As the continent urbanizes, African architects are making their mark on the global stage. Using local materials, firms across Africa are designing innovative strategies to meet ongoing social and environmental challenges. This new generation of African architects and designers rely less and less on traditional concepts of architecture by embracing their indigenous talent and knowledge. Here are some of the African architects changing the game:
David Adjaye (British-Ghanaian)
Adjaye, born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, is the architect behind the high profile Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. As one of the leading architects of his generation, one of Adjaye’s claims to fame is the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, one of his first commissioned pieces. His studio, Adjaye Associates, has four international offices and designs projects all over the world. Adjaye believes that “this decade will see a striking new horizon for African architecture and its global impact.”
Olakekan Jeyifous (Nigeria)
Jeyifous, a Nigerian artist and designer, uses computer software to imagine Lagos through the lens of what he calls “degenerate futurism.” In pieces entitled “Falomo Roundabout,” “Makoko Canal,” and “Idumota Roadway,” among others, Jeyifous has digitally constructed “shanty megastructures” that he visually contrasts with privileged sites. He constructs both utopian and dystopian projections of the future and aims to challenge long-held perceptions through his work.
Christian Benimana (Rwanda)
Benimana is a Rwandan architect who joined the MASS Design Group and is now leading the implementation of the African Design Center, a “field based apprenticeship set to be the Bauhaus of Africa.” One of the main motivations driving the creation of the African Design Center is “to harness the talent and spirit that is uniquely African,” as well as “breed a generation of human centered African designers…that will design and build the future cities of Africa and make them the most resilient and socially inclusive places on Earth.”
Olajumoke Adenowo (Nigeria)
Adenowo has been described as “the face of architecture in Nigeria” and as a “Starchitect.” She has played a role in the construction of over seventy buildings in Nigeria, with the Federal Ministry of Lands in Abuja among them. She emphasizes strong understandings of art and culture in her work as well as the power of mentorship. Adenowo puts such ideas into action through her Awesome Treasure Foundation, an organization dedicated to mentoring women and girls in an effort to “raise transformational leaders.”
Diebedo Francis Kere (Burkina Faso)
Kere’s work is innovative in its inclusion of the local community and for its vision of architecture as a vehicle for community empowerment. Burkina Faso, Kere’s birthplace, is now dotted with schools he designed that have replaced concrete with earth bricks and a roof that is raised for better air circulation. The schools are built with local labor and local materials. Kere is described as “deeply grounded in the values of African society,” and is dedicated to providing holistic and sustainable design solutions that benefit the local community.
Mphethi Morojele (South Africa)
Morojele is the founding member of MMA architects and is based in Johannesburg. His work represents the ways in which architecture and design can be political statements. He has designed many of South Africa’s embassies in the post-Apartheid era, which are intended to reflect the new vision of South Africa. Morojele has curated architecture exhibits throughout Africa as well as in Italy, London, and Shanghai.
Kunle Adeyemi (Nigeria)
Adeyemi, a Nigerian creative researcher and founder of NLE Architects, is guided by an “alternative version of African development,” in which the personality and contextual needs of slums informs his buildings. Adeyemi is best known for designing the Makoko floating school in Lagos, an adaptive architectural solution designed for a community that is frequently battered by heavy rains and the subsequent flooding. He believes that there is much potential in transitioning the pre-existing area through innovative architectural design that responds both to the community and to climate change through a design of independent floating structures, made with local materials and adapted to local needs.