Architecture should be based
Development initiatives need to consider the contexts, past and present, in which they occur to ensure humancentred solutions
Ethiopia is rich in architectural diversity. From the density, chaos and musicality of Addis Merkato, once the largest openair market in Africa, to the huge underground tombs, the obelisks of the Aksumite Empire, the rockcut churches of Lalibela and the castles of Gondar, the country is an assemblage of ancient and aweinspiring structures spread out to tell the story of its history and identity.
In many ways, South Africa and Ethiopia are different dimensions of one another and offer an interesting viewpoint in thinking about the future of architecture in Africa. They ask us to think about how we define home, who has a home and what that looks like.
The interactions and intersections structured boundaries around movement result in the very poor and very rich living in close proximity, versus the legacy of the Group Areas Act in South Africa, which resulted in sharp lines between suburbs, cities, townships and rural areas.
We need to think about how we can approach development in ways that do not sever our connection to the land, and that do not promote cultural erasure and displacement. We need to use processes of investigation that allow us to create solutions from within, lest we become poor copies of Dubai, Paris and Hong Kong. We also need to examine past injustices that are interwoven in the ways in which we live and move.
In thinking about new models of making spaces and place-making, we can turn to thought leaders on the continent — those who can inspire and provoke us regarding ideas of excellence and humancentred solutions grounded in some understanding of what it means to be African.
Architect and urbanist Liz Ogbu speaks about the idea of
Marvel: The subteranean Orthodox church in Lalibela. Photo: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters