Design for impact and change

The African Design Centre opened officially in October 2018, with the intention to shape and influence design and architecture on the continent.

Creating architecture in Africa over the next century

Architect Tshepo Mokholo gives props to the “fantastical house” he grew up in, which had swooping walls, half-moon windows and narrow passages, that no architect would put their name to with his career in architecture. Tshepo fell in love with the architecture in that house.

Although at the time he had no idea what architecture was, he was hungry to learn. He spent time exploring how new layers of creativity and ingenuity that can be applied to existing cultural practices like weaving, pottery, and woodwork, to add to the evolutionary process of making, and giving them a greater degree of value in a contemporary setting.

Also, a firm believer that design can and should have a positive impact on communities. He claims this can be done by incorporating those communities in the design process. By harnessing their knowledge base and existing skills, one can only create a better design that is both appreciated and leaves a more profound impact. Through architecture a lot can be achieved, skills sharing and knowledge, providing employment opportunities, and feeding back into local economies.

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Of 11 fellows who were chosen for the African Design Centre’s inaugural fellowship, Mokholo is one. Based in Kigali, Rwanda, they worked on a number of projects designed to look at the future of design in Africa.

Projects from furniture and product design, to architecture.

Addressing an audience at Design Indaba 2019, Mokholo said it is about creating the architecture for the African continent for the next 100 years. There is a need to cultivate new ways of thinking and a new strategy of design. To do that, he says that he had to learn and listen.

Genius is available on the continent to tap into and you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

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The African Design Centre opened officially in October 2018, with the intention to shape and influence design and architecture on the continent. Mokholo said they worked on the basic premise that design can hurt or heal. Bad architecture has the power to change and stimulate many things.

One of his other beliefs is that good design should be a human right. He argues that buildings, townships with good designs especially in previously disadvantaged areas communicates that everyone deserves the best design. He pleaded that society moves away from seeing design as a tool for only those who can pay for it, citing that it further enhances the disparities.

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He accused designers of concentrating in urban areas and the one percent bubble, rather than using their tools to help others. Design can have an impact, believing that it is how to heal people’s hearts.

Mokholo and the other fellows will move out across Africa and spread their design message and inspire others to adopt a similar approach. The design of the creative economy can change entire communities on the continent. Creativity is free, we all have it, and creatives’ just need to harness it.


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