Architecture Awards to Honour Shapers of Africa’s Built Environment

By Khalifa Hemed
Published July 15, 2017

Lesley Lokko says Africa Architecture Awards present an opportunity to be an integral part of building an architectural culture that is Pan-African in its scope and ambition, but one that looks firmly towards the future.An All-Africa awards programme that aims to recognise and reward projects from across the African continent, with one overall winner garnering a US$10000 grand prize, is underway.

Saint-Gobain, the founders of the inaugural Africa Architecture Awards say the aim of what they tout as the first ever Africa Architecture Awards is to identify and honour projects that are both shaping Africa’s built environments and also serving as points of inspiration for the rest of the globe. They further say the programme seeks “to acknowledge standout architectural projects that have been conceived of and/or built on the African continent, and invite entries and nominations from the industry.”

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“Saint-Gobain very simply wants to be the catalyst that brings African architecture and its diaspora into the global conversation, in response to the clear need for such dialogue,” says Lockhart-Barker, Managing Director of the Saint-Gobain Retail Business Development Initiative of South Africa. “The Africa Architecture Awards have been established to highlight the continent‘s innovative and collaborative style of solving problems – architectural or otherwise. Saint-Gobain has engaged with some of the best minds in the field to establish this programme, so that the awards are relevant, contextual and progressive. We look forward to seeing the future stars and collaborative efforts this initiative will reveal!”

The seven-member Master Jury–that comprises Anna Abengowe (Nigeria); Patti Anahory (Cape Verde); Guillaume Koffi (Cote d’Ivoire); Phill Mashabane (South Africa); Professor Mark Olweny (Uganda); Professor Edgar Pieterse (South Africa); and Tanzeem Razak (South Africa)–will identify a shortlist of 20 projects, four trophy winners and one Grand Prix. The official awards ceremony is set to take on September 28, 2017 at Cape Town’s much-anticipated Zeitz MOCAA, designed by significant British architect Thomas Heatherwick, which opens to the public that very same week.

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Evan Lockart-Barker says the awards shall bring African architecture and its diaspora into the global conversation, in response to the clear need for such dialogue. The organisers say a Lifetime Achiever’s Award shall be given at the discretion of the Master Jury “to an architect or architects who have made a significant contribution to the professions of architecture and/or urban design over a substantial period of time.”

the Master Jury, the organisers say, will approach the Africa Architecture Awards through a values-based system around the following three criteria:

  • Innovation – of design, materials, approach, practice, new forms of public space
  • Identity – projects that deal sensitively and innovatively with heritage and tradition; that embody cultural sensitivity and contextual interpretation; that consider appropriation and repurposing of use; and that attempt to translate traditional ways of building/occupying space into modern and contemporary contexts, and
  • Implementation – the energy and inventiveness required in Africa to create and implement projects in markets with varying levels and scales of economic government support and infrastructure.

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“The intention of the awards is to create a broader awareness of the issues and opportunities inherent in the built environment in Africa through dialogue, analysis and critique. The awards will celebrate design excellence and promote an increased awareness of the role and importance of sound architectural theory and practice across Africa and the diaspora. The intention is to honour established architects and encourage emerging and future voices,” says Lockhart-Barker.

“These awards present an opportunity to be an integral part of building an architectural culture that is Pan-African in its scope and ambition, but one that looks firmly towards the future. Finding new means to tell an innovative, responsive and responsible narrative about what it means to be African, modern, forward-looking, inventive but also proud of our past, of our multiple heritages, cultures and contexts, and how these things coming together, are shaping a new Africa,” explains Professor Lesley Lokko, who chairs the Africa Architecture Awards Steering Panel and is head of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg in the commercial capital of South Africa.

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