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De-colonising Architectural Education: Thoughts from Cape Town

Tomá Berlanda

School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


ABSTRACT  The paper reflects on the condition of architectural education and practice in Sub-Saharan Africa, where most educational models were imported from, when not even imposed by, colonising countries. This lasting self-referential condition is further enforced by professional bodies, which, as it the case across 13 English speaking African countries, still use the reference to the criteria set forth by the Commonwealth Association of Architects for their validation protocols. If this legacy in the built form has attracted interest from abroad, insufficient attention has been given to the need for reconceptualising curricula to allow for a plurality of different voices to be heard. Educating architects is predominantly seen as training in response to the demand for professionals. Institutions of Higher Education are largely complicit with the situation and are unwilling to push for systemic reform of the system. But surely the intersection of social, racial and class inequality that is integral to many countries in Southern Africa offers the opportunity to challenge the notion that University is itself ‘one of the oldest surviving institutions in the Western world [and it] has colonised the globe’. The paper argues for the need to develop educational frameworks that explicitly question both the scholarly excellence of the imported models, and the discrepancy between the formal aesthetics and the material living conditions of the people affected by the transformation of landscape and territory.

KEYWORDS  architecture, education, Sub-Saharan Africa

Received June 30, 2017; accepted July 7, 2017

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