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Architecture in Africa: when modernity is inspired by tradition [Culture on The Morning Call]

Architecture in Africa: when modernity is inspired by tradition [Culture on The Morning Call]

The Morning Call

African cities are rapidly growing, some faster than others. The problem is that these African cities are obsessed with the Western kind of development that is not always adapted to local an cultural realities. A new wave of African architects are working towards an architectural revival on the continent.

Today we are focusing on African architecture. In a few days time that is on September 28, the Africa Architecture Awards will be held in Cape Town, South Africa.

It is one of the biggest ceremonies that recognises African talents in architecture as its name implies, and there are quite a number. The continent is indeed full of creative architects.

So on one side we have these creative architects and on the other side we have African cities that are rapidly growing, some faster than others. The problem is that these African cities are obsessed with the Western kind of development that is not always adapted to local realities.

So would it be possible to have a purely African architecture? Of course its possible though am not saying we should start constructing huts in cities. By saying African architecture we intend to promote a modern architecture that at the same time allows us to retain our African identity.

Well the good news is that it is possible. And it is good because we will be interested in this new wave of African architects who are working towards an architectural revival on the continent with projects that are adapted to the local and cultural realities of African cities.

So how do they do that? Well, by using African architectural techniques and traditions and by using local materials like wood or bricks.
Mariam Kamara is part of this young generation of African architects.

After studying architecture in the United States, she returned to Niger where she created a pilot project: Niamey 2000. They are affordable housing, built with local products. I asked her if in terms of African architecture there was a country in which others could be inspired with.

So we understand that modernity does not always have to go with westernisation. But that this modernity can also get its inspiration from tradition.

In the same spirit, I would like to talk to you now about a project that shows to what extent African architecture is part of culture just like its been seen in music and even in craftsmanship.

It is a project that was set up by an architect.

Internet users like you and I can submit their photos. The idea is to list the different traditional houses that exist in about fifty African countries.

The techniques of construction and the materials used often illustrate an ancestral know-how but which has began to disappear and it is a part of the African culture that may become extinct. And these buildings do not look like that but they are very resistant. Some date back to the 14th century, hundreds of years ago like the Djenné mosque in Mali.

The Morning Call

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The Morning Call

The Morning Call is about you. We want to share your opinions on our programme. If you want to contribute to The Morning Call, here are the best ways to get in touch : For more details on how to contribute, click here.