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African Design Centre opens in Kigali

African Design Centre; “Bauhaus of Africa” is a new educational program that seeks to address the current dearth of professional designers across the continent. ADC, which opened its doors in Kigali this past fall, aims to be a fellowship-based hub of creativity, innovation and education that will be integral in building the houses, schools and health care clinics needed to preserve the integrity of African cities as its population grows.

It almost goes without saying that Africa is an ever-changing, ever-growing place. However, according to a 2013 report published by United Nations Development Programme in conjunction with UNESCO, Africa is due to see globally unprecedented population growth and urbanization in the next several decades. The same report cites that by the year 2030, more than half of Africa’s population will be urban residents. This, in combination with a population that is expected to grow to include as many as 1.2 billion people by 2050, means that current and future generations of African architects, designers and engineers will have to devise creative strategies to cope with the shifting needs that such a population boom will create.

African Design Centre, which opened its doors in Kigali this past fall, aims to be a fellowship-based hub of creativity, innovation and education that will be integral in building the houses, schools and health care clinics needed to preserve the integrity of African cities as the population grows.

When one looks into the facts, the need for African Design Centre becomes even more obvious. For instance, Christian Benimana, the Rwandan-born architect who is leading the implementation of the ADC notes that, to date, the relatively tiny European nation of Italy has four times more licensed designers than the entirety of Africa. Facts like this illustrate the rather massive dearth of homegrown training and education that exists on the continent in the fields most relevant to the building of infrastructure. The existence of African Design Centre hopes to tackle this: to mold the next generation of architects and designers whose perspectives and skills can bridge these pre-existing gaps.

African Design Centre is the “Bauhaus of Africa”

African Design Centre

The Centre is being built under the stewardship of MASS Design Group, a leading, impact-driven, human-centred design firm with offices in the United States and connections to Rwanda. The approach outlined by the African Design Centre is multi-dimensional, but its primary aim is to create sustainable, project-based educational opportunities for young Africans with degrees in such fields as Urbanism, Landscape Architecture, Industrial Design, and Engineering, among others. Fellows and apprentices of Africa Design Centre will be trained in impact-driven, mission-based architectural approaches, through the design of much-needed houses, schools and hospitals.

In every way, ADC’s approach to training and educating young creative Africans prioritizes the ability of architecture and design to participate in the health, well-being and overall dignity of communities. However, the thinkers behind ADC also realize that in order for architecture and design to have their maximum positive impact, students of the Centre will need to be trained to embrace the multi-disciplinary nature of the tasks at hand. Broadly speaking, this multi-pronged pedagogical approach might be referred to as Design-Build Education. This model will involve site and context analysis, construction, design and evaluation in order to give ADC Fellows a true sense of how many modes of study and examination must be brought together in order for any architectural project to truly and appropriately serve the public good.

African Design Centre

For instance, ADC Fellows will play an important role in the construction of schools in Musanze, Rwanda. Following from African Design Centre’s commitment to human-centred design approaches, special consideration will be given to making these schools child-friendly, safe, and ultimately, conducive to learning.

Within the next decade, African Design Centre aims to positively transform the continent, as the encroaching demands of the population boom will require great investment in infrastructure and human capital; ADC will achieve maximum positive impact, it hopes, by offering to its students comprehensive training which emphasizes the virtues of hands-on experience, interdisciplinary education and research in techniques, materials and elements of craft that can lead to design innovations. In these ways, African Design Centre will change the landscape of architectural and design education, and in so doing, help to build a better future for the entire continent.

African Design Centre

In fact, each project the ADC and its Fellows carry out will have a clear mission: a simple, legible, transmissible idea that speaks to a greater societal goal. By creating poignant, clear, localized and context-specific objectives for every one of its projects, African Design Centre hopes it will play a necessary part in helping Africa adapt swiftly and skillfully to the complexities of exponential population growth and urbanization.

Initially published in TAP MAG ISSUE 8

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