Africa showcases its architectural design talent

by Tania Wannenburg
Africa showcases

Construction and architectural designers in Africa are making their mark in the industry and are showcasing an abundance of innovative talent.


Architectural design in Africa is stepping up a notch and the world is taking notice. Contemporary design is developing at a rapid pace and architects from all corners of the continent are showcasing projects, which are certainly giving them a name in the building industry.

Last year alone, more than USD$220 billion was spent on building projects across Africa. Some of these have been foreign architects seeking new horizons to develop ideas. Local architects, however, are not shying away from claiming some of the attention for their own innovative creations either. Africa’s landscape has become a new and fascinating playground for innovative, contemporary creations.

Some of the many African architects that the world is beginning to take note of include:

David Adjaye
Born in Tanzania, David Adjaye has been dubbed a “starchitect”. Being the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, Adjaye enjoyed travelling the globe with his family during his childhood. At the age of nine, he and his family settled in the United Kingdom, where architectural influences were plentiful. A passion most certainly developed through his worldly travels and an international career is now most certainly set.

Now a multi-award winning architect with accolades from the likes of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the American Institute of Architects, Adjaye continues to design a growing number of high-profile building projects of international interest. His most recent design contributions include the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC and the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory in the Isle of Portland, England. He has also designed the Princes Town resort in Ghana, and has ambitions to develop more projects in Africa from his office in Ghana’s capital city of Accra, which he opened in 2012.

Kunle Adeyemi
Born in Nigeria and the founder of NLE Architects, Kunle Adeyemi rose to fame with the completion of the floating, three-storey A-frame school in Makoko, a slum on the waterfront of Lagos in Nigeria. The school was built atop 250 empty floating barrels.

The core aim of this green design structure is to create a school building which combats the community’s problems associated with frequently rising water levels. Making use of the available rainwater and solar panels for electricity, Adeyemi’s design is highly favoured and practical to the needs of the 100 elementary school-goers. It is also now an appealing design model for water-bound communities all over the world.

Diebedo Francis Kere
With roots in the small village of Gando, Burkina Faso, Diebedo Francis Kere’s design ambitions grew from humble beginnings. A man deeply grounded in the values of his African countrymen, Kere crafts designs which are rooted in tradition. From there he seeks new ways to transcend tradition and create a new, contemporary meaning in his work.

Kere opened his own firm, Kere Architecture, in Berlin, Germany, and continually strives to reinvest his accumulated knowledge of contemporary design back into his home country. He has already designed countless schools along the landscape of his native village in Burkina Faso. These schools make use of earth bricks and corrugated steel roofs, which allow for better air flow within the structures, providing school children with an environment for better concentration. By using local materials and labour, Kere set a stage to empower the local community. For this he has been awarded several accolades already, including the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Mokena Makeka
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Mokena Makeka designs with heart as well as functionality. Drawing inspiration from contemporary aesthetics as well as the country’s apartheid and democratic history, Makeka seeks to create significant pieces.

He has been the recipient of several accolades, including two merit awards from the Cape Institute for Architecture. It was from his offices, Makeka Design Lab, that his redesigns of the Railway Police Station and the Cape Town Railway Station were conceived. It is also where his ambitions for an international influence on contemporary design are growing.

Y Tsai
Fellow Capetonian, Y Tsai, too strives to design architectural structures with the objective of showcasing social reform. He won a Loerie Award in 2012 for his conversion of an old ship container into a classroom for rural school children. Featuring an outdoor jungle gym, steel roof, outdoor amphitheatre and windows designed to allow for cross-ventilation, this colourful school showcases a strong ability to create innovative structures using discarded containers.

Mick Pearce
Born in Zimbabwe, Mick Pearce has a strong interest in environmental design, creating sustainable, low-maintenance and minimal cost structures that blend into their natural surroundings. He is most noted for his creation of the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, which features a sustainable temperature control system.

Partners Stefan Antoni, Philip Olmesdahl and Greg Truen make up the Cape Town-based firm, SAOTA. This firm is all about high-end design with a sleek, contemporary feel. All that glitters is gold in their eyes and they have a strong focus on creating glamorous finishes for their elite clients.

The award-winning firm is made up of 90 designers and technicians, an in-house CGI team, as well as a branch dedicated to furniture and interior design. Most recently, the firm was given an award of excellence, as well as an award of merit, from the South African Institute of Architects for a vacation house in Voëlklip in the Western Cape.

Nina Cohen and Fiona Garson
An emerging power duo, Nina Cohen and Fiona Garson, are creating designs which are set to make them award-winning architects too. They are currently renovating a former gas station, car dealership and dental school in the Wits Art Museum. Their work has already been dubbed as “beautiful and poetic”.

Other notable African architectural structures include:
•    Cliff House, Senegal – by SAOTA.
•    Ch2, Melbourne, Australia – by Mick Pearce.
•    Moscow School of Management, SKOLKOVO – by David Adjaye.

For more information, visit http://edition.cnn.com/CNNI/Programs/insideafrica/, to which full thanks and acknowledgement are given.

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