Harvard GSD Research Facilitation in Durban

In 2017 Kunlé Adeyemi brought his African Water Cities Research project to Durban through his teaching post at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Through 1to1 – Agency of Engagement I managed and facilitated the logistics of the trip, and assisted in the guiding of the learning experience of Durban.
NLÉ is led by Kunlé Adeyemi, an architect, designer and ‘urbanist’ with a track record of conceiving and completing high profile, high quality projects internationally. His recent work includes ‘Makoko Floating School’, an innovative, prototype, floating structure located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This acclaimed project is part of an extensive research project – ‘African Water Cities’ (http://www.nleworks.com/team-member/kunle-adeyemi/)

I was assisted by Adheema Davis and our goal was to expose the students from Harvard to the broad complexities of Durban as an African City while also linking in as many local practitioners, students and organisations as was possible in the 1 week studio visit: UKZN Students, DUT Students, Beset Durban, Cameron Finnie, Mark Bellingan, Doung Jahangeer, Lindsey Busche, Tsidi Moahloli and Asiye eTafuleni to name a few.  We planned the events to offer maximum exposure for all students and even arranged an Archi-Speed Date between the different groups. The studio visit was additionally supported by Sumayya Valley and Mpho Matsipha.
A series of meetings, tours and discussions were planned for the week’s engagement.
“This studio explores the city of Durban to examine the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of urbanization in the social, physical, and environmental context of the African continent. The aim is to build industries–to produce a series of new architectural, infrastructural, and urban solutions learning from the local environment with a responsible infusion of relevant global values. Through documentation of international and regional practices, the studio will focus on Durban to investigate the city and its edge conditions, to understand its transformations and adaptations and socio political and economic dynamics.
The studio develops models of small to medium scale infrastructure interventions, scalable through locally managed industrial processes and technologies. In an increasingly globalized world, and particularly in the African context, a pedagogical aim of the studio is to also critically analyze the role of architecture, the architect, and forms of practice that offer sustainable values that shape and stimulate development in African cities and communities.
Starting with urban research, the studio will analyze Durban, South Africa based on seven registers: Demographics, Economy, Socio-politics, Infrastructure, Morphology, Environment and Resources (DESIMER). The studio will draw from NLÉ’s African Water Cities Project (AWC), which explores the impacts of urbanization and climate change in African cities and communities, deducing the fastest growing African cities are also some of the most vulnerable to climate change. Durban, a rapidly urbanizing coastal city, falls within the high to the extreme high-risk zones.
The studio team will visit Durban in the early phase of the research. Throughout the research and design phases, we will engage advisors in various disciplines to guide the DESIMER research and also establish relationships with local organizations, student groups, institutions, and partners in South Africa.
The outcomes of the studio will be presented at the New Solutions of the World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in Durban in May 2017. The goal is to escalate the research and design outcomes into real possibilities of prototyping and industrialization.
Kunlé Adeyemi, Aga Khan Design Critic”
Final Presentation of work for critique from local researchers and practitioners.
I was fortunate enough to secure funding to then attend the Design Crits in Harvard as a guest critic and support the student’s enquiries during my visit through a few desk crits at the Gund Hall as well as faciliate a skype crit between the South African students and the Harvard students.
Intercontinental student skype crit