Posted: 14 March 2019


On the 4th of March, GSA Director Prof Lesley Lokko presented #ALLMUSTFALL, a lecture on the pursuit of transformative pedagogy in the African context, at Aura Istanbul. 

In the aftermath of the 2015 and 2016 student protests in South Africa (#RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall), the terms “transformation” and “decolonisation”   entered into everyday usage, particularly in tertiary in education. However, these have very quickly become over-used: no one fully understands what it means to decolonise a curriculum or ‘transform’ society. Lokko, quoting from political scientist Achille Mbembe, said, “The definition of what it means to decolonize and transform a curriculum remains a grey area. There is no clarity about whose responsibility it is to undertake this process.”

Evidently the GSA, together with the contributions of all its members, has taken on some of the responsibility to open up a new and exciting space in African architectural education, and for black students to find their voice.

In describing her approach to the topic of ‘race’ and architecture, Lokko drew attention to the clear difference between race and racism, admitting that she is not and has never been interested in racism, per se, but rather sees ‘race’ as a wonderfully rich, complex and creative term that is related to imagination, language, history, ritual and diaspora, and that there are multiple and exciting material and formal translations of that interest which are readily applicable to architecture.

GSA is the largest postgraduate school of architecture in Africa. In 2016, when Prof. Lokko first arrived at GSA, there were 11 students. Now there are 123, of which 62 percent are black. The GSA adopted the Unit System from the Architectural Association, replacing the more conventional South African model of architectural education. Since its beginning in 2015, Unit System Africa as yielded unexpectedly transformational and revolutionary results in a context far removed from its original 1970s London setting.

She concluded her presentation with these words: “We are not a school with any answers yet; we are a school that is interested in formulating questions.”

 - Feyza Sayman, Aura

Architecture and Urbanism Research Academy Istanbul (AURA Istanbul) is an academy operating to foster cooperation between interdisciplinary programs and practices, across various urban environments and phenomena. 

Watch the full lecture here. 

© AURA Istanbul