In shifting one’s gaze from the computer screen to the Old Street roundabout outside, one could reflect that the Sierra Leone project initally offered the intriguing possibility of locating common ground between here and there, between Africa and Europe. Would this common ground be merely based upon the transnational movement of architectural ideologies? Ideas either exported (European modernism operating on an African site) or imported (summarily, Africanism in Europe)? In the worst traditions of architectural ambition, perhaps the initial intrigue over inflated the project and 2y later the parameters could be simply redrawn as: London in Freetown.

Back to the screen. One recent FB project comment recalled the uncomfortable colonialist implications that are attendant with architecture. Our commentator questioned the legitimacy for an exported modernism to house the “natives” (sic)? Draping a building in boubou or photoshopping in some ‘natives’ doesn’t localise a jpeg after all. Without doubt the conventional tools of Western architecture are insufficient to address the challenges which confront foreign fields. Africanism demands a different approach:

  • Greater multi-disciplinary, particularly anthropological, involvement;
  • Embrace African scholarship;
  • Creativity to unlock convention

German artist Carsten Holler’s house in Ghana.


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