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Join Anam team at FUTURE CITIES AFRICA (Economist Conference) in Lagos May 30/31st

27 Apr

Join us for a major summit on the future of cities in Africa

The most compelling growth opportunities are in Africa’s cities. In the next 10 years the continent’s population will rise beyond 1.5bn and consumer spending is predicted top $1.5 trillion.  The Anam design team will attend the event and live blog many of the sessions. 

Future Cities:  Managing Africa’s urban transformation

May 30th–31st 2012

Eko Expo Centre, Lagos

Future Cities, organised by Economist Conferences, is a major international conference, exploring innovative new approaches to designing, managing and financing Africa’s cities.

The event will feature leading authorities in urban planning, construction, transport, energy, architecture and sustainability, including the mayors of Lagos State, Johannesburg, Harare, Durban, Dar Es Salaam and Cape Town.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Babatunde Fashola, Executive Governor of Lagos State
  • Parks Tau, Executive Mayor of Johannesburg
  • Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties
  • Kuma Demeksa, Executive Mayor of Addis Ababa
  • He Liehui, Managing Director, Touchroad International Holding Group

Special NGO and academic rates are available. For further information and to register, visit quoting code ANAM.


Who owns a smart city’s intelligence?

7 Dec


Thanks to architect and urban economist Isabel Carreras-Baquer (who participated in the inaugural Anam Rurban Design Workshop), we presented Anam City at the 2011 Smart City Expo in Barcelona, Spain.

The Expo had an incredible line-up of speakers plus exhibition of a host of cutting-edge technologies for intelligent systems at the urban scale.

It also highlights the birth of an emerging business/cult of the ‘smart city,’ with real implications on the future balance of human freedom vis-à-vis the ever-extending reach of corporate power.

The Expo, an industry-driven technological showcase, sought to cross-fertilize the ideas and professional expertise of business leaders, tech researchers and urban policy-makers with the strategic impulse of global technology enterprises hungry for more: more wired cities mean a new market for the hardware and software required to render cities as computational machines.

City as Computer

Who controls these systems? [i.e. operating systems for smart cities]

Control shifts to the firms that sell these systems – some of the functions of local governments pass to the firms that developed these intelligent systems

The interaction between technical systems and the buildings they inhabit: the more complex and all encompassing the system, the more the probability that when the tech becomes obsolete, the buildings lose enormous value and become second-class buildings, and even simply obsolete and are torn down. (Obsolescence cycle is becoming shorter).

– Text of slide from Saskia Sassen’s APC11 keynote at Siège de la région du grand Casablanca

In her keynote at the African Perspectives Conference 2011 in Casablanca, Morocco (where we also presented Anam City), Saskia Sassen proposed that there is a fundamental distinction between “hacking the city” and “the city as hacker.” Sassen argues that while “many non-urban processes now have an urban moment in their trajectories,” the city—which is an incomplete and complex open-source architecture—must be understood as a “knowledge partner.” She labels as “coders” the authors of the city as an intelligent system and equates them to engineers, who prescibe the working mechanism of the urban machine and thereby draw power from (local) governments as they control the systems of control. Ultimately, Sassen locates the space of interactive open-source urbanism in-between this top-down “logic of the engineer” and the bottom-up “logic of the user.” (Francesc Santacana offered a similar assessment during our City Case Study session at the Expo.)

What this means, at a point in time exemplified by the actualization of the urban panopticon – pdf (one CCTV camera for every 12 UK citizens), when mobile phones and credit cards now track users across borders, and as private companies increasingly usurp public authority through the technology-assisted private provision of public services, is that citizens need to be far more aggressively proactive in demanding that they retain the capacity to “hack the city.” The city, fast-approaching self-awareness and always a system unto itself, will continue regardless to hack the society in which it is grounded.

In short, we are hurtling toward science fiction. Within the lifetime of the young people who are leading the #occupy protests world-wide, cities will become vastly more structured urban machines, with operating systems that command huge storage, computational and surveillance data infrastructure. The degree to which corporations control this physical counter-landscape of technology, as well as the expertise to manage it, will determine the extent to which the city remains public. And hackable. (See: #whOWNSpace)

Social Technology

Presenting Anam City at the Expo was particularly interesting because Anam as a project is both related to and also a breed apart from the high tech smart city championed by corporate initiatives like IBM’s Smarter City Challenge. What is new about Anam City is not new technology per se. Rather it is the proposition that combining the myriad intermediate and appropriate technologies already proven over the past half-century—but which remain largely absent across Africa today—together with Nigeria’s mobile web, offers a powerful opportunity to build better, smarter communities. The only way what is in theory eminently viable becomes feasible is by embedding this array of technology in a cultural wrapper that “makes it work.” Anam’s innovation is the socially-embedded simultaneous convergence of the not-new, the iterative process of a community collectively hacking itself.


Yam Store groundbreaking in Ogwuyo to transform regional market

4 Dec

A rendering explaining the innovative features of the new Yam Store

Workers finishing the foundation trenches for the Yam Store

Workers finishing the foundation trenches for the Yam Store

This week our newest project, the Anam Yam Store broke ground in the Ogwuyo neighborhood of Anam City.  We are excited to begin this project as it marks a significant advance in the region towards solving the problem of agricultural food preservation.  As we have discussed before on this blog, many local farmers and tradesmen are unable to maximize their income because of the short storage life of the yam after harvest; since all farmers in the region are forced to sell their yams at the same time of year, prices are held down.  There are few innovations to solve this problem, aside from costly refrigeration or chemical treatment, and no facilities yet exist in the region.  The Anam Yam store building was designed use passive strategies to keep the yams at a low temperature and facilitate the movement of air around the produce:  the walls are open at the top to optimize ventilation and there are vent-holes (with rodent and insect-proof screens) to introduce cool air and induce convective cooling.  Shelving and hangings systems will keep yams off the floor and maximize accessibility and inspectability- in this way traditional and modern storage techniques can be hybridized, tested and compared with each other.  The metal roof is on a truss structure that also supports a thatch ceiling – the upper layer provides shade, while the thatch intercepts heat radiated from the metal above; the large space between helps to induce airflow and disperse heat away from the interior.

By holding the yams for longer, we will create an agricultural futures market, whereby produce can be sold during an off-season when prices are highest.  The income from this venture can be reinvested into the project and community, as well as helping to raise the standard of living of the farmers.  The long term goal is for individual farmers to ‘bank’ their yams in a cooperative store so that they can have a greater benefit from their hard labour.   This project is the first of several agricultural storage and processing facilities that are planned for Ogwuyo and Anam City as a whole.

In just a few weeks the structure will be be complete and ready to receive the first yams!

A traditional Igbo method for storing yams

A traditional Igbo method for storing yams in an Oba

Anam City presents in Casablanca at African Perspectives Conference

10 Nov

Recognized as an emerging model for urbanism in Africa, the Anam City project presented at the 2011 African Perspectives conference, a prominent symposium that brings together top academic and professionals engaged in design and architectural work around the continent. The conference, organized by ArchiAfrika out of the Netherlands was held from November 3-7th, 2011 in Casablanca, Morocco.  This year’s main theme was the ‘The African Metropolis’, offering the challenging topic of urban growth in Africa.  Keynote speaker, sociologist Saskia Sassen kicked off the event by discussing the importance of technology in the city and ways that the urban metropolis and its residents can communicate.    Other speakers from around the world presented on subtopics including:

  • African urbanity: informal/formal
  • From landscape of industrial production to productive cultural cityscape, and
  • The periphery of the African metropolis

The Anam City project was very well received and the Chife Foundation team was able to connect with other practitioners and researchers who are developing other concepts compatible with our interest in sustainability in the African city.   African architect, Joe Osae-Addo in particular lauded the Anam City Project as an example of using design to stimulate social entrepreneurship.

The next conference will be held in 2013 in Nigeria.  The Chife Foundation plans to participate and will bring updates on the construction of Anam City.  We will have a lot to show off in two years!

Saskia Sassen opened the conference on the African Metropolis

Housing Discoveries with Fellows

5 Jul

Last week week was one of exploration and discovery of housing practices through group discussions and feedback mechanisms in the Rurban Design Workshop.

As an architect, one such mechanism I developed is a housing survey geared towards understanding the current state of density and spatial arrangements of Anam homes.  The preliminary survey (below) asks the Fellows to sketch a plan (top view) of their home.  From my first trials, I quickly learned that this was easier said than done, as spatial thinking can be challenging if you are not trained in it.

Nonetheless, from a rough sketch and a short discussion with one Fellow, we were able to acquire the number of sleeping rooms in a house, the number of households (different families) per house, and the number of people per room. It was an interesting exercise in understanding not only the nature of the family size but also the important social role of homeownership as a safety net for extended family members. As we move forward to survey a larger sample size, the acquisition of floor areas will also help to structure and inform decisions about the development strategy for affordable and incremental housing in the New City.

Post by: Quardean Lewis-Allen

Example Housing Survey

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