The Africa Centre
We have been appointed to lead the design team to oversee the transformation of The Africa Centre’s new Southwark home.
We were selected ahead of a number of practices shortlisted through an open competition to design and deliver the institution’s development which is backed by the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund.
The project will transform the building, known as Gunpowder House, into a café, bar and terrace with a strong Pan-African flavour, an art gallery, a learning and research centre as well as meeting rooms and a broadcast suite. This will complement the existing use of two railway arches, with Arch 28 serving as The Africa Centre offices and The Hub (a co-working space for creatives and entrepreneurs), and Arch 29 as a pop-up performance/event space.
Our vision for the project is to consider the ‘ambassadorial role’ the organisation can play in celebrating PanAfrican culture on the global stage. Focusing on the essential elements that connect and bind the continent rather than on strict representation, this sees the Centre serve as a forum for ideas, a platform for exchange, and an embassy of optimism.
We want to draw from the provenance of the organisation over the last 50 years, whilst looking ahead to ensure its new home in Southwark has the same impact and cultural resonance for the next 50 years.
‘Africa isn’t a country’ is a response, often born of frustration at a dismissal of the breadth in peoples, cultures and traditions that span the African continent. We want to turn this misnomer into a strength and envisage what an embassy for a continent might look like in the 21st century; a space that demonstrates what connects us and binds us to one another, whilst celebrating the dynamism of the continent.
We will be working closely with The Africa Centre to develop the building design, which will be informed by a series of public conversations and events. As part of this programme of events, a conversation between Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE, director of The Africa Centre, and Freehaus director Jonathan Hagos will take place on Wednesday, 18th September as part of London Design Festival.