Africa : New Architecture Journal to be launched in South Africa

Statement of Intent : Architecture Africa Journal - Regional Criticism

The journal will encompass work from regions across the African continent - from the southern shores of the Mediterranean down to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost reach of our vast landmass. The publication will be edited by an editorial collective which will operate in collaboration with guest editors and local individuals up and down the continent. For logistic reasons, the collective will be based in Johannesburg, South Africa. While we have more frequent appearances in mind, the journal will initially be published in alternate months.

Our primary purpose in launching Architecture Africa is to help engender and sustain a pan-African universe of constructive, of penetrating architectural criticism. This will be directed at:

a) the written, drawn and other pictorial work that we publish;

b) the regional contexts in which the work is conceived, executed and inhabited;

c) the modes of architectural practice by which the work is carried out;

d) and, not least, local, regional architectural education.

We shall be critical; by which we mean that we shall engage critically with particular local conditions as well as with the universal, global elements of our world. The reasons for this questioning approach lie in the current circumstances in which architectural work is undertaken.

As more and more people rebel against the brutal monuments of transnational, of corporate capital - familiar to us as the corrupted International Style - so a shabby cover-up is foisted on us. We are presented with the same old boxes, but with tacky signs and symbols stuck on; apparently in the belief that if one shouts loud enough, no one will hear what is being said or notice what is being done. This purportedly ‘post-modern’ architecture has led to the phenomenon of our cities not only looking out of place, but being out of time.

The arbitrary pillaging of history, of cultures, in the search for bits to stick onto the facades of our buildings, has produced an urban environment in which we no longer know where we are or in what historical period we are expected to be living. And that has seeped into our rural and semi-rural areas.

We recognise that if people are to feel at home in our built world, then that world must express who they are. Architects must draw on the particular physical qualities of the places in which they live - the light, the climate, the shape and feel of the land - as well as on the experiences, historical and current, of the people by and for whom buildings are produced. At the same time, critical designers recognise that most African regional areas have been subjected to the ravages of colonial exploitation, of racism, gender dominance ... of imperialism. There is no utopia of the past, of the local, the vernacular.

Critical architects seek to remind people of where they have been so that they are better able to go where they might wish. In so doing, critical designers do not simply push aside the products of an increasingly global, a highly pressurised economic system. Quite the contrary. They attempt to use contemporary materials and techniques by counter-posing the new with the old, the local with the universal, so that each may be seen in a different light. This is an architecture of resistance to global meaninglessness, not a superficial synthesis.

Professor Alan Lipman

Professor Lone Poulsen
Editorial Collective Chairperson

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