15. January | 2024

“Fugitive Archives”

A Reflection on the Role of Architecture in Postcolonial Africa

What role did architecture play for the societies of countries in sub-Saharan Africa after they became independent? The Canadian Centre for Architecture coordinated a research project on this topic, to which IRS architecture historian Monika Monika Motylińska contributed. The volume "Fugitive Archives" shows the results.

In 2018 the Canadian Centre for Architecture launched a collaborative and multidisciplinary research project on architecture’s complex developments in sub-Saharan African countries after independence. The project asked how to understand architecture’s historical role in decolonisation, neocolonialism, globalisation, and their manifestations across the continent, at local and regional scales. Further, it inquired how this understanding can challenge established methods and disciplinary conventions of architectural and urban studies.

Between October 2019 and June 2022, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CCA directed an intense period of research in collaboration with ten Mellon Researchers pursuing eight projects covering various architectural typologies, key geographies, and urban developments in sub-Sahara Africa. As one of the Mellon fellows, IRS architectural historian Monika Motylińska, in her joint project with Rachel Lee from Delft University of Technology, focused on the role of the architectural office Lippsmeier + Partner and the Institute for Building in the Tropics (IFT) from Starnberg in the devolopment of social infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa.

The volume “Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture”, published in November of 2023, is a vast collection of primary sources accompanied by s reflections of  the fellows on the ways in which they had to develop new ways of finding, seeing, and listening as part of their research processes. The chapter on “Ephemeral Archives”, compiled and commented  by Motylińska in collaboration with Doreen Adengo, Warebi Brisibe, Ramota Obagah-Stephen and Rachel Lee focuses on sources and approaches beyond the archival canon, collected through oral history interviews and gleaned from personal archives of the actors.  

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is an international research institution and museum seeking to foster public engagement with architecture.