The best architecture in Africa : 4 inspiring projects recognised at the Africa Architecture Awards

The Africa Architecture Awards celebrates design excellence and promotes an increased awareness of the role of architecture across Africa. This year, 4 of over 300 submitters were awarded in the categories Critical Dialogue, Speculative, Emerging Voices and Built. The Grand Prix was given to to Chromanski Architects, honoring their Umkhumambe Museum in Durban as the best new building in Africa.

Here are the winners:

Built Category and winner of the Grand Prix

Umkhumbane Museum – by Choromanski Architects

Umkhumbane Museum in Durban by Choromanski Architects

‘As one of the world’s largest forced removal sites, Umkhumbane is iconically remembered for being the most vibrant and diverse community in Durban during a time characterised by separation. […] eThekwini Municipality identified Cato Manor as an ideal location to develop the “uMkhumbane Museum”, to preserve the rich cultural and political history and stimulate innovation. […]

The urban strategy aims to use technology and public space innovatively to access, network and enhance the culture, serving as a tool for community members to leverage in the co-creation of today’s Umkhumbane Culture. The stories of Umkhumbane in the 1940s were example of diversity and community during apartheid. Cato Manor today could provide much needed stories of regeneration and redress in South Africa.’

Speculative Category

The Territory In-between – by Aissata Balde, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg

Drawing of the award-winning series ‘The Territory In-between’

‘We live in an era of unprecedented migration. According to the UNHCR, the world is currently experiencing more human displacement and migration than after World War I. […] Migrants’ journeys are commonly portrayed as a linear progression from home to host nations. In reality, however, their spatial movements are replete with interruptions and discontinuities; occupying spaces of hiding, waiting, diversion, escape and settlement. Using drawings, I probe both these fluid and static notions of territory in Cape Verde. […] A series of drawings explore this in-between space and critique two conventional underpinnings of territory: ‘site’ and ‘state’, uncovering and exploring the relationship between the formation, contestation and absurdity of territories, the production of edges, borders, site, state and nations, and the experiences of bodies through these states.’

Emerging Voices Category

The Exchange Consulate: Trading Passports for Hyper-Performative economic enclaves – by Olawale Israel, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg

Collage of ‘Hyper-Performative economic enclaves’ es described in the prize-winning project The Exchange Consulate

‘A passport is a form of magic that allows you to walk through walls.’ – Sam Jacob (2017)

‘Johannesburg, like many other metropolitan cities, faces high levels of immigration both local and international. This against the backdrop of an apartheid history and a capitalist post-apartheid economic landscape has left many of the city dwellers, most of which are immigrants, excluded from the city’s social and economic activities. Immigrants have no rights to the city and access to facilities and services is highly institutionally restricted. Migrants are therefore, alternatively involved in informality as a means of survival and urban livelihood, by creating a new logic and rituals or practices which have created new geographies of opportunity for minorities.[…]

By creating own hidden boundaries, economic enclaves have developed a form of access control on how and by whom the enclaves are access. In this, we discover the existence of a “neo” form of “passport” that determines when and how enclaves of Johannesburg city are accessed by migrants. These passports are in different forms ranging from ethnic group, to language, to cultural beliefs and apparel. By way of appearance, a migrant urban dweller for example is able to have access to work opportunities within a particular space in the city. […] An architecture is thus revealed here that is time and space specific. This becomes the objective of the project; to reveal the fictitious boundaries of territorial organisations within the CBD and how they are accessed and by whom.’

Critical Dialogue Category

Forum de Arquitectura Entrant – by Ceica, Angola

Objectives of the Fórum de Arquitectura

‘“Fórum de Arquitectura” (Architecture Forum) is an annual event that takes place in October, in the historical heart of the city of Luanda, where it is located at the Lusíada University of Angola. It began in 2006, as part of the activities of the Department of Architecture and restricted to its teachers and students. Today, after years of continuous battles and perseverance, it can be said that it is the largest academic event in the area in Angola, which celebrates not only Architecture, but also everything that surrounds it. It raises debate on several disciplines, promotes interchange between universities at international level, has developed, over the years, own identity, and established a tradition in the angolan academic world. From the very first steps, “Fórum de Arquitectura” has a program open to all national Architecture Schools. […] It is our intention to cover the SADC Region with the aim of creating strong academic links with other schools of architecture and building a network of scientific and cultural interchange.’

Photo Credit:


  1. Africa Architecture Awards
  2. Africa Architecture Awards – About
  3. 2017 winner of the Africa Architecture Awards
  4. Umkhumbane Museum by Choromanski Architects
  5. Choromanski Architects
  6. The Territory In-between by Aissata Balde, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg
  7. Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg
  8. The Exchange Consulate: Trading Passports for Hyper-Performative economic enclaves by Orgundare Olawale Israel, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg
  9. Forum de Arquitectura Entrant by Ceica, Angola
  10. Lusíada University of Angola