Afrocentric Architecture is when the culture, aesthetics and spirit of Africa makes its way into the built environment. Why is this important? Because the lifestyles, traditions, motifs, colours, and soul of every African country is incredibly unique, and leaps and bounds removed from what other continents are doing.
Africa has a voice – and it is loud – and it is saying this continent is about more than just precious stones. Watch out, world; it’s time for Afrocentric Architecture!
3 Ways African architects are turning heads
1.Eco-friendly, locally sourced materials
African architects are resourcefully making use of eco-friendly, sustainable, and locally sourced materials like mud, clay, adobe, stone, thatch, wood, bamboo, and terracotta. These materials are not only decorative but also possess excellent thermal properties, providing natural insulation.
In conjunction with innovative technology, rammed earth walls (made from earth taken from a building site) and hempcrete blocks (made from the woody bark of the hemp plant) are ticking all the boxes too.
Many regions in Africa have also developed their own vernacular techniques and materials. As a result, woven mats, animal hides and recycled materials like scrap metal or repurposed containers are synonymous with African decor.
2. Green building initiatives
The continent is very much aware of the building industry’s contribution to carbon emissions. Architects are therefore making considerable efforts to promote sustainable architecture and green building practices.
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town is a good example of this. Built using a former grain silo, the museum is a piece of art on its own incorporating various sustainable features, including energy-efficient lighting, rainwater harvesting, and natural ventilation.
Another incredible green building is the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe. Inspired by the self-cooling mounds built by termites this building uses cool air from the basement and releases warm air through its chimneys. This passive cooling system significantly reduces the need for air conditioning.
3. African motifs and colour combinations
Did you know that colour can encourage dopamine creation thereby positively impacting one’s mood and emotions?
Africa is certainly a feel-good colourful continent and architects are incorporating African motifs, designs, colours, and patterns into architecture in various ways.
African patterns, for example, are often used in interior spaces to infuse a sense of cultural identity and vibrance. Traditional textiles, such as kente or bogolan fabrics, is used in upholstery, curtains, and wall coverings. Additionally, decorative elements like African masks, sculptures, or pottery are integrated into the design to reflect local artistry and craftsmanship.
Added to this, earthy and vibrant African colour palettes are used to instil cultural symbolism. Warm tones such as terracotta, ochre, and burnt orange commonly reflect the natural landscapes whereas bright textiles in shades of indigo, saffron and vibrant greens are used to design spaces that awaken the senses.
By using African aesthetics in architecture, architects can celebrate local cultural heritage, promote identity, and create spaces that resonate with the people and communities they serve.
At Veld Architects, we are incredibly proud to be a South African architectural firm. We have a passion for this country and continent and look forward to continuing taking the lead when it comes to innovation in design in this country.
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