THE IMPACT OF ARCHITECTURE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ACROSS AFRICA IN THE LAST FEW YEARS
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There is a saying that an Architect’s first responsibility is the people who are affected by his work. Architecture can create better places, and can affect the society with a major role in creating civilization and make a community more livable. Though, we are not expecting architecture to be totally responsible for social wellbeing, or stimulate a healthy economy by funding public construction, ending homelessness, improving education, and finding cure for general diseases like epidemic or pandemic. Not as essential as farmers harvesting food or teachers educating students; or the saying that a great school building does not itself teach even if it could provide a better learning environment. However you see these positions, the reality remains the fact that it’s difficult to substantiate the effects of architecture on our lives and our community.
For the general public, especially in Africa, to begin to see architecture as a social catalyst that it is, we need to start looking BEYOND PRACTICE. When architects volunteer in community nonprofit organizations or influence society conditions through designs that can cause positive social change that is social responsibility beyond practice. In the world of today, it’s a very few people that would choose to give up some personal possessions to help the poor or dedicate their time to a cause. However, many people really want to make a contribution to a social entity by giving some portion of their time or financial resources to help the disadvantaged and benefit the society.
As an architect, you can have a significant role in improving the well-being of communities by getting directly involved with nonprofit organizations and raise public awareness of critical social and environmental issues. You may argue that you chose the field of architecture because you have a calling to take a role in influencing the built environment. But I will say architectural education facilitates the development of critical thinking abilities, which can be applied to solving problems and addressing situations beyond design. So your social responsibility is not limited to needs related to the built environment or environmental issues only. Your critical thinking abilities can also be valuable in designing an organization or setting strategic goals and implementation plans. It could be government plans, community development projects, social education plans, politics etc. Below are some of the architects, groups and individuals around the world who have taking social responsibility on their shoulders to make a difference:
THE LAGOS STATE CHAPTER OF NIA TOUR VANDERLIZED LOCATIONS BY RIOTS IN LAGOS DURING THE END SARS PROTEST IN 2020
Images by NIA Lagos State Chapter
As part of the commitment to exercise architectural social responsibility in the state, the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Architects [NIA] on the 14th of October 2020, visited the site of the properties looted and destroyed by hoodlums in the state during the recent social unrest in the country. In showing solidarity with the people affected and the government, the state chapter shared themselves into three teams that visited major affected areas in the state; Team01-Circle Mall Lekki, Team 02-Adeniran Ogunsanya Mall, Surulere and Team03-Pen Cinema, Agege displaying emotional gesture to the situation which came as a reaction to the #EndSars Lekki tollgate shootings on October 20, 2020.
Arc Abimbola Ajayi, The immediate past Honorary General Secretary NIA, who led delegations to Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall, expressed dismay with the level of destruction at the mall. While the former Chairman of the state chapter said that malls are designed to be open and accessible; there are no definite measures to prevent robbery or looting because no design is full proof. Therefore architects cannot design against riot; doing that means you want your facility to look like an embassy and that would not work out as a mall.
Arc Moniba Odunlami, the General Secretary of NIA Lagos State Chapter described the tour as an enablement that allowed the architects to have a firsthand assessment in order to report back to the State government their findings which will aid the government on the numbers of damages done during the #Endsars protest that was hijacked by hoodlums and design policies.
ITALIAN ARCHITECT ARTURO VITTORI WON 2019 THE DESIGN AWARD FOR SOCIAL IMPACT THROUGH HIS FIRM WARKA WATER
Images by Warka Water
The Italian architect Arturo Vittori through his firm Warka Water the 2019 The Design Prize award winner for social impact, an award dedicated to projects and initiatives that are relevant to many. The non-profit organization committed to providing sustainable solutions to some of humanity’s most enduring problems which are lack of potable water and other issues. The architect has devoted his life to the mission of sustainably bringing potable water, and proper sanitation and hygiene to some of the world’s most isolated communities. Below are some of the projects he did in Africa.
The non-profit organization known for its architecture of generosity, led by the Italian architect Arturo Vittori also built an integrated village with water harvesting from air in Cameroon. The project was completed and operative with about 30 people, including both workers and pygmy people’s hunter-gatherers of the tropical rainforest living on site. The project called the ‘Warka Village’ is an ambitious development that builds on Arturo Vittori’s previous work in the area that saw him awarded THE DESIGN PRIZE 2019 in the category of ‘SOCIAL IMPACT’.
ARCHITECT FRANCIS KERE WON THE AGA KHAN AWARD IN 2001 FOR BRINGING EDUCATION TO HIS NATIVE HOME
The Pritzker Prize winner Architect Francis Kere was born in the small West African town of Gando in Burkina Faso. Raised in one of the poorest communities in the world, Kere was awarded a scholarship to study architecture in Berlin, Germany where he bagged a university degree in architecture and engineering. In 2001, he was awarded the Aga Khan Award for his exclusive native design of the Gando Primary School, a project he realized with the help of the Kere Foundation an organization set up to help improve the lives of people in West Africa. Presenting an extreme social burden and a deep bond with his country, he makes use of sustainable techniques with limited resources. According to architect Francis Kere, architecture is at the service of humanity. Building a building is a team effort and when I raised the school from my village, I implored all the inhabitants to explore the emotion of architecture that transmit with what I brought to reality. I use the materials that I have at hand, mud, water and wood. He said.
THE FIRST 3D ZEBRA CROSSING BY THE RIVERS STATE CHAPTER OF NIA
Images by NIA Rivers State Chapter
The inventive creativity of architecture was demonstrated by the River State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Architect (NIA) as they achieved the first 3D Zebra Crossing in the state capital Port Harcourt early this year. According to their Facebook Page [NIA Rivers State Chapter], their first attempt to start and complete the CSR Project was frustrated by the resultant Traffic Gridlock that it generated, for a side of the Dual Carriage Road had to be blocked off. Following the generous abuses by road-users, they decided to plan again, leaving an unfinished project.
But ‘’Architects never surrender! As quoted, they set a new date which was Sunday 19th January 2020, by 10.00 pm, to 5.00 am on Monday 20th January 2020. At the exact time of the said date, in the cold harsh Harmattan night, a few members, working with professional painters, commenced the work under Police cover. Some of the participants were Chairman of Rivers State Chapter of NIA, Arc. Asomba Andrew Egbuonu, Vice Chairman (who doubles as the Chair of RIBUF 1.0 Committee) Arc Tim Orji, RIBUF Committee Secretary, Izumchukwu Obimba, Arc Tejiri Akpofure, and Clive Ajieren respectively. By 5.00 am on Monday 20th January 2020, the exclusive Project was successfully delivered.
CAUKIN BUILT FOUR CLASSROOMS TO PROMOTE BETTER EDUCATION IN ZAMBIA
Images by CAUKIN Studio
In partnership with the charity organization called Mothers of Africa (MoA), CAUKIN Studio spent three months in rural Zambia constructing four classrooms and a teacher’s office for Evergreen School. The charity MoA which was established in 2004, seeks to improve maternal health, and reduce maternal mortality by providing access to reproductive health for all women. MoA quickly realized that by improving the education of the village children they could make a long term contribution to the charity’s overall objective. Children in Zambia are often only educated to the age of fourteen, with schools often oversubscribed and in poor conditions.
HIS HANDS ON AFRICA (HHOA) BUILT A DENTAL CLINIC & INSTITUTE IN REWANDA
Images by Heffrence Teow
In response to a call from His Hands on Africa (HHOA) a non-profit organization seeking to set up a dental clinic and training institute in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Heffrence Teow presented an innovative design that challenges the traditional idea of a clinical environment as his proposal for HOPE Dental Center in Kigali. The concept combines a subtle architectural expression with a series of inviting green spaces, aiming to create a welcoming sanctuary centered on the values of love and compassion.
Images by Article 25
The humanitarian architecture charity called Article 25 built a school in Niamey, Niger. Following their guiding philosophy to provide housing, schools and hospitals for communities who need it most, the UK-based charity has been working with College Hampate Ba to design and construct new classrooms and admin facilities, which will enable the college to accommodate up to 1,200 children from primary school age right through to lycee.
KANYE OMARI WEST BUILT AFFORDABLE, FABRICATED HOUSING FOR THE HOMELESS IN CALIFORNIA
The American super star Kanye Omari West took architecture social responsibility to another level by taking inspiration from star wars to design affordable, prefabricated housing for the homeless on his 300 acres of land in Calabasas, California, USA. West told Forbes Magazine that the structures were inspired by Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s childhood home in the star wars series. The design team specifically took ideas from the houses designed for the desert planet of tatooine in the movie. The super star further explained that the style of the structures are typical in arid areas where its underground approach utilizes earth temperatures to maintain warmth in cold weather and absorb heat in hot weather. The four dome-like prototype structures face threat of demolition following the authority’s claim that the project violates building codes of the area.
Kanye West has been indicating his interest in architecture and furniture design for a long time. In the year 2018 he announced via his twitter account that he was launching an architecture arm of his Yeezy Fashion Label. This was later motivated by his call for architects and industrial designers to join him on the project and make the world a better place.