In a remarkable feat of academic collaboration and innovation, the International University of East Africa (IUEA) recently made architectural history by hosting the African Congress for Architecture Students (ACAS), the very first architecture congress of its kind, from September 30th to October 2nd 2023. Set in one of IUEA’s state-of-the-art smart classrooms and under the guidance of the African Union of Architects (AUA), this congress brought together 1,385 students from 37 universities spanning 24 countries. But what transpired at this groundbreaking event, and how does it shape the future of architecture in Africa? Let’s embark on a captivating journey of discovery through a series of compelling questions.
“The Congress for Africa Architecture Students will be a platform for curriculum guidance, expert knowledge sharing space to bridge architecture gaps in Africa,”– Said Prof. Jose Manuel Pages Madrigal, Dean of IUEA’s Engineering Faculty
What is the African Union of Architects (AUA)?
Established in 1981 in Nigeria, the AUA was formed to unite architects across the continent, overcoming the boundaries of race, religion, and doctrine. This organisation is reimagining the architectural profession in a post-pandemic world and through its collaboration with IUEA and the Uganda Society of Architects, it has created a platform that empowers the architects of the future.
What is the purpose and structure of the AUA student association?
This inaugural architecture congress debuted the official structure of the AUA student association as well as its mission statement. The AUA student association was an initiative largely driven by the students of IUEA’s architectural engineering degree programme and the presidents of architecture associations from various Ugandan universities with the help of the Uganda Society of Architects which culminated in its approval and incorporation into the AUA thus creating a platform for the representation of architecture students across the continent.
A few of the duties of the AUA student association include:
- Determine the qualifications required for those that seek to be professional architects
- Promote and foster the training of architects to harmonise the accreditation of architecture courses across African countries
- Facilitate continental and international exchange of architectural trainees, research and students.
- To promote the research and technical advancement in the field of the build environment and to encourage the interaction of architects with other disciples.
Creating new challenges for students as a platform for inclusivity and diversity to take creativity in Africa from the roots to a whole realm– Said Architect Jacqueline Namayanja, Vice President of the Uganda Society of Architects
Are there any scholarship opportunities offered through the AUA?
This novel architecture congress marked the unveiling of a revolutionary initiative touted as the “SSENTOOGO – AFRICA ARCHITECTURE STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP AWARD,” set to take effect starting 2024. At a time when the world of architecture hungers for fresh talent, as stressed by the AUA Secretary General, Architect Vinesh CHINTARAM during the congress, this groundbreaking merit-based scholarship pays homage to the late visionary architect Ssentoogo, the founder of the AUA and the Uganda Society of Architects. This award is bound to empower and propel the less advantaged architectural talents onto the global stage creating a more diverse and merit-based ecosystem of structural designers.
Even beyond scholarships, are there any prizes available for exemplary individuals?
In honour of a man that devoted his life to enriching and promoting the field of architecture, the AUA brings to you the “WILLIAM HENRY SSENTOOGO MEMORIAL ARCHITECTURE PRIZE”. This is a lifetime achievement award that celebrates the legacy of the AUA founding president, the late acclaimed architect William Henry Ssentoogo, and recognises the senior most architects that, just like architect William Henry, dedicate themselves to the promotion of the architectural practice in a way that encourages positive social change across the continent.
How was this inaugural architecture congress vital to the future of architecture?
Under the theme “Building Bridges: African Architectural Narratives Shaping Tomorrow,” the architecture congress served as a dynamic platform for current and future architects to engage in transformative discussions. They dived into the issues faced by African cities and the innovative solutions proposed which included revisions to the architecture curriculum.
What problems facing the African Architecture landscape were discussed at the architecture congress?
During the Architecture Congress, it was uncovered that the central challenge plaguing African cities is congestion. With a population of 1.5 billion in Africa, including 500 million in East Africa alone, urban overcrowding has led to a multitude of problems. This issue has had far-reaching effects on human health and productivity.
What solutions were discussed at the architecture congress?
A brilliant solution raised during the architecture congress to solve the persisting issue of congestion was to design more livable spaces in rural areas. The availability of land is not the issue but rather the fact that most people opt for cities as a more ideal space in which to live. Therefore architects need to improve rural areas to make them more appealing and more livable to combat rural-urban migration.
Architects, you need to hold the key to shaping these spaces in the heavily bustling cities. You can design efficient, inclusive and sustainable communities through innovation you uplift lives and connect rural and urban areas– Said Vinesh Chintaram Secretary General for Africa Union of Architects
What is green Architecture and why is it important?
The concept of Green Architecture, an environmentally friendly approach to structural design, was also explored at the architecture congress. This concept is vital to reducing the carbon footprint and addressing the impact of climate change on quality of life. Its prominence was also discussed at the 6th iteration of the International Conference of Contemporary Affairs on Architecture and Urbanism.
In order to promote green architecture, the architecture community developed green building certification. Green building certification is a certification awarded to a building that conforms to environmentally friendly standards during its design and construction.
How can we improve the African Architecture curriculum?
Architectural scholars from across Africa acknowledged the need for a curriculum that reflects Africa’s unique climate, social and geological conditions. The architecture congress delved into the discussion surrounding the transformation of architectural education to align with the continent’s needs.
The inaugural ACAS Architectural Congress at IUEA stands as a pivotal moment, not only in the history of African architecture but also in shaping its future. Through vibrant dialogue, innovative solutions, and a commitment to empowering architects of today and tomorrow, this congress represents a beacon of progress in the architectural landscape. Join us as we navigate the exciting path ahead in African architecture by enrolling for our architectural engineering programme.