FLASHBACK: Incredible futuristic African architecture that solves problems-- and gets you thinking

From the Great Wall of Lagos to a Hemp House...great things are happening in the region

FROM DECEMBER 2014: ARCHITECTURE cropping up in Africa is achieving international acclaim for some of the most innovative and sustainable building designs in the world. In some cases it is a single building that has been designed to minimise impact on the environment or cope with environmental challenges. 

In other cases the architecture involves a concerted effort among companies, individuals, and at times the government, to deal with certain demands such as urbanisation or climate change or as a form of modernisation to accommodate new economic aspirations. 

Whatever the challenge, or inspiration, these designs all solve a problem and give food for thought on the future of construction in Africa. We sample a few:


Eko Atlantic project (Nigeria)


With a population approaching approximately 20 million inhabitants, Lagos is one of Africa’s megacities. To cope with the pressure of land and pounding waves from the Atlantic Ocean which have eroded the land off Lagos, bringing the sea closer to the financial centre of Victoria Island, the Eko Atlantic project was launched in 2003. It brings together private individuals and companies in a multibillion dollar investment aimed at transforming land lost to the sea into an ocean-front city. 

The city will relieve land pressure through land reclamation, whilst the construction of the Great Wall of Lagos -  made from 100,000 concrete blocks weighing five tonnes each to form an effective barrier that dispels the force of the waves and provides the primary armoured sea defence - will prevent further erosion. 

This immense task will culminate in an urban development the size of the Manhattan district of New York City that will become the financial centre of Nigeria, if not West Africa, by 2020. It will be a new home to 250,000 people and the workplace of another 150,000. The ten square kilometre development will have waterfront areas, tree-lined streets, efficient transport systems and mixed-use plots that combine residential areas with leisure facilities, offices and shops. 


ARPT Headquarters (Algeria) 


Working using principles of bioclimatic architecture, Mario Cucinella Architects have designed the new headquarters for the telecommunications agency ARPT (Autorité de Régulation de la Poste et des Télécommunications). Based in Algiers, its aerodynamic shape allows for rainwater collection and uses natural ventilation for its cooling needs. 

On one side it is shielded from the hot desert winds, while the other side allows it to collect cooler air at night. The building will need less than 57% the energy requirement of a standard office building and will have 70% less water consumption. 


Hemp House (South Africa)


Possibly one of Africa’s most sustainable buildings, the Hemp House has an incredibly light carbon footprint and is nothing short of genius. Created by Tony Budden and Duncan Parke, the House is made largely from Hemp - a commonly used term for high-growing varieties of the Cannabis plant. This versatile super plant can be converted into countless materials, including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, and fuel. The house itself is partially powered by solar energy, passively cooled, heated, and ventilated. 

The floors are made from sustainably-sourced cork, 85% of the furniture and cabinetry is made from hemp-board, and all of the grey and black water will be treated and recycled. It is also fitted with LED lamps to reduce energy use, reclaimed stone and eco-paints are used to prevent harmful off-gassing. The internal modular walls are comprised of hemp insulation and sealed with magnesium oxide boards, while the external walls are made from a lime-based “hempcrete” that is considerably less energy intensive to produce and less dense than traditional cement.


Naguru/Nakawa project (Uganda)


With a population growth rate of 3.24%, Kampala has seen a dramatic rise in population growth over the last 4 decades and this trend is set to continue. To cope with this, in 2013 the government commissioned the construction of an ultra modern satellite town which will be Africa’s largest urban redevelopment project yet.

The 160-acre site in Naguru-Nakawa will be transformed with more than 3,500 residences, a church, school, commercial units, hotels, retail amenities, restaurants and leisure facilities. In line with its purpose to advance major infrastructure projects in Africa, the Made in Africa Foundation has provided financial support for completion of Master Plans and Feasibility Studies for the Project, working closely with the developer, Irish billionaire Brian Comer of Comer Group, and influential Ugandan entrepreneur, Prince Hassan Kimbugwe. 

A notable feature is an office campus featuring ten conical towers as the centrepiece of a new 65-hectare urban development. World-renowned Tanzanian-born architect, David Adjaye, proposed the iconic office campus which would house thousands of employees. 


Moyo Waterfront Restaurant and Urban Farm (South Africa)


Located at Cape Town’s commercial V&A Waterfront, the Moyo Waterfront Restaurant and Urban Farm is a futuristic concept which tells the story of food in its full cycle. Starting from the growth of food, to it being traded as commodities, followed by the culinary experience of cooking and preparation of food, to its consumption, and finally as organic waste that can be used as fertiliser to complete the cycle. 

Using sustainable technologies the design, by Tsai Design Studio, consists of; a market arcade covered by an array of solar panels that powers the stalls during the day, it also doubles as shading device for the space below, the market stalls are a cluster of pre-fab modular units, and the urban farm uses an aquaponic system developed for the project, offering fresh off-the-wall greens, vegetables as well as tilapia fish for the restaurant. 


Waterbank School (Kenya)


Named “the Greenest School on Earth” in 2013, PITCHAfrica transformed the Uaso Nyiro Primary School, in arid Northern Kenya, into a Waterbank School. This is an alternative low-cost school designed for the Laikipia region which has insufficient access to water and rainfall of approximately 600mm annually. The school, built from local materials with local labor for the same cost as a conventional linear school, stores and filters clean water for 700 children year round - using a centrally located reservoir and filtration systems integrated in the perimeter wall, it also provides protected gardens for growing fresh vegetables and includes a community workshop and a courtyard theatre for community gatherings. It should be noted that PITCHAfrica also completed the construction of PITCHKenya in Laikipia this year. This is a rainwater-harvesting soccer and volleyball stadium at the Endana Secondary School that can store more than 1.5 million litres of fresh water. 


Mauritius Commercial Bank (Mauritius) 


The Mauritius Commercial Bank is the first building in the southern hemisphere to receive a BREEAM rating - the world’s foremost environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings. 

The building, located on the outskirts of Port Louis, minimises its energy consumption by making use of free cooling where possible, low energy lighting and a 980m² photovoltaic farm makes use of solar energy, providing further renewable energy. Rainwater is harvested and stored in below-ground concrete tanks and fresh air is provided using a floor displacement ventilation system. It uses recycled products in all its furniture and flooring. 


Makoko Floating School (Nigeria)


Kunlé Adeyemi is a Nigerian architect and urbanist - heavily influenced by the fast-paced urbanisation of African cities. In 2013 Adeyemi completed the “Makoko Floating School”, a prototype floating structure, built for the water community of Makoko, located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This pilot project took an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanising context. 

At a cost of less than $7,000 the school accommodates 100 students, uses 256 plastic drums to keep it resting on top of the water, and the frame is constructed from locally-sourced wood. Electricity is provided by solar panels on the roof, and rainwater harvesting helps to keep toilets operational. Adeyemi has been able to produce an ecologically friendly, alternative building system that could revolutionise Africa’s urban water societies. One of his recent projects has focused on his homeland and its fast urbanisation rate. 

Images courtesy of: ekoatlantic.com, Made in Africa Foundation, Mario Cucinella Architects, NLE


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