Which Architectural History for Africa, Today?

Talk, in English, 30 November 2017

To encourage architectural history to contend with the world beyond the Global North, and to interrogate and adapt the discipline’s tools, protocols, and premises accordingly, the CCA will host a public seminar on the historiography of architecture in sub-Saharan Africa. Although recent exhibitions focusing on contemporary practice and on the post-independence period have brought attention to architecture on the continent, the history of African architecture remains too little researched.

This event is prompted by three important collections that have recently arrived at the CCA, which offer an opportunity for reflection on global histories of architecture with Africa as a point of focus. The collections, donated by the organization African Architecture Matters (AAM), are the archives and library of Dutch urban planner Coen Beeker, the library of German architect Georg Lippsmeier’s Institut für Tropenbau (IFT), and the library of IFT researcher Kiran Mukerji. With over three thousand titles in addition to slides, maps, and other documents, these collections form one of the largest existing holdings of books, manuals, and reports on African architecture and planning.

During the seminar, Rachel Lee, Ayala Levin, Itohan Osayimwese, and Ola Uduku will respond to the question “which architectural history, today?” through presentations of their ongoing research and in conversation with AAM director Antoni Folkers. Lee is a postdoctoral researcher at the LMU Munich and will present on Hannah Schreckenbach, an architect and instructor in Ghana who collaborated with Lippsmeier and worked as a consultant for the German Technical Cooperation Agency. Levin, an architectural historian at Northwestern University, will base her presentation on examples from Israeli architectural, planning, and construction aid in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and the Ivory Coast. Osayimwese is an assistant professor at Brown University and will speak on issues of primary sources, language, and translation through the figure of the late nineteenth-century German anthropologist Hermann Frobenius. Uduku, Professor of Architecture at Manchester School of Architecture, will discuss her research on school design in Africa and her ongoing research and teaching collaborations focused on modernist architecture in post-war West Africa.

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