Add to Cart Sold Out

"On the downside, the Chinese come with their own styles"

Africa is at the centre of our publishing programme this year: Its cities are the fastest growing in the world, which brings many challenges. Remy Sietchiping, from the UN, is an expert on the urbanisation of the continent. An interview on Chinese infrastructure, the perils of glass façades, and cities as engines of democratisation.

 

Interview: Björn Rosen
Photo: Informal constructions house the majority of Angola's population, © K. Luchansky

 

According to the World Bank, urbanisation is the single most important transformation that the African continent will undergo this century. Cities in Africa are the fastest growing in the world, and Lagos, Nigeria, is projected to become the largest city on earth by 2100, with 88 million inhabitants. Is this development stoppable?

No. People have always migrated throughout history. It’s part of human nature, and no policy or intervention can stop this behaviour in a democratic context. This is in fact a good thing. Developing countries usually have a higher percentage of their population living in rural areas. It seems that nations cannot really start being seen as emerging economies until they reach 50 per cent urbanisation.

Africa is currently still the least urbanised continent. But it also lacks an industrial sector, unlike recently emerging economies such as India, China, and Brazil.

I don’t expect Africa to take the same path towards urbani­sation. Of course, industrialisation is a lever of change, but it is not the only one. Cape Verde, for example, has a high human development index and a relatively high GDP, yet it has zero industry. Rwanda is also emerging, but not based on industries. I should also emphasise that the African continent is very diverse, and it is crucial to consider the nuances. Some countries are highly urbanised, others are not. Going back to Cape Verde: this is a small island country, where the majority of people live in urban areas. Meanwhile, in Namibia, people are highly concentrated in certain areas, while large parts of the country are almost empty.  

Africa’s population is rapidly growing. How much of its urbanisation is simply due to the higher birth rates?

That’s certainly one factor. The situation is far different from Europe, where birth rates are low and some cities are even shrinking. But another – often overlooked – reason is that life expectancy has been increasing in Africa over the last 30 or 40 years. Moreover, many villages or peri-urban areas are being agglomerated into ­urban ­areas. And, of course, people are moving from small ­rural towns and villages to bigger settlements.

This also leads to the growth of slums. On the upside, an article in Foreign Affairs recently argued that urbanisation is an ‘engine of democracy’ and that denser social networks make it easier to organise protest.

To some extent. Recent revolutions and protests all happened in cities, from the Arab Spring in Tunisia to the protests in Sudan. However, this is more a phenomenon of dense neighbourhoods where people feel that their fundamental rights have been violated. Those who live in posh neighbourhoods don’t necessarily feel the urge to take to the streets.

What can architects do to better manage African urbanisation?

Cross-sectoral collaboration is still largely under­explored in Africa. Architects often design a space without considering its impact on the city, region, and nation. This is a shame, because working with sociologists, anthropologists, and health practitioners can significantly boost creativity and innovation. Diverse viewpoints from different disciplines are crucial for understanding how society works. I also think African architects could be more careful about adopting ­other building cultures. It often makes no sense to build with a lot of glass. The material forces you to rely on air-­conditioning, which is costly and certainly avoidable if you adapt your building methods to local conditions. It is unfortunate that the use of local materials is widely seen as a somehow inferior approach.

Another major trend in Africa is the growing engagement of Chinese developers, who are building infrastructure all over the continent. Is this a positive trend?

Chinese investment has led to both improvements and concerns. Developers from China complete projects on time and rarely revise the budget. Working with Chinese developers is appealing for many African countries because the financing is easy. The interest rates are attractive, and you can pay with natural resources instead of cash. Chinese investment has enabled much of the business infrastructure built in Africa in recent years. So there are many positive aspects.  On the downside, the Chinese not only come with their own architectural styles, they tend to bring everything else required for the construction: tiles, doors, finishings – even parts that could be produced locally. Moreover, the architectural plans and maintenance manuals are all in Chinese. I have noticed during trips to China that the materials there are sometimes of a much higher quality than what I see in Africa. Finally, the contracts are prepared by the Chinese developers, and the countries often just sign them.

What about the rural regions that are being abandoned due to urbanisation? Do they need more attention?

Urgently. But so do the smaller cities, especially because they are more manageable. Early intervention enables you to attract investment and create the kind of city you want. If towns become more attractive, people won’t always want to flock to the major cities. This leads to a more balanced kind of development, with services and functions evenly spread out throughout the country instead of concentrated in one area. Rwanda is a positive example. The Rwandans make sure that the ­smaller towns have a clinic, a school, or another particular ­urban element that shapes the identity of the place.

 

REMY SIETCHIPING is a Nairobi-based representative of UN Habitat, the United Nations programme for human settlements and sustainable urban development. Born in Cameroon, he holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Melbourne. He has contributed two articles to Architectural Guide Sub-Saharan Africa.

The wait is almost over! After many years of research and preparation, our Architectural Guide Sub-Saharan Africa will be on the shelves in December. It will offer a unique insight into a wealth of buildings that is frequently overlooked in the west.

Other articles:

Buchvorstellung: Architekturführer Irak/Syrien

Das Buch lädt auf eine Reise in die Länder Irak und Syrien mit den weltweit ältesten Spuren von Architektur und Städtebau ein. Irakische und syrische Autoren sowie Kenner der Region berichten von den Ruinen in Babylon und Palmyra, von Wasserrädern und Basaren, von der Bagdadbahn und drei Megacitys – Zeugen kultureller und wirtschaftlicher Blüte, aber auch von Krieg und Zerstörung.

 

Zwischenstopp in: Toulouse

Christof Göbel, Mit-Herausgeber unseres Architekturführers über Toulouse, ist seit mehr als zwei Jahren zu Gast in der südwestfranzösischen Metropole. Was dem Stadtforscher dort besonders gut gefällt: Gewässer, Parks – und eine Raumstation.

 

Text: Christof Göbel
Foto: Die Garonne und das Hôpital de La Grave, © Gremi357

 

Toulouse ist die viertgrößte Stadt Frankreichs – und sehr charakterstark. Die engen Gassen im Zentrum zeugen von einer langen Geschichte, die bis in die gallo-­römische Zeit zurückreicht. Es ist außerdem Europas Rugby-Hauptstadt und der Ort mit dem Dialekt »le plus sexy de France«, wenigstens behaupten das manche Toulouser. Ich habe Toulouse dank ­eines Forschungsaufenthalts kennen­gelernt und finde es sehr lebenswert.

Wasser. Durch die Stadt verlaufen der Canal du Midi, der das Mittelmeer und den Atlantik verbindet, und die Garonne. Beide prägen Toulouse stark. Ich wohne im Umland, und wenn ich ins Zentrum fahre, zieht es mich oft ans Flussufer: Rund um den Place de la Daurade und den Place Saint-Pierre gibt es viele Cafés und Restaurants, bis spät abends geht es dort quirlig zu; ­Toulouse ist eine junge Stadt – in Frankreich haben nur Paris und Lyon mehr Studenten. Auf der anderen Seite der ­Garonne – einmal über die Saint-Pierre-Brücke – befindet sich ein Museum für zeitgenössische Kunst, in dem interessante Ausstellungen stattfinden: Les Abattoirs (76 Allées Charles de Fitte) besitzt auch einen guten Museumsbuchladen.

Erde. Ich bin seit 2019 zu Gast an der Uni­versität ­Toulouse–Jean Jaurès, Teil eines städtebaulichen Ensembles von Candilis-­Josic-Woods aus den Sechzigerjahren. Leider ist von deren architektonischer Idee nach diversen Umbauten wenig übriggeblieben. Gerne spaziere ich durch die nahe gelegenen Parks. Dort kann man Pigeonniers finden, wie man sie sonst eher außerhalb von Toulouse sieht: große ­Taubenschläge (oft zweistöckig auf ­einem Grundriss von 5 × 5 Metern und mit offenem Erdgeschoss), die je nach Region anders gestaltet sind. Teilweise hat man sie inzwischen zu Wohnungen umgebaut.

Luft. In Toulouse befindet sich ein großes Airbus-Werk, das man auch besuchen kann. Mit der Familie lässt sich die Beziehung der Stadt zur Luft- und Raumfahrt am besten in der Cité de l’espace (Avenue Jean Gonord) erleben, einem interaktiven und lehrreichen Themenpark. Ein Highlight dort sind zum Beispiel die vier Module der Mir-Station, die von 1986 bis 2001 im Weltraum unterwegs war.

 

CHRISTOF GÖBEL ist Mit-Herausgeber und Teil des Autorenteams (auf dem Foto der zweite von rechts) unseres Architekturführers zu Toulouse, der auf Deutsch und auf Französisch erschienen ist. Den aus Deutschland stammenden Architekten und Stadtplaner führte ein Forschungsaufenthalt nach Frankreich. Göbel ist Professor an der UAM in Mexiko-StadtFoto: Maison de l'Architecture Occitanie-Pyrenées  

Congratulations, Francis Kéré!

The architect and DOM author from Burkina Faso is this year's Pritzker Prize winner.

 

Photo: Astrid Eckert

 

On 15 March, Francis Kéré, a native of Burkina Faso, became the first African architect ever to receive the prestigious Pritzker Prize. Kéré was born in 1965 in Gando and has lived in Germany since 1985. His internationally active office Kéré Architecture is located in Berlin. He not only contributed to our Architectural Guide Sub-Saharan Africa, some of his great works are also represented in it, such as Christoph Schlingensief's Opera Village. His contribution to the English-language volume Theorising Architecture in Sub-Saharan Africa is entitled: "Building Commons. An Inventory of a Kampala Neighbourhood". We warmly congratulate Francis Kéré!

Wir unterstützen den Architektur-Nachwuchs

Zum wiederholten Mal beteiligt sich DOM publishers an Deutschland-Stipendien für Studenten der Hochschule ­Anhalt in Dessau.

  

Foto: © privat

 

Dabei handelt es sich um eine Förderung, die zur einen Hälfte vom Bund, zur anderen von privaten Geldgebern – zum Beispiel Stiftungen oder eben Unternehmen – übernommen wird. Die neuen DOM-Stipendiaten heißen Elsa Le und Oskar Schmid. Die monatliche Finanzspritze soll ihnen bei Anschaffungen fürs Studium helfen, etwa wenn es da­rum geht, Material für Architektur­modelle oder Software-Lizenzen zu kaufen.

Elsa Le stammt aus Kanada: Zur Welt kam sie 1993 in Frankreich, verbrachte die längste Zeit ihres bisherigen Lebens aber in ­Montréal. Ein einjähriger Auslandsaufenthalt hatte sie vor einigen Jahren an die TU ­München geführt, ehe sie für ihren Master im August 2020 nach Deutschland zurückkehrte – und damit leider mitten in der Corona-Pandemie. »Ich würde gerne noch mehr reisen, die Welt entdecken«, sagt Elsa. In welchem Bereich sie als Architektin arbeiten möchte, weiß sie noch nicht.

Dagegen hat Oskar Schmid, Jahrgang 1998, aufgewachsen in Unter­franken, eine ziemlich genaue Vorstellung von seinem Traumjob. Neben der Architektur – er studiert im siebten Semester und steht damit kurz vor dem Bachelor­abschluss – begeistert er sich sehr für Musik. Seit seiner Kindheit spielt er Geige und ist heute Teil des Akademischen Orchesters Leipzig. Gerne würde er seine beiden Leidenschaften verbinden. »Das Thema Akustik interessiert mich«, sagt Oskar – und denkt dabei an »Klang­räume«, seien es Konzerthallen oder Proberäume in Musikschulen

The fascinating story behind Moscow's Four Seasons Hotel

Myths surround this luxury accommodation and its peculiar story. For 4000 euros a night you can now stay right next to Red Square where the first Stalinist-style building once stood – it looked exactly the same.

 

Text: Damien Leaf
Foto: © depositphotos (skaliger)

 

On a booking platform, a German tourist praises the ‘great view of the Kremlin’ and an Italian extols the wellness area with its large pool. Judging by the reviews, the Four ­Seasons Moscow has satisfied customers. However, a one-night stay costs at least 800 euros and it can be 4,000 euros for the Premium Suite. The hotel with 180 rooms and suites is located between Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre and is one of the largest and most exclusive in Russia’s capital – and it has an incredible history.

The latter began in the early 1930s when the Hotel Moskva was built on the same site – it was one of the first new hotel buildings in the Soviet Union. Architecturally, under Joseph Stalin, who had been sole ruler since 1927, the country was undergoing a shift from the avant-garde to neoclassical eclecticism. Part of the shell construction was already in place when the original constructivist plans for the building by Leonid ­Savelyev and Oswald Stapran were abandoned. ‘Stalin wanted a monumental, rather classical and richly decorated building,’ says architectural historian Dmitrij Chmelnizki. The task of adapting the design to the dictator’s taste was given to Alexey Shchusev. ‘He created what can be considered the first Stalinist-style building’: an eight-column, six-storey portico with an open terrace, generous arcaded loggias in the centre of the main façade, and numerous balconies. The corners were accentuated with turrets. Bruno Taut, who was also involved in the designs, later wrote in a letter that Shchusev had taken over his floor plans, but in a distorted form.

Alexey Shchusev, born in 1873, was a special case in that he was one of the very few who had managed to rise to the top of the architectural hierarchy under the tsars and then repeat this success under Soviet rule. His name is associated with a wide variety of styles. He designed churches and the Kazan railway station in Moscow, but also constructivist buildings. He is probably best known for the Lenin Mausoleum of 1924. ‘Under Stalin, Shchusev was one of the country’s most important architects. That was cynicism, he adapted,’ says ­Chmelnizki, who recently published a critical monograph, Alexey Shchusev. Architect of Stalin’s Empire Style, on the architect. There were many myths surrounding the Moskva, the interior of which was furnished with works by the Soviet Union's most respected artists. No wonder: ‘The secret service was involved and everything was top secret. It was a hotel for foreigners and cadres, no normal Muscovite could enter.’

To this day, the legend circulates that the façade was asymmetrical because Stalin put his signature between two different designs and no one dared to ask. ‘In truth, it was just a matter of statics.’ The hotel was expanded in the 1970s, but it came to an end in the turmoil of the post-communist period. In 2002 the building was demolished for obscure reasons and against an initiative of the then Minister of Culture. Ironically, it was rebuilt almost immediately afterwards – with an asymmetrical façade true to the original.

Architecture Articulated: Unser Programm

In unserer Online-Reihe Architecture Articulated sprechen Autoren über ihre Bücher und ihre Themen – und unsere Leser haben die Möglichkeit, mit ihnen ins Gespräch zu kommen. Eine Übersicht der anstehenden Termine.

 

 

 

Derzeit sind keine Veranstaltungen geplant. Über neue Termine informieren wir Sie auch in den sozialen Medien, folgen Sie uns auf TwitterFacebook oder Instagram

 

Über Architecture Articulated: Die Veranstaltungen haben eine Länge von ca. 90 Minuten und finden per Zoom statt. Eintrittskarten kosten je 15€ und sind zugleich ein Gutschein über diesen Betrag für unseren Webshop. Ein Ticket berechtigt zur Teilnahme an einer Online-Lesung an einem Computer, Sie können also auch zu zweit oder dritt vor dem Bildschirm sitzen. Damit Sie möglichst störungsfrei zuschauen können, empfehlen wir, das Programm Zoom vorher kostenlos herunterzuladen. Zu der Uhrzeit, zu der die Lesung beginnen soll, klicken Sie bitte auf den erhaltenen Link: Dann öffnet sich entweder Zoom (falls Sie das Programm heruntergeladen haben) oder ein Fenster in Ihrem Webbrowser. Um an der Sitzung teilzunehmen, müssen Sie weder eine funktionierende noch eine eingeschaltete Webcam besitzen; Fragen können auch per Mikrofon oder im Chat gestellt werden.