AN AFRICAN ALMANAC (ON TOUR)
‘Architecture can be analogous to a history, a fiction, and a landscape. We expect a history or a novel to be written in words, but they can also be cast in concrete or seeded in soil.’
These bones will rise again
thumbs pressed into these pages, eyes expectant, cursor blinking, what was to have been here is gone and – in the eleventh hour of a new decade – this proposition has arrived in its place.
Today we find ourselves, as Hanif Abdurraqib writes,
‘…all born of the 80s.
All born of parents who watched the revolution
shove itself into too small a suit at the turn of a decade that left them in homes with welcome mats that read:
“Your hearts are the lost luggage at the airport
of the next generation.’
2020 – two zero, two zero – brings cause to shun repetition and fiercely, tenderly, lead our hearts in a new direction.
This year, Unit 12 attends to the call for that change and we migrate and transmogrify into a new kind of creature - in Unit 12 style, we embark on a hijra (a migration) into a new kind of practice - a roving research laboratory in pursuit of an African almanac of architectural speculation.
In 2020, Unit 12 continues to travel with - and trouble the fringes
of - the term hijra هجرة , an Arabic word referring to ‘emigrating’,
‘passing’ or ‘coming’. The term hijra also speaks to the ‘gathering’ one might find in preparation of the journey, at its midst, in the line of flight, and at the destination (if, indeed, such a place exists). In Unit 12 we are interested in creating cross-world spaces for dialogue between peoples, cultures, ideas and ambitions; where politics, presence and futures are discussed and declared; and through which relations are built, tested and performed.
This year, Unit 12 will be on tour - we will collaborate with the Bartlett School of Architecture, the Royal College of Art, BREAK//LINE and Fugitive Images in London; and University of Technology in Sydney.
Building on the methods of story-telling that the Unit has grown - performance, speculative fiction, theatrical tactics and choreographies - we will explore and deepen these design tools and languages for expressions of hybrid cultural identity.
Through ‘12 books on architecture’, our Unit will become:
a workshop, a publishing house, a stage, a dialogue, a script, a choreography for a set of public events, a journey (or maybe a few), a pavilion, a performance, a map, a code, a new set of conventions, an echo, and, and, and …
all to be produced with alumni of the GSA, and collaborators
anew, to tell our own ‘stories’, to find our own appropriate tools of representation, and to speculate with ambition and aplomb on the appropriate form, structure, material and programme for a uniquely African architectural vocabulary: A Contemporary African Almanac of Architectural Speculation for our times.
At the beginning of the year, we will not be taking new students. Instead, we will take stock of the last five years of the unit, inviting those who have shared their histories with us, to be part of this next incarnation. We will rove the GSA and beyond, working with students across the school in our projects and in theirs.
Don’t, for a moment, think we’ve been cut adrift.
Now now, these bones will rise again.
Sumayya Vally and Thandi Loewenson
FORMER UNIT LEADERS AND COLLABORATORS:
Prof. Lesley Lokko, Stephen Hobbs, Patti Anahory