Unit 12 Goes to Morocco!
Acting simultaneously as story tellers, architects, time travellers and choreographers of history, students in Unit 12 at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg, visited a Morocco, looking specifically at the Atlantic Coast as a site of historic significance in the histories of migration and settlement. Continuing the Unit’s interests in cultural identity, race, gender and architecture, students this year are tasked with developing new architectural and spatial vocabularies that speak to the rich themes of migration, diaspora and hybridity. The Major Design Project of the year is a New Port Authority (NPA). In different forms, ports are the earliest point of contact with a new region for migrants. The history of the establishment of ports is also intrinsically linked to the history of slavery and of the formation and policing of borders. The port is a space of crossing, of transition, of crossover.
New Ways of Site-Seeing: A Collaboration Between GSA Unit 14 and UTS Cities Under Surveillance
Ways of Site-Seeing, a one-week collaboration between Unit 14 of the Graduate School of Architecture (GSA), University of Johannesburg (UJ), and University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Master of Architecture Studio: Cities Under Surveillance, concluded in April 2019. The project paired students from both schools, with Johannesburg-based students presenting a range of sites and their Sydney counterparts offering instruments with which the sites could be read. Drawing on both cities’ preoccupation with security and surveillance, the project sought to ask: what does it mean to read one situation through the lens of another? At the culmination of the exchange, each pair exhibited two drawings and ‘evidence’ to form an installation. Some particularly notable projects which emerged from the collaboration included those which concern thresholds and spatial systems of control on entry (Mkansi, Ndebele and Marjan), atmospheric controls of surface (Bhyat); the control mechanisms of the automatic teller machine and betting units (Chanje and Cheang); and ability of the crop frame to change the nature of the perceived story (‘3rd Image, Crop Frame by Piscopo and Moumakwe).
Matri-Archi(tecture): a collective challenging mobility and locality through digital media
Matri-Archi(tecture) is a women-only collective that looks at urban development and spatial education on the African continent. Matri-Archi is co-directed by two women of colour with architecture backgrounds who consider themselves spatial agents - Khensani de Klerk and Solange Mbanefo. It works with 12 young pluri-disciplinary creatives and is active in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Switzerland and California. It publishes multi-media research via its webspace; engages in built work through projects and exhibitions, and brings its members together through live events, workshops and initiatives.
Portmanteau 003 | Uncanny Portrait
“Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.” Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities On 11 March 2019 Cyclone Idai reached peak intensity off the coast of Mozambique. Three days later, it made landfall at the northern edge of the east coast of Mozambique with catastrophic effect. At the same time, coincidentally, staff and students of Unit 13 at the GSA, University of Johannesburg, boarded a small 33-seater bus for Maputo.
Following a flurry of requests, we're launching a new initiative by posting our introductions to this year's International Lecture Series speakers. This week, Prof Lokko introduces Issa Diabaté of Koffi Diabateé Architectes, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. The full text of Prof Lokko's speech is below. Let us know what you think! Good evening, everyone, and thank you all for coming to the tenth in our year-long series of talks. We had a fairly slow start to the year owing to peoples’ schedules but it’s ramping up now to an almost-weekly event, which is great – and it’s great to see so many regular faces, as well as new ones. Tonight’s speaker is special for many reasons, not least because he’s a neighbour. Ghana and Ivory Coast – or, more properly, Cote d’Ivoire – share a border but historically, one being Franco-phone and the other Anglo-phone, we haven’t really shared much else. For two countries with so much in common, it’s a real comment on the linguistic and historical barriers that were set up by European powers over a century ago and on our own inability to cross them. I first became aware of my neighbour about fifteen years ago when young Ghanaian architects, looking for a new challenge and new horizons, began talking about this ‘amazing’ practice just next door . . . in 2006, my sister, who was almost # 6 in the ILS series, visited Issa’s offices in Abidjan and sent me some photographs. I was completely confused – not only did the office look nothing like any of the architectural offices that I’d seen anywhere in West Africa, their work didn’t look like anything I was seeing around me. Modern, restrained, rigorous, authentic and innovative, but without losing control or sight of its context. So, as far back as 2006, I was acutely aware of something very interesting happening on my doorstep. I next met Issa in person in Durban, at a Goethe-Institut workshop in 2009, I think. He spoke at length about setting up his practice in Abidjan and coined a wonderful phrase to describe what it’s like living and working as an architect in that context: mission creep. You start out thinking you’re being hired for your design skills and then you find you need the skills of a developer, a politician, an activist, a social worker, a contractor, a planner . . . and on and on . . . and so the mission ‘creeps.’ What’s remarkable about the work of Issa and his partner, Guillaume Koffi, is that for them, the ever-expanding definition of an African architect is a plus. Educated at Yale, fluent in several languages, including ‘architecture’, Koffi & Diabaté Architectes, in their own words, ‘explore and observe what is going on around them physically and sociologically’, not just formally. Africa’s population on the one hand, is very young, and on the other, is urbanising faster than anywhere else on the planet: these facts alone mean that technology is shaping this generation in unprecedented ways. For African architects, this means engaging not only with technology directly, but also anticipating what those changes will mean in terms of the built environment and the way we engage, shape and use it. Out of necessity, we need to be flexible in the way we understand architecture’s relationships to other disciplines, particularly those that deal in some way with information and vision. The so-called informality of this continent is less a drawback and a condition of poverty and more a way of thinking in contexts which demand invention, adaptability and resilience. So, tonight, I’d like to welcome one of the continent’s most important and understated architects, Issa Diabaté, to share his work and ideas with us, particularly with our young students and practitioners.
GSA-BOOGERTMAN+PARTNERS ILS # 9 - ISSA DIABATE
A Master in Architecture graduate from YALE University, Issa Diabaté is the Managing Director of the Koffi & Diabaté Architectes office and co-founder of Koffi & Diabaté Group. From 1991 to 1993, Issa Diabaté interned in architecture firms in Côte d’Ivoire (Goly Kouassi), the United States (Devrouax and Purnell) and in France (Jean Nouvel et Catani) where he participated in the “Cité Judiciaire de Nantes” contest. In May 1994, he joined the SAU Guillaume Koffi office as Architect Intern, to return in 1995 as Architectural Projects Manager. In 2001, Issa Diabaté partnered with Guillaume Koffi in the creation of Koffi & Diabaté Architectes. A member of Côte d’Ivoire’s Order of Architects (CNOA), Issa’s design work has presented at Senegal’s DAK’ART Contemporary Art Biennale (1998 laureate), and most recently at the exhibitions Abidjanow (Côte d’Ivoire) and Design Indaba (South Africa). He is one of ten African designers who worked on the IKEA and ÖVERALLT collection at the Design Indaba. Issa Diabaté has been appointed Knight of the Order of Cultural Merit in Côte d’Ivoire.