Showing posts with label architecture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label architecture. Show all posts

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Rural Modern Library

The new generation of local Washington, DC public libraries coming on line have been referred to as "striking ... buildings that sit like aliens in their neighborhoods, thoroughly unlike their surroundings—and intentionally so." Two of the libraries--Hillcrest and Washington Highlands library/Bellevue--were designed by British architect David Adjaye -- who's of Ghanaian descent and was born in Tanzania.

In the video clip below Adjaye walks a young resident of Bellevue, a community that has seen decline since the the mass exodus of the middle class in the 1980s, through his design of the library. He talks about the power a library--one of the only public funded spaces dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge, hope and possibility--has in affecting its local community.


Already there are signs of a "library effect" in the spate of new development projects coming to the area. Lydia DePillis writes in Washington City Paper:
... local ANC commissioner and Friends of the Bellevue Library president Dionne Brown says she's fielded calls from developers excited about the new building, which is totally unlike anything the neighborhood has ever seen. "It created a signal," Brown says. "It created a ripple in the local economy."
She argues:
...the kind of architecture that reinvests neighborhoods with a sense of pride and erases the mistakes of the past is important, even if that means not every neighborhood gets something new. If you start looking at statistics already being collected on the new buildings—the rate of new card registrations in the old libraries vs. the new ones, or overall number of items checked out—you get much better bang for your buck.
Burkinabe architect Francis Kere has shown that rural African communities can also make use of other kinds of scale modern architecture can bring to, for example, a rural school building - as in his now famous design of a primary school building at Gando. Below, Hunter College's Kate Parry reaffirms how the library allows the notions of public space, community wellbeing, community pride and empowerment to all overlap. Using the example of a small village library she's been working with in Southern Uganda, she notes that libraries in rural African communities are not only centers for disseminating literacy but they also double as a hub for other community building activity.


FAVL's thoughts on building rural libraries in Africa - here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Modern Architecture in Tanzania

An excerpt from Dutch architect and film maker Jord den Hollander's 2009 documentary on Anthony B. Almeida and modern architecture in Tanzania...

From synopsis:
In 1950 architect Anthony B. Almeida was one of the first to introduce modern architecture in Tanzania. At that time architectural modernism was the preferred expression of the intended colonial welfare state. After Independence in 1961 Nyerere’s African socialism used the same architectural style to convey the hope and strength of the new African nation. Following Almeida and some of his colleagues, the film questions what is left of the dreams and ideals of this first generation. It searches for new definitions of happiness in booming African cities like today’s Dar es Salaam. The film documents the everlasting human pursuit of modernity, not only in architecture but also in contemporary urban life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Advancing Bilingual Design Between Arab and Latin Typographic Worlds

 Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès is the founder of the Khatt Foundation Center for Arabic Typography, which is dedicated to advancing design research-- especially bilingual typographic research and design--and typography in the Middle East, North Africa, and their diaspora.

With the recent release of Arabesque 2: Graphic Design from the Arab World and Persia, it is time to revisit AbiFares' Typographic Matchmaking in the City project which brought 5 teams of Dutch and Arab designers together over a period of 18 months to explore the relationships between Arab and Latin typography, typography and architecture, as well as the visual musicality of calligraphy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Africa: The Africa Centre - Past and Future

On Friday the Guardian postd a pic of architect David Adjaye's vision for how the Africa Centre's Grade-II listed building in Covent Garden, London, might be restored.

Authors Ngugi wa Thiong'o & Abdilatif Abdalla back in May 2011 share fond memories about the center - here.

H/T: African Art in London

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kenya/Ghana: Threatening to Farm on Neglected Roads

To protest the local government's 24 year neglect of a road, the denizens of that part of Nairobi take first steps in turning the road into a banana patch. Best case for urban agriculture we've come across. Below, Kwesi Owusu's 2010 look at urban vegetable farms in Accra city, Ghana, grown on the land under electricity pylons, using human urine as fertilizer.

Explore the "Africa" tag over at fab City Farmer blog.

H/T: Timbuktu Chronicles

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Egypt: Cairo's Al-Darb-al-Ahmar

Oliver Wilkins' 2009 short documentary looks at Al-Darb-al-Ahmar, a district in Cario where in the past highly skilled artisans plied their trade creating some of the world's most beautiful Islamic architecture.

Since left behind by modernization, the doc looks at how conservation, restoration and the publicity generated is bringing new sorts of demand.

H/T: CairoObserver

Friday, June 10, 2011


Jugaad Urbanism — an exhibit featuring the work of urban designers inspired by the resourcefulness of ordinary citizens in India - from solar powered rickshaws to a canopy made of recycled oil cans...

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.
H/T: Cairo Observer

South Africa: Walls of an Exhibition/Closet Space

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Tholi Tshabalala's "Fashion Meets Architecture" at Arts on Main, The Maboneng District, Johannesburg. Garments on display will be changed every week so that visitors will get an opportunity to see new and unique designs should they visit the expo more than once. The exhibition features eleven South African designers who are normally only accessible during fashion weeks hosted throughout the country.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Africa: Township Barbershops & Thoughts on New Social Spaces

Head to KMBA for some pics from British photographer Simon Weller's book “South African Township Barbershops & Salons” More pics - here.

Against the backdrop of barbershops as remnants of social spaces that still foster interactions in our increasingly wired townships and cities, Timbuktu Chronicles recently posted Nigerian TED Fellow Olatunbosun Obayomi of the BMW Guggenheim Lab sharing his thoughts on how to forge new urban systems that cater for interaction and interdependence yet preserving individual comfort:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Egypt/ Italy: Prix du Patrimoine, 2011

The French re-print of late Italian artist Attilio Micheluzzi's graphic novel Bab-El-Mandeb (Publisher: Mosquito. Publication date: September 30, 2010), a tale of set in 1935 Egypt, won the Prix du Patrimoine at the Angoulême Festival 2011--i.e. the Cannes festival for comics--a few weeks ago. DigiBidi 12-page preview below:

Bab-El-Mandeb's BDZoom review:
We are in 1935 in Egypt, specifically in Alexandria.They are four, and ... apparently [have] nothing to do with each other. Yet, as and when the human trajectories intersect or collide, these four also prove complementary indissociable. Libertario Miccoli, the Italian anarchist and antifascist who found himself despite his political exile in North Africa. Kekmat Fahmi, the Egyptian dancer who has a crush on Libertario. Peter Cushing, Sergeant Major of the British army began its descent into personal hell, between alcohol and gaming And then there's Lillian Kelly Woodham, Lady humanist who has been at the wrong place at the wrong time, even if this "bad" was quickly transformed it into an exciting adventure ...
More on Bab-El-Mandeb - here. Once a famed architect working in Libya for king Idriss, Micheluzzi got extradited back to Italy when Gaddafi took power. Micheluzzi's art screams to us Alex Toth, but with a sparser architectural aesthetic and ink work to die for. More Micheluzzi pages - here.  Prix du Patrimoine announcement below:

Friday, November 19, 2010


Architect Andrew Berman's 2007 design for a private library. sweet. but, minus the desk, best private library design i've come across still is...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Eritrea: Italian Influence on Asmara - Photography of Jean Robert

Get a load of photographer Jean Robert's amazing pics of the Eritean capital city as an Italian architectural time capsule (hover your cursor over pictures 4 captions):

Asmara, frozen city. Eritrea - Images by Jean Robert

From Robert's intro:
For many travelers it's a big surprise to discover a slick city crammed with architectural gems, a showcase of the Art Deco, cubist,expressionist,functionalist, futurist and neoclassical architectural styles. Mussolini and his fascist government who aimed to annex the neighboring country of Ethiopia developed Asmara between 1934 and 1940, expending enormous funds. The city, which is situated at an altitude of 2400 m, even called itself "Piccola Roma". The most developed city of the continent emerged as a result of large scale urban planning and the latest
architectonic inventions built by talented young Italian architects. The Italian population was increased from 4000 to 70 000 at this period and the native population doubled to 200 000. Isolated for nearly 30 years during its war against Ethiopia; Asmara escaped both the trend to build postcolonial piles and the push towards developing world urbanisation. Today Asmara remains a model Art deco town. Since 2005, an official application for status as part of the Unesco World cultural heritage programme has been under assessment.
Below, I couldn't resist rehashing this old post of MIT student John Ellis taking us behind the scenes of the sheer scale of Italian urban planning carried out in Asmara in the 1930s:

Friday, July 16, 2010


Above, Richard Florida, director of The Martin Prosperity Institute, University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, talks about the world in 2050 and future urban agglomerations that will dwarf all we've seen so far. And speaking of all we've seen so far, check out the reverse time lapse below, part of the Mammoths and Mastadons exhibit at The Field Museum in Chicago. The time lapse visually unwinds a patch of urban real estate through the last 20,000 years:

by Greg Mercer and Emily Ward and David Quednau

Saturday, June 19, 2010


... on Saturday

Architecture Journal recently put together the top five comic book cities. A tribute to Moebuis and Brit anarchists that gave us Mega City One:

Earlier this year there was a panel convened around the topic of the influence New York's skyline, architecture in superhero comics. At the Atlantic, Alyssa Rosenberg wrote:
There's no question that so many comics feature New York because the industry was centered there. Gutiérrez pointed out that Metropolis, Superman's earthly hometown, was originally modeled on Toronto, but became more like New York because DC Comics was headquartered there. But the role of New York and other large cities in the comics isn't just about shorthand or proximity. The architecture, both real and transliterated, makes for grand backgrounds. Fingeroth shot the photos of the New York skyline that became an iconic cover for one of his Ka-Zar comics: skyscrapers fill comics panels more easily than Midwestern wheat fields. And when those skyscrapers, or grand, swooping bridges are landmarks superheroes share with us, the events that happen there have particular emotional resonance. Gwen Stacy's death would have been shocking no matter the setting. But because the bridge the Green Goblin threw her off of, and where the whiplash from Spider-Man's webs breaks her neck, is the George Washington Bridge, the tragedy is written directly into a familiar landscape.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Africa: Architecture when Slum Growth = Urban Change

What Tanzanian born British architect David Adjaye says below about the real inspiration of architecture once again being a rapidly changing urbanism recalls this post on African slums, which are said to be growing at a rate of 4.53%, whilst the overall growth rate of the African cities themselves was at 4.58% in the same period. In other words, "almost all of the growth that will unfold in African cities take the form of slum growth."

Urban geographers have already started talking about the need to stop looking at slums as evidence of the failure of government policies or modernization in Africa, but to begin "theorizing African urbanism from the perspective that the innately complex and diverse "lifeworlds" of these slums already contain efficiencies and problem-solving designs, that due to nature of slums, remain unplugged from the urban grid.

Another way to put it might be, upon realizing the untapped wealth and potential of slums, maybe architecture, in this context, now becomes how to come up with design solutions that finds ways to harness the energies of slums and plug that energy back into the modern order and capitalist engine of the cities in which they are in. And - ka-ching! The end result being, because of architecture's reorientation and solutions, the brokers of the engines that run these cities (government and private sectors) will stop looking at slums just as social welfare, amenities, and food for bulldozers. Rather, if slums can be plugged back to the grid, they will be incentivized to go into them as they are and make them work for African cities. At least so the theory goes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Africa: Sustainable + Design

Some designs from the National Design Triennial "Why Design Now" exhibit at the Cooper-Hewit Design Museum:


A simple grid of half-submerged tires which can be built anywhere in the world is a universal and adaptable Learning Landscape designed (by Project H Design) to teach elementary math education:


Ripple Effect, a collaboration between the Acumen Fund, IDEO, and Indian and Kenyan water organizations, stimulates innovation among water suppliers. Here are 5 designs/innovations to make you go hmmm..


A 700-year-old construction, low-cost construction method, consisting of thin tile vaults stretching across large spaces without form work built with local materials ad labor and achieves high structural strength and is energy-efficient. Lead architect, Peter Rich:


From the old and expensive method of  tide currents turning undersea turbines to the much cheaper idea of ocean waves turning....

This design dumps the old idea of flat photovoltaic panels placed on your roof for mirrors on a concave satellite arrays tracking the sun through the day, focusing its light onto a small generator to produce electricity and thermal energy:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Africa: African Architecture - MIT Student Presentations

John Ellis talks about African colonial urban planning imposed by the Italians upon Asmara, Eritrea, in the 20s and how it reflected changes back Italy in terms of modernism and later Fascism under Mussolini. He then goes on to investigatory experiments by various architects departing from the Le Corbusier narrow frame of mind International Style and looking to make buildings that responded and adapted to the local environment.

MIT student, Nancy Demerdash's "Before the scramble for Africa: tracing African architecture through trade" goes back to 1200 to understand the historical development of various architectural forms as a function of natural resources in the complex changing societies and trading economies that depended on these resources. Also, how different architectural typologies evolved and were impacted by environmental and climatic changes. In other words, she tries to explain architecture as a function of trade and trade routes and touches on Ait-Ben-Haddou fortifications in the Ouarzazate province of Southern Morocco, the Djenne Mosque in Mali following trade on to Mopti, on to the Swahili trade routes ending up in Zimbabwe.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Africa: Enter the UN's 1950s Time Warp

A rare look inside the bowels of the United Nations Head quarters in New York:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Burkina Faso: The Architecture of Francis Kéré

pic: BBC/ Francis Kere

Bukinabe architect Diebedo Francis Kéré, who is in London to take part in lectures on climate change and design, speaks with the BBC's Mark Coles about sustainable buildings. Click below:

Yep, they talk about the primary school he built in his home village of Gando, Burkina Faso, which won him the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture and The Global Award For Sustainable Architecture. The Global Award Doc on his work below:

Another look, this time in German:


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