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.
GSA-BOOGERTMAN+PARTNERS ILS # 8 - CASTILLO MIRAS ARQUITECTOS
Mercedes Miras studied architecture at the Seville School of Architecture (ETSAS). In 2000 she established her own architectural practice in Almeria, Spain. Her work has mainly involved the restoration and preservation of historical buildings, including the renovation of a Renaissance historical building to house the Andalusian Photography Museum and the restoration of a Nasrid Tower in Huercal-Overa. She has also worked for the Andalusian Regional Government on social regeneration projects in deprived areas. Luis Castillo studied architecture at the Madrid School of Architecture (ETSAM) and the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA). In 2000 he established his own office in Almeria, Spain having worked in several practices in Spain and Holland. He has lectured widely in Spain on his work. He has written various articles about architectural theory, published mainly in OASE, the leading Dutch architectural journal. Together their work has been published in international architectural journals Casabella, C3, Metamorphose, Detail and in Spanish architectural journals Pasajes de Arquitectura, Diseño Interior, Arquitectura Viva and ARV. Castillo Miras Arquitectos was one of the ten finalists for the 2016 Aga Khan Award of Architecture.
GSA-BOOGERTMAN+PARTNERS ILS # 7 - CHARLES HOLLAND
Charles Holland will present a series of architectural projects exploring shared themes to do with architectural style, symbolism and language. The lecture will explore the way in which these projects emerge from a mix of common themes, personal obsessions, practical needs and individual circumstance. Charles Holland is an architect, teacher and writer. He is the principal of Charles Holland Architects (CHA), a multi-disciplinary design practice based in the UK and is Professor of Architecture at the University of Brighton. CHA’s work covers architecture, art, teaching and research and ranges in scale from the urban masterplan to the domestic interior. He is a former director of FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) and a co-founder of Ordinary Architecture. His work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Royal Academy of Art, the RIBA and the Victoria and Albert Museum. While at FAT, he was the director in charge of A House For Essex, the practice’s creative collaborative project with the artist Grayson Perry. He writes and lectures about architecture and the work of his practice regularly and contributes to numerous magazines and journals.
Lesley Lokko on the origins of the GSA for #Bartlett100
The GSA is the only architecture school in Africa offering the unit system, where the learning environment is organised around year-long design studios or 'units'. Lesley Lokko, Director of the Graduate School of Architecture since 2014, writes for the #Bartlett100 archive on the inception, growth and meaning of the Graduate School of architecture at University of Johannesburg South Africa. Click here to read the full article.