The design brief called for an environment that would facilitate and enhance trans-disciplinary research within the African context, where collective research has a strong focus on science leadership development.

Words André Eksteen, project director, Earthworld Architects

Developing African Science Leadership

A Pan-African research centre

Future Africa was to provide an integrated live-/work environment for post-doctorate students from all cultures and backgrounds, fostering fellowship, understanding and collaboration among the vast diversity of cultures and disciplines on our continent. The re-imagining of this typology called for centralised spaces for interaction, facilitating collaboration and cultural interaction.


• 280 one-, two-, and three-bedroom living units
• Central hall (Future Africa hub)
• Research commons
• Conference facility:
• 250-seater auditorium
• Two 50-seater multi-purpose rooms
• Six break-away rooms linked to the auditorium: doubling up as translation booths
Future Africa is not only about place (locality) or space (building). It is about the contribution a building can make to the ecology in which it is developed.


  1. Adaptability
    • Systems and tectonics were deliberately dis-
    entangled to allow for parallel off-site manufacture and on-site assembly
    • Levels of permanence can be read in the tectonics
    • Timber was used for the tertiary systems
    • This open building allows for adaptive re-use and re-cycling, as well as more inclusive contracting
  2. Regenerative design / catalytic development
    • Breaking the buildings down in clearly defined elements offers the potential of outsourcing manufacture to small- and micro-enterprises
    • Design to allow for the establishment of new industries and micro-enterprises that can be funded by community banking
    • Informal systems in the developing communities already exist; if these can be augmented with quality control and moderation, a new sphere of democratised industrialisation will be established
  3. Democratisation of building
    • Opening the building industry up to allow for small- and micro-enterprises to participate in large projects is key to the project
    • The level of ownership by contractors resulted in pride and a sense of accomplishment; traits lost to our industry since labour became a commodity
  4. Parallel vs linear value / supply chains
    • Local skills were curated rather than using established, imported building systems
    • Materials sourced directly from or close to site
    • Integrating the production of the various manufacturers negated the need for linear value chains by material being handled only once
  5. Systems thinking / inter-connectedness
    • The building is central to a system where people are key
    • Integration of the local economy, ecology and landscape were critical
    • The project and the impact during construction is just as important as the final product

The landscape design forms part of the system by re-introducing 56 orphan crops and allowing foraging to explore alternative cuisines and creative interaction around new tastes, textures and colours.