Skip to main content?

75 | New Forms of Design Education for New Forms of Cities

Christian Benimana is Rwandan architect dedicated to addressing the rapid growth and urbanization of Africa’s population. Per capita, Africa has far fewer practicing designers Than the Americas, Europe and Asia. Contemporaneously, Africa is experiencing robust growth in both its overall population as well as its rate of urbanization. In response to this, Benimana created the African Design Center, which offers recent graduates from architecture, engineering, and other design programs a field-based apprenticeship program at minimal cost.

75 | New Forms of Design Education for New Forms of Cities

Born in Rwanda, Benimana was forced to seek education in China because at the time, there were no operating architecture schools in Rwanda. His experiences studying in Shanghai exposed him to the rapid, often unchecked growth of Asian cities – their positives and their negatives. According to Benimana, Africa’s current infrastructure is inadequate for its predicted growth, and the continent urgently needs designers familiar with its cultural practices. There is also an opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of development in the East and the West, taking the best of all lessons and using them to guide the growth of African cities. To ensure this, Benimana seeks to foster a new brand of architecture that is “strictly African” by educating young designers in sustainable and efficient building practices that honor and include African culture.

Located in Kigali, Rwanda, the African Design Center aims to increase the number of African designers creating sustainable work and includes curriculum which was developed to foster relationships between students, communities, builders and craftspeople. The program is divided into three components: workshops and lectures on technical skills, on-site design build projects, and a research group dedicated to exploring new materials and building techniques. Benimana hopes to replicate the ADC at different scales across Africa to foster a new generation of African architects by changing the way we educate designers. By integrating the education of young designers and the execution of ongoing projects, we reduce the barriers to entry to the profession, while making sure that what’s being taught is what’s needed

We were fortunate to have Christian on our podcast Social Design Insights, where he joined hosts Eric Cesal and Karen Kubey to discuss how changing educational paradigms must be the key for the future development of African cities.

And don’t forget to check out Christian’s recommendations for further study!


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2018 is "Alright With Me" by Reggie Young from his album "Young Street." The break music is "Yearning" by John-Angus MacDonald from the album "Song For Africa: Rwanda: Rises Up!"