Inspired by Africa

At a glittering gala awards ceremony held on the rooftop of the newly opened Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, the inaugural Grand Prix and Category Winners of the first-ever Africa Architecture Awards were announced on Thursday, 28 September 2017. Over 130 VIP guests were in attendance, including the Consul-General of France in Cape Town, Mr Laurent Amar, the Chairman of the French South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Philip Geromont, and Claude van Wyk of the Kingdom of The Netherlands Consulate General in Cape Town. The shortlisted finalists were flown into South Africa from across the continent and the world, and hosted by awards founder and sponsor Saint-Gobain.

The highly-anticipated gala was the culmination of an ambitious two-year awards programme that was initiated and supported by Saint-Gobain, with the ultimate aim of stimulating conversations about African architecture as it cements its place in a global continuum. The Africa Architecture Awards is the first-ever Pan-African awards programme of its kind. A steering panel headed by Professor Lesley Lokko guided the awards with strategic input from ambassador Phill Mashabane, advisor Zahira Asmal, and patron Sir David Adjaye, one of the globe’s most influential voices in architecture.

According to Adjaye, ‘The Africa Architecture Awards are very critical. Now is the time to promote excellence and best practice on the continent. The Africa Architecture Awards are particularly important because this is the moment that a lot is happening on the continent in terms of development, in terms of the architecture that’s being produced.’ Adjaye’s statement is borne out by the levels of interest the competition received from architects working on projects located in Africa. Over 300 projects from 32 African countries were entered into the awards. For the inaugural edition of the Africa Architecture Awards, the organisers set themselves an initial target of 150 entries from 20 African countries. However, the awards exceeded all expectations and grew to 307 entries from 32 countries in Africa – more than double the size of what was initially envisaged – leaving the Master Jury with a mammoth task.

A museum in South African’s coastal city of Durban was named the best new building in Africa, being awarded the evening’s most lauded prize. Umkhumbane Cultural and Heritage Museum, by local firm Choromanski Architects, was awarded the Grand Prix. Located in Cato Manor, one of the largest forced removals during apartheid, the building features walls with triangular perforations, which bring dappled light into a grand atrium. The architects were awarded $10 000 (approximately R13 500) in recognition of the project’s merits.

For more information about the awards and other entries visit

The unveiling of the atrium at Umkhumbane Cultural and Heritage Museum, the Africa Architecture Awards’ Grand Prix winner

Vertical atrium

The Zeitz MOCAA and Silo Hotel in Cape Town’s Silo District

Photography Prakash Bhikha; Greg Cox; Roy Reed Photography