Most people who have visited the continent will believe that Africa exemplifies nature’s strength to its maximum, from the Zez Mocavan building by Heatherwick to the biggest pineapple building in the world. The designs for these buildings can be traced back to the natural world. Very few locals compare the vast grasslands, the beautiful water sources, distinctive animal life and rare flora of this continent.
While significant investments continue to take place in Africa in technology, tourism and innovation, a push has been made (at least in some ways) to ensure that growth impacts the natural environment as little as possible.
Contemporary trends from architecture firms such as biomimetic architecture— a theory of design that aims for inspiration to nature in solving man-made problems — are gaining attention in some corners of the world. For example, the architects behind Zimbabwe’s giant building complex in Harare’s capital looked to termite mounds in constructing an eco-friendly structure with year-round controlled temperature, removing the need for a heating and air conditioning system. In the face of deteriorating environmental conditions, as they turn to Mother Nature in search of long-lasting solutions for the built environment, we will applaud nations such as Zimbabwe Below, AD looks at five instances throughout Africa when the innovator turned to the most time-tested builder for inspiration.
Zeitz MOCAA (South Africa, Cape Town)
While housing Africa’s biggest contemporary artwork, the Zeitz MOCAA is a bit odd to the past: it was initially a 93-year-old grainsilo complex in the heart of the V&A waterside of Cape Town. The Heatherwick Studio was asked how 116 huge, honeycomb-shaped tubes in concrete could be repurposed. “The technical challenge was to find a way to build spaces and galleries from the 10-story tubular wine pump without losing the original building’s authenticity entirely. Heatherwick had told magazines about The Spaces. Instead of redesigning the museum’s structure, the firm simply designed floor-to-ceiling windows that mirrored a honeycomb’s hexagonal patterns found within beehives. It was an easy solution by letting in plenty of natural light to elevate space.
Eastgate Centre (Simbabwe, Harare)
If you fear waste is being generated by its energy use by the busiest office in Zimbabwe, think again. In reality, thanks to the termites it attracted, it is one of the greenest places in the area. The insects should keep their food cooler or warmer than the atmosphere outside their nest, depending on the time of year. To achieve this, they have an excellent ventilation process which allows them to open and close some winds during the day to allow adequate air in their desired environment. This idea has been adopted by the Eastgate Center which permits the air from the ground into the chimney. This beautiful system supports and protects the world
The Big Pineapple (Bathurst, South Africa)
Brace yourself in Bathurst, South Africa, for the world’s largest pineapple house, 56 feet tall. (Don’t confuse it with the Australian version— South Africa is slightly larger.) The structure is a testimony to the sustainable production process of Bathurst. The region is inhabited by smallholder farmers who make up 70 per cent of pineapple production in the country. Many pineapples can only be grown twice every five years at Bathurst, which is a distance too long for a business to scale up. Nevertheless, family-owned farms care for these South African pineapples, resulting in more flavourful produce. On the basement, a museum with a prestigious gift store that sells various products from pineapple is located in the 56-foot-higher building. It is available from 9 a.m. around 5 p.m. every day for tourists.
Tarangire National Park (Tanzania). Elewana Tarangire Treetops
Aim high and stay at this luxurious Tanzanian treehouse home. What separates this treehouse from many others is that there are 20 rooms perched around marula and baobab trees (some of which are 700 years old), taking nature to the heart of the building. Plus, there is a swimming pool, dining room, and lounge, all with spectacular wildlife views below. It is safe to say that anywhere else there are no rooms quite like this.
Plan Starting in Senegal (Diamniadio, Senegal)
The last houses, which started in 2013, are not expected until 2035: the remedy for the overcrowding in Dakar is the Senegalese president, Macky Sall. The town, known as the Emerging Senegal Projekt (2 trillion dollars), is a potential city of 4,000 acres, 20 miles outside Dakar. Flowing linear elements and prominent curves are displayed along the side of structures that mimic the algae in a nearby lake. Whatever the degree of the architects, progress is certainly made as the finished place. The Senegalese Government is also establishing a water recycling program which will handle and reuse waste fluids and ultimately reduce future costs