7 Architects Designing a Diverse Future in Africa

Fortunately, a growth in native practices and a more sensible, sensitive approach from foreign organizations has led to the rise of architectural groups creating buildings which learn from and improve Africa. Combining local solutions with the most appropriate Western ideas, for the first time these new developments break down the perception of monolithic Africa and have begun engaging with individual cultures; using elements of non-local architecture when they improve a development rather than creating a pastiche of an imagined pan-African culture. The visions these groups articulate are by no means the same – sustainable rural development, high end luxury residences and dignified civic constructions all feature – but they have in common their argument for a bright future across Africa. We’ve collected seven pioneers of Africa’s architectural awakening 

I am alone, most of the people have gone back home, they are reading the evening paper, listening to the radio. Sunday has left them with a taste of ashes and their thoughts are already turning towards Monday. But for me there is neither Monday nor Sunday: there are days which pass in disorder, and then, sudden lightning like this one.

Nothing has changed and yet everything is different. I can’t describe it; it’s like the Nausea and yet it’s just the opposite: at last an adventure happens to me and when I question myself I see that it happens that I am myself and that I am here; I am the one who splits the night, I am as happy as the hero of a novel.

Something is going to happen: something is waiting for me in the shadow of the Rue Basse-de- Vieille, it is over there, just at the corner of this calm street that my life is going to begin. I see myself advancing with a sense of fatality. There is a sort of white milestone at the corner of the street. From far away, it seemed black and, at each stride, it takes on a whiter colour. This dark body which grows lighter little by little makes an extraordinary impression on me: when it becomes entirely clear, entirely white, I shall stop just beside it and the adventure will begin. It is so close now, this white beacon which comes out of the shadows, that I am almost afraid: for a moment I think of turning back. But it is impossible to break the spell. I advance, I stretch out my hand and touch the stone.

Here is the Rue Basse-de-Vieille and the enormous mass of Sainte-Cecile crouching in the shadow, its windows glowing. The metal hat creaks. I do not know whether the whole world has suddenly shrunk or whether I am the one who unifies all sounds and shapes: I cannot even conceive of anything around me being other than what it is. I stop for a moment, I wait, I feel my heart beating; my eyes search the empty square. I see nothing. A fairly strong wind has risen. I am mistaken. The Rue Basse-de-Vieille was only a stage: the thing is waiting for me at the end of the Place Ducoton.

I am in no hurry to start walking again. It seems as if I had touched the goal of my happiness. In Marseilles, in Shanghai, Meknes, what wouldn’t I have done to achieve such satisfaction? I expect nothing more today, I’m going home at the end of an empty Sunday: it is there. I leave again. The wail of a siren comes to me on the wind. I am all alone, but I march like a regiment descending on a city. At this very moment there are ships on the sea resounding with music; lights are turned on in all the cities of Europe; Communists and Nazis shooting it out in the streets of Berlin, unemployed pounding the pavements of New York, women at their dressing-tables in a warm room putting mascara on their eyelashes. And I am here, in this deserted street and each shot from a window in Neukolln, each hiccough of the wounded being carried away, each precise gesture of women at their toilet answers to my every step, my every heartbeat.

I don’t know what to do in front of the Passage Gillet. Isn’t anyone waiting for me at the end of the passage? But there is also at the Place Ducoton at the end of the Rue Tournebride something which needs me in order to come to life. I am full of anguish: the slightest movement irks me. I can’t imagine what they want with me. Yet I must choose: I sacrifice the Passage Gillet, I shall never know what had been reserved for me.

The Place Ducoton is empty. Am I mistaken? I don’t think I could stand it. Will nothing really happen? I go towards the lights of the Cafe Mably. I am bewildered, I don’t know whether to go in: I glance through the large, steamed windows.

The place is full. The air is blue with cigarette smoke and steam rising from damp clothing. The cashier is at her counter. I know her well: she’s red haired, as I am; she has some sort of stomach trouble. She is rotting quietly under her skirts with a melancholy smile, like the odour of violets given off by a decomposing body. A shudder goes through me: she … she is the one who was waiting for me. She was there, standing erect above the counter, smiling. From the far end of the cafe something returns which helps to link the scattered moments of that Sunday and solder them together and which gives them a meaning. I have spent the whole day only to end there, with my nose glued against the window, to gaze at this delicate face blossoming against the red curtain. All has stopped; my life has stopped: this wide window, this heavy air, as blue as water, this fleshy white plant at the bottom of the water, and I myself, we form a complete and motionless whole: I am happy.

When I found myself on the Boulevard de la Redoute again nothing was left but bitter regret. I said to myself: Perhaps there is nothing in the world I cling to as much as this feeling of adventure; but it comes when it pleases; it is gone so quickly and how empty I am once it has left. Does it, ironically, pay me these short visits in order to show me that my life is a failure?

Behind me, in the town, along the great, straight streets lit up by the cold reflection from the lamp posts, a formidable social event was dissolving. Sunday was at an end.

—  Jean-Paul Satre, Nausea, pp.82-4