Art in Africa's architecture

The continent’s most striking new buildings were shortlisted this week for the annual Africa Architecture Awards, which will be announced at the end of the month.

Several South Africans are among the finalists vying for the R130 000 main prize, and are being judged for a building’s environmental impact and its significance for community development.

Most notable among the local finalists, in the Built category, is the Umkhumbane Museum by Choromanski Architects and the eThekwini Municipality.

It was built in Cato Manor to preserve the area’s rich cultural and political history, and to inspire innovation.

Umkhumbane was the site of one of the apartheid government’s largest forced removal campaigns.

It is also where Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini chose to rebury his mother, Queen Thomozile Jezangani Ka Ndwandwe Zulu.

The building aims to exhibit the history of Zulu culture and provide a vehicle for the people of Umkhumbane to showcase cultural activities.

The dramatic One Airport Square, located in Accra, Ghana, and designed by MCA Architects, is another finalist, scoring highly on environmental friendliness.

It is significant because previous buildings have failed to have a modern aesthetic and simultaneously represent the culture of Accra.

The 17 000m² One Airport Square was inspired by local palm trees, and its overhangs allow for constant shading of the building’s glass walls.

The New Sight Eye Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo town of Ouesso, designed by Boogertman and Partners, is a finalist in the speculative category.

The hospital is located in an area where 80% of people are blind or visually impaired.

This is because of “river blindness”, a parasitic tropical disease that affects the skin and eyes, which is common among people living in rural areas.

The slanted design allows for sunlight to enter with ease, which adds to patients’ sensory experiences. The building aims to restore eyesight in a visually appealing environment.

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