African Architecture, Education and Possibility in the 1960s

Presented by Daniel Magaziner

Monday, 15 May, 2017 - 15:00

This paper considers the history of an experiment in architectural education that took place at what is today the University of Nairobi, between 1965 – 1967. Organized by Selby Mvusi, a South African industrial designer, and Derek Morgan, a British expatriate architect, what was known as the “Foundation Course” was on the one hand an experiment in architectural education in post-colonial Africa; and on the other, a serious attempt to think through the African experience of time, intended to equip students with the tools to recognize and respond to the unique conditions of the post-colonial African present. Based on archival sources – including those in private collections – and oral interviews, this article situates the Foundation Course within African intellectual history as an exercise in social theory and phenomenology. The article considers the content of Mvusi and Morgan’s intellectual partnership and project, by tracing their individual trajectories and especially the pedagogical scheme they developed at Nairobi. The article traces the intellectual lineages of their concepts and explores their articulation within the post-colonial university, until the course was cancelled in June 1967. Mvusi died shortly thereafter; the article ends by considering how he had imagined the Foundation Course as a laboratory for both being and building in post-colonial Africa, by closely reading a paper he presented in New York on the course’s conclusions in October 1967, weeks before he died.

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