Designs on Africa Tanzanian talent

27 Aug 2014 - Viewpoint

By Prosper Makene 27th August 2014

Secretary of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIB) and Director of the International Committee of Architectural Critics (CICA) Yasmin Shariff has said that the architectural plans of cities in Tanzania should be made by local architects. Shariff also said that after 50 years of independence, Tanzanians should not copy book designs of the west.

Sharifa who stopped briefly in Dar-es-Salaam on her way back to London after attending the Union of International Architects’ (UIA) Congress held in Durban, said that Tanzania should favor its local art talents instead of foreign architects.

“You can catch a glimpse of what can be achieved with natural ventilation and shading but what is dominating the skyline is gas- guzzling glass, air conditioned high­ rise buildings which imitate the west. Tanzanians deserve better,” she said.

Further, she said Tanzanian architects are in a position to learn from the mistakes of their western colleagues and be inclusive so that women and people of all races are not barred by prejudice or ignorance. “An informed, diverse and open profession can design inclusively and sensitively to meet the needs of local people in local environments in a genuine and effective way,” she said.

“In Britain we have serious problems as the profession is not inclusive. With only 16 percent women members, the RIBA has major concerns in this area. Women in Britain do well in other professions such as law and medicine but not in architecture,” she said.

She cautioned: “Tanzanians should not make the same mistakes as the UK and ensure that half of its registered architects are women. Women matter- the profession and society will suffer greatly if they are excluded.”

She said: “In a fringe event at the UIA Congress, I visited one of the informal settlements in Durban and was shown how a cooperative formed mainly by women could plan and build houses for themselves. With access to capital and a master plan, these women showed how major progress can be made with little help to deliver better houses, care and communities,” she said.

However, she underscored that with help from domestic architects, sky scrapers in Tanzania could be built more economically and ecologically. The way buildings are structured in Dar-es-Salaam is creating major problems such as shortages of water, electricity and tarmac roads.

“The solutions are very straightforward. Political commitment and safeguards on corruption is vital. Clear planning guidance and master-planning will benefit the most vulnerable in your communities,” but I’m still in praise of many of the talented Tanzanian architects’ she said with a smile.

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