3 September, 2015
3 Experimental Homes Address Hyper-Urbanization in Africa, Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building
Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building

By the year 2025, the urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa is predicated to increase by almost 70% -- a rapid urbanization that will inevitably affect the construction sector. 

To address this expected growth and to help lay the foundations for a sustainable urban and social development, students from the Institute of Experimental Architecture at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and EiABC (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction and City Development) worked together to build three residential prototypes at a 1:1 scale for Addis Ababa: the capital of Ethiopia and the heart of hyper-urbanization. See all of the project details, below. 

Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building Courtesy of Bauhaus Experimental Building + 62

Kéré Architecture to Design Protective Shelter for Meroe Royal Baths in Sudan

06:00 - 14 August, 2015
Kéré Architecture to Design Protective Shelter for Meroe Royal Baths in Sudan, Rendered Interior View. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture
Rendered Interior View. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Kéré Architecture has placed first in a competition to design a protective shelter on the UNESCO-protected Meroe Royal Baths in Sudan, North Africa. Believed to have served nearby palaces from the great African Kingdom of Kush (now modern-day Sudan), the Meroe Royal Baths were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 and is the focus of joint research by the German Archaeological Institute and the National Corporation for Antiques and Museums. Still marked by temples, palaces and over two hundred pyramids, the ruins of Meroe are a testimony to the exchanges of culture between the Mediterranean and Africa. Find out more about the proposal after the break.