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Blueprints of Paradise




2010 - 2011

AAmatters team

Berend van der Lans

Rachel Jenkins

Astrid Aarsen


Afrika Museum



Relevant links

YouTube video 1

YouTube video 2

YouTube video 3

YouTube video 4

NAi article


#architecture #public_space #exhibition #debate #urbanism

Together with the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal in the Netherlands, AAmatters organised an international design contest for African architects and designers. They were asked to produce a blueprint for the Africa of the future. An international jury, with Lesley Lokko (author and architect, SA/Ghana/UK), Manthia Diawarra (film maker, Mali), Joe Addo (architect and activist, Ghana) and Femke van Zeijl (author and journalist, Netherlands), selected 12 designs for the Blueprints of Paradise exhibition in the museum.


The exhibition was developed and designed on the basis of the winning designs by Berend van der Lans in collaboration with the Afrika Museum and Museum Media.


In conjunction with the Netherlands Architecture Institute, a visitors programme and public debate on the specific qualities of the African public space was organised in Rotterdam, prior to the award ceremony and opening of the exhibition in the museum. N’Goné Fall, architect and curator from Senegal, introduced the debate.

Public space

The jury awarded a third prize (€2500) and a shared first prize (2 x €6250) to designers from South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. The organisation was surprised by the fact that the entrants did not focus on designing new buildings, but rather sought solutions to overcrowding in cities by redesigning the public space. 


Village square in the city

Traditional African rural life revolves around market squares that are not only used for commercial purposes, but also for meetings and festivities. These meeting places, often in the shade of a big tree, give people the opportunity to participate in village life. The village market is basically a home for the entire community. In urban life, such a meeting place is lacking, says South Africa’s Martin Kruger. He made a short film depicting migration from rural areas to the city. The film shows the unique character of African public space to the catchy tunes of Miryam Makeba’s Pata Pata Song. His design entitled The African Agora as Generator landed Martin Kruger third prize in this contest.


Multifunctional street furniture

In order to prevent African cities from succumbing to total gridlock due to the proliferation of permanent buildings and reduced mobility, Oladayo Oladunjoye claims facilities are needed that can easily be moved elsewhere or used otherwise. His entry entitled Re-designing the Temporal Spaces stresses that public space is far too important to surrender it to ill-considered random usage. A life-size realisation of this shared first-prize winning project is on display as part of the exhibition. 


Garden City

Kumasi, the old capital of the Ghanaian Ashanti kingdom, is home to West Africa’s busiest and largest market. This market is bursting at the seams and the commercial hustle and bustle is pouring into surrounding streets and neighbourhoods. Kobina Banning came up with a solution to this problem in a design that involved using a piece of wasteland right next to the market. This design merges western planning with African traditions. The plan entitled The Garden City has been fully tailored to the needs of people, and encompasses facilities for public transport, personal care, and relaxation. Nature plays a major part in this design, as Banning has selected a wide array of different kinds of plants to ensure the park is in bloom all year round. This overall project earned Banning first prize, which he shares with Oladayo Oladunjoye.

Document available for download in the AAmatters online Library.

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