Posted: 14 August 2020
GSA Files. Natache Sylvia Iilonga. ST #15. © Fred Swart

Natache Sylvia Iilonga
ST #15

Natache Sylvia Iilonga is a Namibian black woman, creative architect, social experimenter and photographer. She completed her Bachelors in Architectural Studies degree at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2014 and Masters of Technology in Architecture (Professional) at the Graduate School of Architecture in 2017; she is presently doing her Architect-in-Training with Nina Maritz Architects in Windhoek. Further, she is a co-founder and active member of the ‘Decolonising Space Group’; critically writing, co-organising public space discussions around the fire and public-space interventions such as Land Pavilion Project and The Production of Gendered Spaces for Owela Art Festival – focused on spatially-experimental dialogue around access to land, socio-spatial decolonisation, gender and identity.


Q: What was your time at the GSA like?
A: Self-affirmation, obsessions, production, emotional and trust (I write the way I speak). It was a competition and comparison free safe space that allowed me to be unapologetic about expressing an African architecture, redefining an African architecture and manipulating ‘architecture’ to be my tool for expression. Apart from amazing individuals and teachers, I learnt that architecture is space…so define your realistic spatial obsession. Architecturally expressing the experience of the black woman’s body in space, would have been unheard of at a traditional architectural school.


Q: How has the GSA impacted your life?
A: I was taught the art of self-confidence, critical inquiry, representation & presentation techniques, and thinking beyond the taught words and traditional thesis. Transformative pedagogies. I apply these skills in my experience with myself in city-space. And further in my decolonial spatial and visual praxis. Also, thank you to Safe Space where I was forced to self-interrogate myself and my biases, and that was an emotional journey of undoing years of layers of self-protection and anger and hurt, which ultimately allowed me to better express my intentions in my praxis.


Q: How do you think the GSA is shifting the profession?
A: GSA is producing provocative work, thinkers and African architects who are responding to African issues of space and society. And yet innovatively producing solutions be it digital or housing; explorative, speculative and futuristic constructions. We are African Architects.


Q: Did the GSA teach you to be an architect?
A: The GSA taught me to ask what on earth an architect in Africa actually is. And then I gave that title a definition.


Q: Are you an architect? Do you make architecture?
A: A spatial interrogator and experimenter, that is me as an architect and my practice.


Q: What do you have to say to future applicants and the next generation of architects?
A: To future applicants, we want leaders who will transform pedagogies, not sheep.


Q: How do you describe the movement we are creating at the school?
A: Decolonial and radical, smart yet seductive rebellion. The school is redefining The Architecture as language.


Q: Describe the GSA in one word / one sentence.
A: Seductive.


Q: Which staff member made an impact on your life at the GSA.
A: 3 Staff members I love, to be exact. (I feel like the word ‘member’ in the question should be ‘members’.)


Natache Sylvia Iilonga - Unit 10 Alumni, 2017. Graphic Design: © DieAteljee

GSA Files is an initiative that tracks our past students, staff and critics, in an ongoing, live archive of works and networks. View more records on our GSA Files tab on our website: