With Africa’s economy and population growing, the continent’s built environment needs present a unique opportunity for architects to influence the look and feel of cities of the future. Here are some examples of a new wave of inspiring African architects and architects.
Seth Onyangobird story agency
When Diebedo Francis Kere received the Pritzker Prize on May 27, the moment was far more important than an African-born architect winning the world’s most prestigious architectural prize for the first time. It was also recognition of the growing influence of design principles evident in Kere’s work – principles he shares with a growing number of architects and architectural firms across the continent.
“At the crossroads of utopia and pragmatism, we create a contemporary architecture that feeds the imagination of an Afro-futurist vision”, this is how the practices of Kéré, Kéréarchitects are described.
Kéré’s work embodies a deep appreciation of local environmental and social conditions and represents the adaptation and application of 21st century engineering and technological advances to these conditions. Whether in its termite mound-inspired design for a college in Kenya, its wood and concrete design for a school in Burkina Faso, or Kunle Adeyemi, African architects are making waves by bringing an appreciation of local materials, construction techniques and design to their buildings. This not only inspires other young African architects, but also gives Africa its own design “moment”.
Here are some of the projects, past, present and future, that put African architects and architecture in the spotlight:
- National Cathedral of Ghana –– Sir David Adjaye, OBE (Adjaye Associates)
Construction has begun for this state-of-the-art religious edifice, nestled next to Osu Cemetery in Accra, Ghana. According to Adjaye Associates, the concept establishes a unique 21st century landmark where religion, democracy and local tradition are intertwined symbolically. It will house a series of impressive chapels; a baptistery; a 5,000-seat auditorium on two levels; a large central hall; a music school; choir rehearsal; an art gallery; a store; and multipurpose spaces. It will also house Africa’s first Bible Museum and Documentation Centre, dedicated to Christianity and nation building in Ghana. Obe is a Ghanaian-British architect who was knighted in 2017. He is known for putting his sensitivity and artistic values into projects that help the community.
- National Assembly of Benin –– Diébédo Francis Kéré (Kéréarchitecture)
Burkinabé architect Diebedo Francis Kéré, winner of the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize, designed Benin’s yet-to-be-built national assembly. The project is inspired by the palaver tree and the centuries-old West African tradition of meeting under a tree to make consensual decisions in the interest of a community. It will highlight the native flora of Benin while offering Porto-Novo a vast space for leisure.
- Bët-bi Senegal–– Mariam Kamara (Atelier Masomi)
Scheduled to be launched in Senegal in 2025, the Bet-bi museum will house some of Africa’s most significant contemporary and historical artistic and cultural relics. Bet-bi which means “eye” in Wolof, will be built on a site in the Senegambia region of West Africa known for its ancient stone megaliths and which includes four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Martyrs’ Memorial, Niamey, Niger –– Sir David Adjaye OBE (Adjaye Associates)
The Martyrs’ Memorial will be built in the center of Niamey on an elevated triangular plot lined with groves of trees; concrete pillars representing the dead rise 20 meters from the platform and are rooted in a maze below where visitors can find shelter from the heat.
- Niamey Cultural Center, Niamey, Niger –– Mariam Kamara (Atelier Masomi)
According to architects Atelier Masomi, the Niamey Cultural Center in the Gounti Yenna Valley aims to meet cultural needs not met by the Nigerien capital. Lead architect Mariam Kamara developed the center under the mentorship of David Adjaye and drew inspiration from traditional Hausa and Songhai architecture for its monolithic form.
- Presidential Library Thabo Mbeki – Sir David Adjaye OBE (Adjaye Associates)
“The architecture of the Library taps into the collective memory of the continent through the creation of a new historic center of African consciousness in which knowledge, education and sustenance are nurtured in the representation and intelligence of the continent “said Adjaye. Located in Johannesburg, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library will be “a space for excellence, learning, research, discourse and cultural exchange based on the African perspective”.
- Coral Pavilion Beach House –– Tosin Oshinowo (cmDesign Atelier)
According to Arch Daily, this minimalist beach pavilion in Lagos has been designed to have a fully indoor/outdoor feel, with the comforts of living in a wide-open space with spectacular views and refreshing airflow, creating a blend modern and sustainable living. .
- Floating Music Center, São Vincente, Cape Verde –– Kunlé Adeyemi (NLÉ)
Opened in 2021 in Mindelo, São Vicente, the Floating Music Hub intertwines with the island’s vibrant musical and cultural scenes. It is made up of three prefabricated floating hubs, consisting of a multi-purpose performance hall, a professional recording studio and a service bar. The three ships are anchored in a triangular floating public square.
- University of Taroudant — Saad El Kabbaj + Driss Kettani + Mohamed Amine Siana
According to the architects, the architectural style of Taroudant, steeped in history, is an expression of the deep Moroccan south. The Polydisciplinary Faculty of Taroudant is an attempt to reinterpret this heritage through a building with a vision for the future. “So this project draws its inspiration from the earth and its manifestations to the senses,” reads their description.
- Bosjes Chapel, Bosjes Farm in Witzenberg District, South Africa — Coetzee Steyn (Steyn Studio and TV3 Architects)
“Its serene sculptural form mimics the silhouette of the surrounding mountain ranges, paying homage to the historic Cape Dutch gables that dot the rural landscapes of the Western Cape,” said Steyn Studio, headed by South African-born Coetzee Steyn. Dezeen magazine claims that the functions are hidden in the base of the building so that the space does not contain any extra elements that could obstruct the view.