20th Century African Cities
Most capital cities in Africa were designed and built during European colonization. Although capital cities were originally modest in size, they were important centres for the distribution of African produce to the rest of the world: African cities were part of a well-established -yet continually expanding- global market. In order to serve the purpose of colonial productivity, colonial planners adopted modernist ideas of functional urban zoning to segregate different activities as well as different groups of people. After independence, a process that took place during the second half of the 20 Century, cities grew larger very quickly. The new governments of independent nations made efforts to modernize cities, through the construction of urban infrastructure and modern buildings. The principles of modern planning and modern architecture were re-appropriated to serve a different purpose, no longer to support colonial networks but to trade in the name of the nation -modernist master Plans were designed in order to optimise cities, making them competent in the global market they have always helped to support.
In order to understand the repercussions that the struggle for independence, and the subsequent attempt at modernization, had on the social and physical fabric of African cities, this seminar will analyse four case studies: Abuja, Casablanca, Kinshasa and Maputo. They are examples of different colonial regimes (British, French, Belgian and Portuguese respectively). More importantly, the four cities were subject of significant master plans during colonization and after independence. In all cases, Master Plans were only partially completed while the cities grew at a fast pace reaching enormous scales. Economic underdevelopment, ethno-racial conflict and political instability have influenced urban growth, causing the four cities to be discontinuous, fragmented and difficult both to comprehend and represent.
The purpose of this seminar is to undertake an in-depth study of these four cities, focusing on urban transformations after WW2. Based on current literature on urban design, urban informality, and using the expertise available at GSD, we will develop appropriate methodologies for the continuous study of such cities, in order to facilitate their comprehension (from an architectural and urban perspective).
A) To develop interpretative methodologies for the study of four 20-century African capital cities
B) To propose strategies for intervention in the urban and social fabric of four 20-century African capital cities
C) To investigate the historical development of the four chosen cities since independence and the influence of modern design on each case
D) To test contemporary urban and cultural theory in the study of modern African cities
E) To study the development in Africa in a wider context of global exchange (that started with colonization)
In order to carry out the study of each city, students will produce an essay investigating the historical development of the four African cities, and covering different aspects of their development. Students will also produce a series of maps to identify, analyse and draw conclusions on a wider range of issues, including, but not limited to: urban growth, socio-economic and productive activities, existing (and lack of) infrastructure, mobility, global links. This analysis will serve to shed light on the current condition of the four chosen cities (urban interpretation), and to propose possible strategies to intervene in their fabric: a methodology the research group Cities South of Cancer calls ‘Urban Articulation’.