African Speculations

In large parts of Africa, urbanistic improvements are urgently needed. Although there are numerous suggestions to boost urbanization, most of them are not aimed at the population groups actually in need. The exhibition “African Speculations”, that runs from 21 June to 18 July 2018 in the Architecture Gallery Munich, takes a close look at current developments regarding urbanization activities on the African continent. The curators are Christopher Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa Fernández from the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

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New Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: Javier Arpa)

The exhibition displays selected findings from a survey of more than 100 territorial speculative urbanization projects planned or executed in Africa since the climax of the real estate boom and collapse in 2005. It became clear that exogenous models of settlement and infrastructure were imported into completely incompatible contexts without any sensitivity for the actualities of their intended destinations. African Speculations examines these events and effects in connection with recent speculative building projects pursued in Spain, Ireland, Dubai and China at the beginning of the 21st century – with particular attention to the fatal social, environmental and political consequences they had upon their failure.

Examples can be categorized using nine different urban typologies: new national capitals, tourist enclaves, middle-class residential areas, new financial centers (CBDs), cities driven by technology and industry, luxury housing allotments, social housing districts, the occasional radical conversion of existing structures, and something that could be called greenfield mega cities.

These case studies shed light on justification strategies to carry out these projects, on existing landscapes and ecosystem services they will inevitably expose, and on numerous players involved in their design and organization.
African Speculations critically examines a looming economical and ecological catastrophe. An impeding situation in which urbanization is exploited for the pursuit of economic advantages.