• Modern House: Slow Death of African Informal Setting?

Houses are highly preferential and each client will have their own needs and views of what they expect. However at the turn of modern movement, it can be observed especially in developing countries a move towards modern designs. These are neat boxes perceived as beautiful and with mostly off the shelf items and finishes. As opposed to African houses theses houses are orthogonal and have pure forms.  The houses have office like finish that call for neat arrangement of items and furniture. In the authors opinion they lack authenticity of a home. A place where a kid can leave an unattended book/books on the table and the book doesn’t feel out of place. This is not to say that these house are necessarily unwelcome but a question of whether this is the direction to take. It’s a debatable case but very much worth the debate.

The African house as some have lived in or read of is/was generically informal, activities flew from one to the next in neat transition and partitions were uncommon. These is celebrated in the modern house and maybe enhanced to better standards but in the process the informality of activities is lost.

There are a lot of varied opinions for the modern house. Some are of the view that they tend to reflect architecture of our time and/or are easy to build as are universal among other views. However they tend to be unspecific to sites and some architects/designers just copy these house from different settings into environments that they do not fit. These tend to disregard context and although they may look good in other places may not fit in specifically African context. However some architects have found the balance, an interpretation of the modern house in African context. This is the direction that the author hopes designers for Africa can take. A deep understanding of Africa context be the foundation for any modern house before it is built in this context.

The author aims to provoke a debate on how best to accommodate modern houses in African setting. Or whether modern houses fit in Africa context at all. A line of thought for Architects/Designers in Africa to pursue.



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