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MASS Design Group director talks next wave of architecture on African continent

Rwandan architect Christian Benimana’s recent TED talk is now online

maternity waiting village in Malawi
MASS Design Group’s Maternity Waiting Village in Kasunga, Malawi.
Photo by Iwan Baan via MASS Design Group

By 2050, more than half of the world population growth will come from Africa, spelling out a significant need for sustainable new buildings, infrastructure, and cities. This coming wave of development is precisely the topic of a newly released TEDGlobal talk by Rwandan architect Christian Benimana, who offers insight into the kind of work that needs to happen across the continent and promising projects already emerging.

According to Benimana, who is the director of the Kigali office of MASS Design Groupa 2015 Curbed Groundbreaker—the continent of Africa needs to build an estimated 700,000,000 housing units by 2050, as well as more than 300,000 schools and some 100,000 health centers.

As Benimana elaborates on in the talk, embedded above, the urgent need for cities and infrastructure needs to be reconciled with sustainable and equitable development. He highlights some compelling examples, including Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi’s prototype school designed to be resilient against rising sea levels. There is also Burkina Faso-born architect Francis Kéré, who in addition to designing this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, has also been enlisting community members to build modern buildings with traditional materials.

Meanwhile, in Kasunga, Malawi, MASS Design Group built a vernacular-inspired “Maternity Waiting Village” to help reduce maternity mortality rates in an area where women either have to give birth at home or walk long distances to the nearest clinic.

These projects are all precedents for training the next generation of African architects and designers, a mission Benimana has been working on with the launch of the African Design Centre and its 20-month design-build fellowship.

Do check out the full talk above, and find the transcript, footnotes, and additional resources here.