Making Africa: A continent of contemporary design

Buildings have the immense power of connecting people across cultures and their presence over centuries has helped unravel many mysteries of human nature, in fact, to better understand the way a group of people live, one looks at the places they frequent, the schools they attend and the cultural institutions they visit.  In the spirit of Heritage month, we did some research and rounded-up the five books on African Urbanism to keep on your coffee table.



David Adjaye, Edited by Peter Allison, 2011

Celebrated architect Sir David Adjaye’s collectable seven-volume tome explores conurbations in Africa. Adjaye focusses on 53 cities, grouped by terrain and region (the Maghreb, the Sahel, Savannah and Grassland, Mountain and Highveld, Desert, and Forest), and how history and environment have influenced the ways in which they have developed. Satellite images, statistics and critical essays, as well as Adjaye’s own numerous original photographs, provide points of entry into the built environment in Africa. Although comprehensive, African Metropolitan Architecture is not exhaustive. Instead, it opens up new ways of looking at African urban spaces, as well as providing visually exciting documentation of a moment in urban evolution on the continent.

African Metropolitan Architecture, David Adjaye



By Andres Lepik and Ayca Beaygo, 2016

Burkinabé Francis Kéré (Elle Deco’s September Icon) has a revolutionary approach to architecture. Local residents, community skills, environment, availability of materials and accessibility drive his site-specific concepts. Kéré does not see these constraints as limitations; rather, these aspects drive his creative vision. The result is functional vernacular architecture that is also exceptionally aesthetic. Radical Simplicity (the name comes from one of Kéré’s driving concepts) is the first monograph about the acclaimed architect’s work in Burkina Faso and abroad and provides a clue to creating innovative, enduring architecture – understanding how people will use a space is the basis of all truly great urban design.

Gando Primary School, Burkina Faso by the Kéré Foundation.



Edited by Kerstin Pinther, Larissa Förster, Christian Hanussek, 2012

A multimedia and multidisciplinary exploration of Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi, Kinshasa, and Johannesburg, AFROPOLIS: CITY / MEDIA / ART is a highly readable introduction to urban aesthetics in Africa. The design, which borrows from catalogue-style magazines like FOAM, injects new life into denser academic texts and the juxtaposition of different approaches to article style and theme produces a work that invites readers from multiple disciplines to engage with urban theory.




By Bettina Malcomess and Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, 2013

Riffing on Walter Benjamin’s unfinished Arcades Project, a collection of writing that aimed to capture the feel of 19th-century Paris, South African artists Bettina Malcomess and Dorothee Kreutzfeldt collate multiple texts, essays, excerpts, quotes, illustrations and photographs of and about Johannesburg in this ambitious archival project. The ‘collage’ of information reads as an exciting multimedia history of the mining camp-turned-metropolis. What also emerges is an aesthetic and identity particular to this (South) African urban centre – and a feeling of everyday life in the City of Gold.

Routes and Rites to the City: Mobility, Diversity and Religious Space in Johannesburg.



By Mateo Kries and Amelie Klein, 2015

What is the future of design in postcolonial Africa and what can design achieve on the continent in the 21st century? Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design addresses these questions, showcasing designers working across industrial design, decor, digital media, typography, photography, art, film and architecture. The selected work – such as the structural hairstyles of Nigerian women photographed by J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere and South African Justin Plunkett’s photo collages of multiple environments – occupy a cross-disciplinary sphere. A strong connecting thread in the design in Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design is the influence of the city space – its aesthetics, architecture, and citizens.

Amunga Eshuchi and Cyrus Kabiru, Big Cat; Mario Macilau, Alito, The Guy with Style; Frances Bodomo, Afronauts; Studio Riot, My Africa Is