Leading Architects in Africa You Should Know

Leading Architects in Africa You Should Know

In the year 2016, more than $324 billion was spent on various types of construction projects across Africa, with both foreign and indigenous architects trying to outdo each other by creating impressive landmarks. In no particular order, we present to you a list of leading African architects whose designs have earned them accolades far beyond the continent.

David Adjaye (b.1966)

Moscow school of management. Image credit: adjaye.com

British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye’s keen interest in art led him to study architecture at the London South Bank University. He later earned a Masters in architecture from the Royal College of Art. Adjaye has gained international recognition for his diverse designs and innovative use of materials and light. In 1994, he partnered with William Russell to form Adjaye and Russell and six years later, set up Adjaye Associates. His early projects include retail establishments, restaurants, studios and private residences. Eventually, his focus expanded to large-scale public buildings, such as the Idea Stores, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, and the Moscow School of Management. He won his most prestigious commission to date in 2009, when he was chosen to design the new site of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016), in Washington D.C. For more than a decade, Adjaye travelled to the capital of every African country, photographing each city. His images were published as a seven-volume set, Adjaye Africa Architecture: A Photographic Survey of Metropolitan Architecture (2011). He has also authored or co – authored several other publications, including David Adjaye: Houses: Recycling, Reconfiguring, Rebuilding (2005), David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings: Specificity, Customization, Imbrication (2006), David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector (2011), David Adjaye: Authoring: Re-placing Art and Architecture (2012) and David Adjaye: Form, Heft and Material (2015). Adjaye garnered severalhonours and awards for his work, including the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Bronze Medal for architectural students (1993) and the Design Miami/ Designer of the Year (2011). In June 2007, he was honoured with an OBE for his services to architecture.

Jumoke Adenowo (b. 1968)

AD Consulting, Lekki. Image credit: adconsultinglimited.com

Multiple award-winning architect, speaker, radio host, philanthropist and author Jumoke Adenowo, is the founder and principal partner at AD Consulting (AD) – an architecture and interior design firm based in Nigeria. She holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in architecture from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. At 23, she designed her first building, the Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja. Two decades on, she has been involved in the design and construction of over 70 major buildings. In 2007, Adenowo received the Rare Gems Award, given by the Women’s Optimum Development Foundation (WODEF) and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIFEM), for her work on women empowerment. Armed with an enviable portfolio, she has held positions and appointments in various capacities including vice president of The Lagos Business School Chief Executive Programme (2002), member of the Ekiti State Transitional Committee (2007) and chairperson of the National Tank Youth Development Committee (2008). Jumoke Adenowo is a trustee and board member of some bodies including the National Reformation Centre, Grace Orphanage, Indian Ayuba Foundation and the Emmanuel Etuh Foundation

Tosin Oshinowo

Cafe Neo Akin Adesola. Image credit: cmdesign-atelier.com

Tosin Oshinowo holds a Master’s degree in urban design from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College, London. She also studied architecture at the Architecture Association, London. Oshinowo’s interests include architectural history and socially responsive approaches in architecture, design and urbanism. Since 2012, she has been lead architect at the Lagos-based cmDesign Atelier (cmD+A). Prior to setting-up her firm, she worked at leading international practices like Skidmore Owing & Merril’s LLP, London and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, Rotterdam, where she was part of the team that designed a proposal for the 4th Mainland Bridge in 2008. Upon returning to Lagos, she practised at James Cubitt Architects and was team-lead on projects such as the master plan and corporate head office building for Nigeria LNG in Port Harcourt. Oshinowo has served as the convener of SHO-N-TEL (2009-2014) at the University of Lagos, an event series that encouraged practicing professionals to present their experiences to undergraduate and postgraduate students. In addition, she is a founding member of the African Alliance for New Design (AAND), a think-tank that explores the value of design for the current generation of creatives on the continent. Oshinowo also took part in the Playable Cities Lagos workshop with the Watershed Art Centre, Bristol that the British Council Lagos organised in March, 2016. Her written work includes the article The Reclamation of Public Space in Lagos, which was published in October, 2012.

Tosin Oshinowo is also an award-winning amateur photographer and has worked in a professional capacity on public art design installation in Lagos.

Mpethi Morojele

BURS Botswana Headquarters Building. Image credit: mmastudio.co.za

Mphethi Morojele is an award-winning architect and urbanist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He earned a Bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Cape Town (1990) and Master of science in architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College, London (1993).Morojele’s MMA architects is one of the first black-owned architectural practices in South Africa following the end of apartheid, and has been a leading voice of the new, non-establishment practices ever since. Working on high-profile institutional projects such as embassies and university buildings, Morojele is heavily involved in efforts to remake the face of Johannesburg to serve the public and reflect social commentary. A strong cultural interest is also indicated in his designs, which are intended to reflect South Africa in the post-apartheid era. Mpethi Morojele has also curated several architecture exhibitions around the world, including the Venice Biennale in Italy, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London and the Shanghai Expo (2010).

Kunle Adeyemi (b.1976)

Seoul National University Museum

Born and raised in Nigeria, Kunle Adeyemi studied architecture at the University of Lagos, before joining the world renowned Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 2002. At OMA, working closely with founder Rem Koolhaas for nearly a decade, he led the design, development and execution of numerous projects in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Among these are the award-winning Samsung Museum of Art, the Seoul National University Museum, NM Rothschild Bank in London, Shenzhen Stock Exchange tower in China, Prada Transformer in South Korea, Qatar National Library and Qatar Foundation headquarters. At present, he lectures frequently in India, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

Mokena Makeka

Makeka Apartment Block (Maseru), Lesotho. Image credit: makekadesigns.com

Award-winning visionary architect Mokena Makeka has been described as an urban thinker as a result of his architectural designs, which are progressively shaping South Africa. Makeka is the founder and principal of Makeka Design Lab. He earned a degree in architecture from the University of Cape Town, graduating with a distinction. Although he gained a scholarship to further his studies, he opted to establish Makeka Design Lab and pursue his dream of changing the world, one building at a time. Since 2002, Makeka has guided his firm in devising innovative design solutions at the urban, architectural, cultural and installation scale. Makeka’s career highlight is his selection as one of the Ordos 100 architects. Makeka and Magic Design Labs have been the recipients of many honours, including the inaugural Gold Loerie Award for Communication Design in Architecture (2011) for the SAPS Retreat Station (an MDL design), the 2010 Johnnie Walker Celebrating Strides Award for design and the CIA Merit Award for the Khayelitsha Multi-Purpose Centre (2009). Mokena Makeka has also served as a judge on the Plascon Prism Awards and sat on the FIFA 2010 World Cup Arts & Culture Task Team.

Rashid Ali (b.1978)

Fin House, London. Image credit: raprojects.info

Rashid Ali was born in Somalia, but lives and works in the UK. He studied architecture at the University of Greenwich and the Bartlett School, UCL, as well as city design and social science at the London School of Economics. Between 2001 and 2006 he worked at Adjaye Associates – the practice of the award-winning architect David Adjaye, whereas project architect he was involved in the development and realisation of several high-profile public projects such as the Stirling Prize-nominated Idea Store Library, London, the Nobel Peace Centre, Oslo and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Denver. He also worked on smaller art projects that included collaborations with artists Chris Ofili and Olafur Eliasson. After gaining considerable practice experience and the successful completion of the Bernie Grant Performing Arts Centre, he established RA Projects in 2011, as a collaborative research studio. RA Projects’ exhibitions include the architectural installation of Mogadishu – Forgotten Pasts and Distant Futures (2012), Mogadishu – Lose Moderns (2014) and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (2014). RA Projects was shortlisted for the Young Architect of the Year Award (2008 and 2011).

Mick Pearce

Dining Hall Vanke. Imagr credit: mickpearce.com

Mick Pearce is a Zimbabwean architect making remarkable environmentally conscious designs. His buildings are sustainable, low-cost, low-maintenance and blend in well with the natural surroundings. Pearce designed the Eastgate Shopping Center in Harare, a building that has sustainable temperature regulation system via tubes within the walls that circulate air throughout the building. This innovation employs the same mechanisms used by termites in designing their anthills that ensures the chambers within are always well ventilated. He also designed the CH2 in Melbourne, Australia.

Diebedo Francis Kere

Serpentine Pavilion Project 2017. Image credit: kere-architecture.com

Diebedo Francis Kere’s deep appreciation for African society is largely attributed to his humble upbringing, Gando, Burkina Faso and is reflected in his work. Today, his firm, Kere Architecture is based in Berlin, and has completed some outstanding contemporary building designs, the most notable being that of a school back in his home country. In there, he replaced conventional concrete with earth bricks and used raised corrugated steel roofing to improve air circulation. This unique work design, earned him the Aga Khan Award for architecture in 2004.

Oyindamola Olaniyan holds a B.sc in Botany from Lagos State University. Broadly experienced in this area, her core expertise includes social media management, content development and brand identity.


  1. Quite the beautiful works we have. Fantastic works by Mokena Makeka and Rashid Ali.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *