Meet Africa’s eminent architects
Africa’s architecture scene abounds with a host of talented creatives and innovators with a deep respect for the heritage of this glorious continent. They’ve embraced and showcased its wide open spaces, its ecologies and its materials.
Better still, they’re leaving a legacy of positive environmental and social change, with zero impact on the land on which they and their buildings were carved upon. These are Africa’s most eminent architects.
Mariam Issoufou Kamara
Mariam is the founder of atelier masōmī, a Niger based architecture and research firm. She and her firm are guided by the belief that architecture is an important tool for social change. masōmī which means ‘the inception’ in the local language Hausa tackles public, cultural, residential, commercial and urban design projects. Their work investigates the power of design to elevate, give dignity and better people’s quality of life.
Mariam is also a founding member of architectural collective united4design, which has projects in Niger, Afghanistan and the United States. In Niger, the collective completed Niamey 2000, a housing development that took a firm position on material selection by using unfired, earth masonry and passive cooling techniques to protect against Niger’s scorching temperatures. The design of Niamey2000 paid tribute to traditional architecture that used to be found in Mali, Niger and Nigeria.
The project was awarded an American Institute of Architects Seattle Award and Architect Magazine’s 2017 R+D Award for innovation. Kamara’s second collaborative project was the Hikma Religious and Secular Complex. It transformed a derelict mosque into a library that shares its site with a new mosque in the village of Dandaji in Niger.
Hikma was inspired by Muslim scholars in the 9th century AD who made remarkable contributions to the sciences and humanities in Bagdad’s Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) through their engagement with theological and scientific matters. The project was awarded the 2017 Gold LafargeHolcim Award for Africa and Middle East, and the 2018 Silver Global LafargeHolcim Award for Sustainable Architecture.
Recently, Mariam was invited by The LafargeHolcim Award for Sustainable Architecture to head up the jury for the Middle East and Africa. Collaboration with artisans, particularly local masons and artists in the places where masōmī’s projects take place is important to their work. It ensures the architects of this rapidly growing firm can share their skills with locals while learning from them particularly when it comes to context and embodied knowledge.
Nicholas Plewman Architects was founded and is directed by Nick Plewman. He has welded a lifetime passion for the wilderness to two decades of design and project management experience in remote and sensitive environments. To this have been banded the skills of qualified architects, project and cost managers and technologists.
The practice has completed over 35 projects across Southern and East Africa for both public and private clients. He has also been published in several books* and magazines such as Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveller.
They provide design and project implementation that is uncompromisingly innovative and ecologically sustainable in any environment from inner city to the remotest wilderness.
The firm is focused on uncompromising ecological responsibility, sophisticated, original design, energy neutrality and sustainable resourcing. They state that they derive their style from aesthetic integrity that refrains from cliché ,waste and wantonness. At the heart of the firm is a deep respect respect for tradition while exploring the dynamic opportunities of modernism and technology.
Led by architectural designers Khensani de Klerk and Solange Mbanefo, Matri-Archi (Matri-Archi(tecture) is an intersectional collective based between Switzerland and South Africa. Its aims are to bring African women together for the development of spatial education in African cities.
Through design practice, writing, podcasts, and other initiatives, Matri-Archi focuses on the recognition and empowerment of women in the spatial field and architectural industry.
They are drawn to hegemonic and intersectional spaces, informal architecture, technology, local idiosyncrasies, and the future of African and global cities.
Matri-Archi(tecture)© aims to bring African womxn of colour together for the empowerment and development of African cities, within the realm of spatial education. Matri-Archi(tecture) produces knowledge that constantly aims at catalyzing and fostering dialogue. While encouraging consciousness in spatiality, bringing to the forefront the need for an Intersectional Space.
The collective seeks to focus recognition of African women in the global spatial and architectural industry. These are spaces that have often barred women from representing themselves and presenting a worldview that stems from their own world sense.
Matri-Archi(tecture) also aims to merge, manifest and metamorphose in the spatial sphere of design and writing which currently fails to incorporate diverse identities and visions. The team works to empower its network with established practice and education partners.
To reframe the various sectors related to design and within the built environment – not just for the inclusion of African womxn, but for spatial knowledge-bearers, those that reflect the African sense of place and being.
They are a voice and a nexus, a ripe site of emerging and progressive thinkers of African descent who will inevitably contribute to the future of spatial Africa.
Visit Matri-Arch at https://www.matri-archi.ch/
Burkina Faso-born Francis Kéré leads an award winning architecture firm based in both Germany and Burkina Faso. Kéré Architecture seeks to develop works in the ‘intersection of utopia and pragmatism’, exploring the border between Western architecture and local practice.
Kéré also recently won the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize. As the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize notes, “Through buildings that demonstrate beauty, modesty, and invention, and by the integrity of his architecture and geste, Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize. He is continually “empowering and transforming communities through the process of architecture.”
After graduating with an architecture degree at the Technical University of Berlin, Kéré built Gando Primary School – the first school in the village in which he grew up. This became his diploma project in 2004. The project was later recognized with the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture within the same year.
Kéré is presently well-versed in the manner of working with local materials such as wood and clay used by the local community. Who are drawn to traditional materials that predate today’s modern world.
Although materials such as the likes of clay are attached to preconceived notions of poverty, Kéré’s firm has transformed it and utilised it for the creation of a building deemed successful.
Sir David Adjaye
Sir David Adjaye has in recent years been globally commended for his impactful contributions to architecture, design, and the community. In early 2022, the London based architect was awarded with the inaugural Charlotte Perriand Award. This was an honor created by The Créateurs Design Awards that recognizes excellence and integrity in the design industry, and inspires future generations in honor of the late female trailblazer.
The Ghanian-British 2021 RIBA Gold Medalist and founder of Adjaye Associates was selected for his achievements that “go beyond becoming city landmarks”. He was also recognised for his holistic and impactful approach in developing residential, commercial, and cultural typologies.
In 2021 Sir David Adjaye was the recipient of the Royal Gold Medal. He was recognized for his work that exceeds 25 years, which has achieved international kudos with a series of groundbreaking and worldwide interventions. These range from private houses, exhibitions, and furniture design, to major cultural buildings and city masterplans.
His recent projects include the 21st Serpentine Pavilion, which will be realized in collaboration with American artist Theaster Gates. The 2022 installation will be named Black Chapel, and “will pay homage to British craft and manufacturing traditions”.
In late 2021, David Adjaye was announced as the lead designer of the Barbados Heritage District. The project is dedicated to documenting and recounting the impact of slavery on Barbados, as well as cultures and nations in the Western hemisphere.
For this project, the architect drew upon the technique and philosophy of traditional African tombs, prayer sites, and pyramids. It conceived a space that honors the dead and manifests “a new diasporic future for Black civilization” that is both of the African continent and different from it.
The architect has also recently been commissioned to design district hospitals, part of the Agenda 111 initiative by the Ghanaian Government. He has also been selected among London’s 30 Most Influential Architects.
For more insights into the best of eco-led and sustainable public, cultural, residential, commercial and urban design projects, please visit our Architecture + Art pages.