Contemporary African Architecture: Examples & Trends

Instructor: Benjamin Truitt
Contemporary African architecture is defined by its use of local material and historical rootedness. Architects Diebedo Francis Kere and Kunle Adeyami use local material like clay and timber to construct structures which meet the needs of their communities.

Culturally Rooted Spaces

A Chinese company built a group of international style urban structures outside of Luanda, Angola in 2012. These buildings, known as Kilamba New City, were meant to help Angola become a modern urban nation. However, after their construction, the buildings stood empty for some time because the cost per home was above the income of any local resident. Kilamba New City was built without regard for the region, its indigenous materials, or the challenges the people of Angola were facing. Since the post-colonial period, or the time following the exit of Europe from African colonies after World War II, many structures have been built on the continent unsuitable to both its land and denizens.

As a direct response to building projects such as these, new trends have been established in contemporary African architecture. These trends focus on how to create architecture rooted in the geography, culture, and history of Africa. In this lesson we will explore how architects across Africa are developing structures that respond to the needs of local conditions and utilize local natural resources to create structures that meet the emerging needs of an industrializing urban society.

David Adjaye and Diebedo Francis Kere

David Adjaye is an internationally renowned architect born in Tanzania and living in London. He studied African architecture up close in a 2006 tour. Adjaye noted that what defined contemporary trends in African architecture was the movement away from colonial and modernist construction and the embrace of local materials and designs. More and more, new African buildings speak to the climate and culture of contemporary African life.

African architect Diebedo Francis Kere developed such spaces. He created structures that utilized locally sourced clay rather than wood or metal to take advantage of the natural insulating qualities of the material and low cost of repair. Two examples of his work are the primary school built in Gando, Burkina Faso and the Kere Centre for Earth Architecture in Mopti, Mali.

The Nkrumah Memorial and the Makako Floating School

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial

Contemporary African Architecture has also worked to reconnect local populations with their past, as in the example of the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial in Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah was the first president of Ghana. The memorial uses stone construction to bring the symmetrical designs of pre-colonial Ghana back to the forefront of cultural identity. The structure fosters a sense of connection to a nationally forged identity rather than the rootless nature of modern architecture or the foreign imposition of colonial structures.

Makoko Floating School
Makoko Floating School

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