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Architecture, History, and the Debate on Identity in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa

Summary of Article , 2002

Deconstructing the notion that African historical architecture offers nothing of value to contemporary architectural practice, this essay calls for an ideological repositioning of modern African architecture and the significance of its past. Drawing from a selection of projects from Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, an argument is made against the dominance of modernist ideology as the only worthwhile architectural history. Practitioners like Demas Nwoko, who sustained a set of traditional contexts, are used to demonstrate the deeply rooted values of a culturally specific geography. In this vein, the late-eighteenth-century Asante architecture of Kumasi is tied to the architecture of Ethiopian Christianity. The notion that Africa stands for something essential and indigenous is considered alongside the idea of a locally invented architecture external to the global narrative. The status of these histories within contemporary architecture schools is made central to this discussion of building production and its pedagogy within the academy.