Africa is a land under construction. Last year, over $220 billion was spent on all kinds of building projects in the continent. While foreign architects have clamored to make their mark in the region, a range of local talent has also stepped forward to shape their landscape (and in some cases, export their aesthetic abroad).
In celebration of that knowledge, we take a look at some of Africa’s most exciting contemporary architects.
Born in Tanzania, “starchitect” David Adjaye is the son of a Ghanaian diplomat and spent his childhood traveling the globe before settling in Britain at the age of nine.
The multi-award winning architect (he has scooped up numerous accolades from both the Royal Institute of British Architects and the American Institute of Architects) has been tapped for a number of high-profile projects over the years, most recently 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.
Though Adjaye’s projects span the globe, he has numerous projects in Africa, including designing the Princes Town resort, in Ghana. In 2012, he opened an office in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
Kunle Adeyemi, the Nigerian-born founder of NLE Architects, made waves last year with the completion of one of his designs: a floating, three-story A-frame school built in Makoko, a slum on the waterfront of Lagos, Nigeria.
Bobbing on top of about 250 empty barrels, the school is designed to avoid many of the problems associated with frequently rising water levels. The structure is also green: it makes use of rainwater collection, and solar panels provide the electricity.
Though the school accommodates a mere 100 elementary school children, it has potential to act as a model for water-bound communities the world over.
“It didn’t start as a big idea, I was trying to solve a small problem the community had. I realized the problem I was trying to solve was a problem for a larger part of the world,” Adeyemi told CNN last year.
“We’re now seeing people take interest in this across Africa.”
Diebedo Francis Kere
There’s a lot of very good indigenous knowledge on the continent.
Diebedo Francis Kere’s humble beginnings in the small village of Gando, Burkina Faso, have granted him a useful alternate perspective on the architectural needs of his countrymen.
“Kere is deeply grounded in the values of African society,” says Low. “He’s really the one person trying to transcend tradition and find a new kind of direction that locates architecture within the global self.”
Though his firm, Kere Architecture, is based in Berlin, he is also committed to reinvesting his knowledge back into his home country. Burkina Faso’s landscape is dotted with schools he designed — a revolutionary approach that replaces concrete with earth bricks and employs a corrugated steel roof that is raised to allow air for better circulation.
The idea is twofold: firstly, a cooler classroom will help improve the student’s concentration. Secondly, by employing local materials and labor, Kere helps empower the local community. His efforts have earned him a series of awards, including the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.