MODERN X – ARCHITECTURE AND THE INFORMAL CITY #2 Hannah le Roux / Antoni Folkers

Repurposed modernist building in Johannesburg. Photo by Hannah le Roux.

Lecture/Debat/symposium | 22/09/11 20:00 – 22:00

How has modernist architecture in Africa, often designed by European architects, been repurposed and reinterpreted by Africans? And how can the study of this lived modernism inform contemporary design practices in Africa and Europe? Johannesburg-based architect and researcher Hannah le Roux will address these issues in the second evening in a series of debates about the informal city. Antoni Folkers will introduce Le Roux and join her in a discussion afterwards.

The Netherlands has a great tradition of formal urban planning and standardised architectural solutions. Despite this experience, supply and demand are worryingly out of sync, as exemplified by the many vacant buildings and mono-functional districts our country contains. This confronts us with the urgent question of how architects and urban planners should develop strategies and designs that answer our actual needs.

In the first of a series of debates about the informal city, architect Nabeel Hamdi advocated small-scale, piecemeal change by tapping into existing urban informality. By negotiating with those who are involved at the grassroots level, he asserted, we can jointly design livelier and more inclusive cities. In this second debate, Le Roux will argue that the reuse of modernist space opens up potentials for social transformation, for a closer understanding of the interrelationship between constructed form and society, and for the redefinition of design practices.

Hannah le Roux works in Johannesburg at the University of the Witwatersrand, and practises, curates and writes about architecture. Her work revisits the modernist project in architecture in Africa, and its transformation through the agency of African users and makers. Her writing has appeared in blank_architecture, apartheid and after (NAi, 1999), Narrating Architecture (2006) and Afropolis (2011), as well as in journals such as Domus, The Journal of Architecture and the Architectural Review, and she has curated exhibitions in Johannesburg, London and Venice. In her architectural practice she is involved with the repurposing of modernist buildings and public spaces in Johannesburg, including projects for Bloemenhof Park (published in Radical Landscapes, 2003), Upat (Mendrisio, 2007) and KwaThema (IFG Ulm, 2008). These projects reclaim aspects of modernist space as they prepare it for collaboratively shaped forms of life.

Antoni Folkers is an architect and urbanist. After studying at TU Delft, in 1984 he went to Africa, where he set up the firm FBW architects with branches in Kampala (Uganda), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and elsewhere. Since 2000, Folkers and his practice have been based in Utrecht. He is one of the founders and co-director of the ArchiAfrika platform. His publication Modern Architecture in Africa (SUN, 2010) is one of the few Western studies of modern African architecture. He calls into question the moralistic, simplified Western modernism that has become stranded in the African savannah. The critique of the one-sidedness of Western architecture is not only theoretical, but also assumes a practical form in the pluriform and multi-coloured architecture of Africa. He shows both the clash and the blending of ‘original’ African architecture with Modernism.

This debate has resulted from the NAI’s international Debates on Tour programme.

Where and when?
Thursday September 22nd 2011
Start: 20.00h (doors open at 19.30h)
Language: English
Location: the Auditorium of the NAi, (Museumpark 25, Rotterdam)
Entrance: € 5,-, the whole month of September free for students
Always free for Friends of the NAI
Register: http://www.nai.nl/register

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