As creative and innovative thinkers, architects are always looking towards the future of our highly unique industry. But in order to continue the relevance, practicalities and importance of our architectural practices in Africa, we must also examine and learn from the past.
Colonial Africa did not often have a great need for architects as most towns were small and the design and structure of buildings relied mostly on the materials and skills available. In the early 20th century, reinforced concrete became common in Africa and we saw the start of larger buildings and the influence of modernists can be clearly seen throughout Africa.
Impact of colonisers in Africa
The way in which architecture works in each African country depends heavily on its colonisers. In South Africa, the British system is widely used, whereby the architect is most often employed by the building owner and most is contracted and once-off. The systems of the French and the Portuguese work a little differently in that an architect usually works under a building contractor, which is beneficial as it usually leads to more regular work.
Both systems are somewhat flawed and as we look toward the future of architecture in Africa, there are many changes that need to take place.
Change in architecture overtime
Historically, Africa does not have a very good reputation for celebrating their local architects, with many African nations simply importing architectural expertise when need be instead of celebrating their local talent. A prime example of this is the African Union building, which was paid for by the Chinese government and designed and built by China State Construction Engineering and the China Architecture and Design Research Group.
In the last few decades, our way of life has changed dramatically. African cities have become far more urbanised, high-tech and modern, and the continent has produced hundreds of incredible architects from all walks of life.
As our African cities continue to grow rapidly, we need our talented architects to help solve the many complexities and issues that come along with the rapid urbanisation that we are facing. Unfortunately, one of the major structural issues that hinder architects in Africa is that, for the most part, they have very little influence over architectural issues.
Future of African architecture
As Africa aims to create more and more megacities, the African architects of the future will need to fully understand Africa’s complicated history in architecture, be sensitive towards Africa’s societal needs, and be innovative enough to create relevant, practical and sustainable solutions in order to succeed. Governments need to start turning towards African architects to provide uniquely African solutions.
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