THE AFRICAN ALMANAC
PROF LESLEY LOKKO & SUMAYYA VALLY
‘The void contains in itself all the potential of the space, all the relations not written or experienced. Void is the place of tension of something that will be, a space in power, but also the only place where the recollection of reality, the composition of the parts, the fragments of life, can happen.’
From the Greek διασπορά (‘scattering’, ‘dispersion’) the term ‘diaspora’ refers to a scattered population whose origins lie within a smaller, usually fixed, geographic locale. Diaspora has come to refer in particular to the historic dispersions of an involuntary nature, such as the Jewish Diaspora; the fleeing of Greeks after the fall of Constantinople; the African trans-Atlantic slave trade; the Irish after the Great Famine and, more recently, the dispersion of Syrians, Iraqis and Kurds in the aftermath of the Gulf Wars. Scholars have historically distinguished between different types of diaspora, based on different causes: imperialism, trade, labour or wars, for example. Social cohesion within diasporic communities and the strength of ties to their original or ancestral lands also varies, with some communities maintaining strong political ties with their homelands and others dreaming endlessly of return. Within architecture, however, scant attention has been paid to the spatial, urban and architectural implications of migration. Refugee camps, deportation centres and prisons appear to be the only spaces or architectural programmes that deal in any way with this most contemporary of issues, yet the epistemological potential locked into the history and experience of diasporic communities around the world has far-reaching consequences for all built environment disciplines, at multiple scales and levels, and from multiple perspectives. Unit 12 will visit the island of Réunion, a region of France separated from the ‘mainland’ by 6,000km and the outermost region of the EU, in order to uncover new potential spatial languages of movement, migration and diaspora to augment the architectural vocabulary of our times. The Major Design Project of the year will be the Ministry of Home Affairs. Projects may look at landscapes, seascapes, edge conditions, boundaries between land and sea, between past and present and between 'home' and 'away'. The aim is to challenge each student to find their own appropriate architectural tools of representation, form, structure, materiality, programme, with which to propose a new architecture that, in Derrida's words, 'bears some resemblance to that which might be found in it.'