A city too big to fail

If Lagos were a person, she would wear a Gucci jacket and cheap hair weave, with a mobile phone in one hand, a second set in her back pocket, and the mother of all scowls on her face. She would usher you impatiently through her front door at an extortionate price before smacking you to […]

China and the expansion of Luanda

“With the arrival of the Chinese, the cost of (building) material is much lower,” says my informant, a pedreiro, or house-builder. Since the first oil-backed credit line was signed between the Angolan government and China’s Eximbank in March 2004, China has been a prominent player in Angola’s reconstruction. However, the rise of the Chinese presence […]

A city in danger of losing its heritage

The question of urban heritage has become increasingly politicised in Egypt. Cairo is a city with traces of its built heritage going as far back as its founding in 969. In addition, the city’s Greco-Roman, Coptic and Ancient Egyptian heritages are all visible. Cairo is a city of many histories, reflected in many remains. However, […]

Makoko demolitions prompt accusations of institutionalised elitism in urban planning

Home to over 80,000 people, Makoko’s stilt-supported timber dwellings have long been an urban motif along the city’s inland shoreline – illustrative of the tough but vibrant life of Lagos. Yet, with a decision that simultaneously flouted international human rights conventions, encroached on federal jurisdiction and opened the floodgates of public scrutiny, the partial demolition […]

Whose city is it, anyway?

“Accra has always had a dual personality, right from its beginnings,” says Nat-Nuno Amarteifio. He should know. A historian, he was mayor of the city from 1994 to 1998. With approximately 2,3 million residents, Accra increasingly finds itself at the centre of one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and like many major cities […]

What future for Cairo’s satellite towns?

When news of President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall first washed over the crowds in Tahrir Square, protesters began to jostle in front of the watching TV cameras and hold aloft handmade signs. Amid a thicket of slogans, one stood out: “A kilo of meat costs 100 pounds, yet a square metre in Madinaty costs half a […]

“If you look at the metropolitan centres and capitals as just individual phenomena you miss how to understand the nuances”: David Adjaye

The digital camera, rather than sketchbook, became an indispensible aid to seeing the 53 cities he visited. In particular, the democratic rawness of the digital image appealed. “I wanted the experience to have the kind of naivety of anybody landing in the city,” he says of the anti-iconic images made on his personally directed research […]