Africa is re-imagining itself – from its economies to its politics and its infrastructure; offering a new vision for the future where cities are technologically and sustainably designed for people and community.
2 years ago, a group of architects around the world were invited to participate in the ‘Our Cities, Ourselves; an exhibition where they brought to life their concepts of how our cities should be transformed towards 2030, when the global urban population is expected to be 60 percent.
Africa’s ideas were revolutionary in that they sought to meld both the past and the future; enhancing the African cultural tradition and heritage while creating more public space and introducing alternative transportation to solve pressing issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and poverty, while improving the quality of urban life.
A future Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) - Project Architect: Adjaye Associates
A future Johannesburg (South Africa) - Project Architect: Osmond Lange Architects, Ikemeleng Architects
A year later, the Blueprints of Paradise competition invited young African architects to dream up an alternative future for Africa.
Ghanaian architect Kobina Banning imagined the Sankofa Garden City Park, a virtual space created for downtown Kumasi, Ghana’s second city. Located next to the overcrowded central market, it showcased the ultimate urban experience: a football field, a garden with indigenous plants, an amphitheatre, hawkers’ stands, a public transit system, a first aid centre, and places where people can meet, meditate, and pray.
Kobina Banning’s Sankofa Garden City Park
Kobina Banning, now working as an architect in the United States, spent months observing how the Ashanti capital’s 3,6 million inhabitants use their city space. “Kumasi used to be called the garden city and my project is trying to reclaim the traditional informal spaces as a design tool for the future. The term Sankofa is central: it means that “we need to draw the strength in our past in order to build the future.”
The theme of drawing from the past to re-imagine the future was very prominent amongst the 2011 Blueprint entries. The hustle and bustle of Africa’s present cities, and the sense of community and social currency created in Africa’s past and present, is something African architects do not want to lose as our cities continue to develop.
To prepare for Blueprints, Oladayo Oladunjoye, who designs hotels for the Schiphol airport, spent time reflecting on how life could be improved in his native Lagos, Africa’s fastest growing city, with its estimated 8 million people. His simple, small scale mobile construction – a “temporal structure” – could be used and adapted by hawkers, musicians, or traders, depending on their needs.
It’s clear to see that pleasure, enjoyment, leisure and comfort lie at the heart of these virtual cities’ designs, each painting a future of Africa that is imbued with a sense of community and dedication.
For these future city designers, “organised, ingenuous chaos” is their view of the future, where African cities will work in harmonious, yet highly social rhythms.
Very few of the entrants rate skyscrapers and monumental office towers; focusing instead on the fluidity and flexibility of African city design for areas that are still a work in progress, like a canvas that is still being painted, and on redefining the places where people meet, live and work in the cities of the continent.
Fast forward to 2012. Africa’s future cities are no longer just concepts or ideas – they’re becoming a reality.
As part of its Vision 2030 national long-term development blue-print that aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrialising, middle-income country, the Kenyan government has commissioned an actual, future city – Konza.
Developed with an aim to be one of the most successful cities in Africa, competing economically and culturally with the best cities in the world, when complete, Konza city is expected to contribute about 2.8% of Kenya’s GDP.
The sustainable and green development is located just outside of Nairobi is envisioned to be Africa’s home of technology – an equivalent to California’s Silicon Valley, complete with business centres, hotels, international schools and hospitals capable of hosting global companies; mainly technology multinationals, contributing further to Kenya’s growing dominance in Africa and the global technology sector.
While there is still low interest from Kenyan investors (for the initial 500 acres of the project only 40% has been taken up by the local sector) in what is supposed to to be an exemplary private-public partnership model, Konza’s vision is clear and a project like this would be a milestone for the country and indeed for all of Africa.
What do you think? Are these visions of Africa’s future cities realistic? What aspects other aspects need to be thought about when designing cities for Africa?
Talk to us – comment below, or log onto our Facebook page - facebook.com/afritorial and tell us your thoughts.
Our Cities Ourselves, a project of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, attempts to address these issues and promote a vision for our cities that is more livable, equitable, and sustainable. http://www.ourcitiesourselves.org
Blueprints for Paradise is a competition in which African Architects were asked to demonstrate their ideas for future Africa. The compeittionw as run by two Dutch organisations, the Afrika Museum (Berg en Dal) and African Architecture Matters (Utrecht). http://www.afrikamuseum.nl/blog/
Konza Technology City - http://www.konzacity.co.ke/
Web 4.0 (circa 2012) definition: creation by the majority; web participation is a necessity; customer engagement enablement; operating system (OS) in the cloud; ‘considered purchase’ products and services (once thought only saleable offline) join the Internet party; desktop computer, mobile phone, tablets and iTV; augmented data layers.