Ar­chi­tec­ture should be based

De­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives need to con­sider the con­texts, past and present, in which they oc­cur to en­sure hu­man­cen­tred so­lu­tions

Mail & Guardian - - Culture And Books - Nk­gopoleng Moloi

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

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