The Africa Rising book, co-edited by Design Indaba and Gestalten (a publisher and creative agency known for their books on art, architecture, design, photography and typography), was released in 2016. The book takes the pulse of creativity on the continent where design, although still a young industry, is thriving. A new wave of African creatives is on the rise and making a name for itself across Africa and abroad. While the colours, patterns, and crafts are profoundly rooted in African tradition, young designers infuse their creations with a disruptive edge that makes them contemporary, unique, and truly pieces that represent African design.
The chapter on architecture is titled Sensitive Structures where we state: “While the forms of African architecture vary greatly, a persistent trend of sensitive design has grown to inform the different approaches. Social and environmental considerations are at the center of this burgeoning movement, as many projects have begun to use local labor and materials.”
The chapter features the work of respected architects including Ghanaian-British architect Elsie Owusu of Elsie Owusu Architects; Tanzanian-born Ghanaian architect David Adjaye; as well as Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi among others. The architects, urbanists and NGOs featured in the book tackle challenges like climate change, globalisation, urbanisation in new and creative ways to come up with buildings and structures that are not only contemporary or visually appealing but also responding to the current and future needs of communities across the continent.
As a writer, editor and lecturer, Nana Ocran says in the book: “The informal design borne of necessity has essentially become a bona-fide genre, from which traditional forms of low-energy building and eco-innovation could be a source of inspiration for Europe and other continents.”
Africa Rising calls stereotypes and clichéd, western-imposed ideas of African design into question. Insightful essays from experts and artisans contextualise each portrait and provide insight into talented pioneers, outstanding projects, and the way craft can be a catalyst for social and economic developments.
As debates over the future of African architecture continue to focus on the intersection of tradition, innovation and identity this Sensitive Structures chapter, and the Africa Rising book as a whole, is a great exemplar of work that is moving us into the future of design.