Skip to main content

NOW OPEN: CPDI Africa Heritage Architecture Competition 2021


Have you ever imagined what the architecture of Africa would look like today, if the great civilizations of Egypt, Timbuktu, Mali, the Dogon, Zulu, Yoruba, and thousands of other African empires had continued to develop and evolve in their own unique identity? Imagine the transformation of the African landscape into sprawling metropolises filled with architectural masterpieces celebrating new interpretations of traditional design elements, portrayed with all the comfort of modern innovations and technique.

The Community Planning & Design Initiative Africa (CPDI Africa) 2021 culture-inspired, research-based design competition aims to promote the development of new architectural languages for the African Diaspora that are culturally and environmentally sustainable. What Africa would you build if given the opportunity to develop African skylines in her own image?


The CPDI Africa 2021 competition is open to both students and practitioners of architecture and all related professions of the built environment, inclusive of arts & design, engineering, town planning and urban design. Participants may enter the competition as individuals, or may submit their entries as part of a team of designers, artists, engineers, and planners. Teams are limited to a maximum of 3 members.

The competition is open to any race, religion or creed, and encourages collaborative ventures between development professionals in Africa and the Diaspora. Applicants may register from all parts of Africa, the Americas, Caribbean, Europe and Asia and are encouraged to build multicultural/multinational teams in order to harness a multiplicity of creative ideas. Applicants are encouraged to seek inspiration from their African roots for their concepts. Submitted Designs that are obvious copies of existing buildings will be disqualified.

The Challenge:

The CPDI Africa 2021 competition calls for design entries of prototypes for a contemporary Cultural Center inspired by architecture of the African Diaspora.
To design prototypes of African centered or inspired architecture that reflects the culture, aesthetics and sustainability for community design and development in today’s Africa, research must accompany the design. The links between research and design are achieved in three categories:
    • Culture-Lifestyle (floor plan & functionality)
    • Aesthetics (finishing & furnishing)
    • Sustainability (materials, climate & cost)
Participants of the CPDI Africa design competition must first conduct research into the traditional architecture of their selected ethnic groups to understand the impact of climate, lifestyle, social norms, cultural philosophies and spiritual beliefs on space utilization and location within the community. Sources for research are available on our links:
Research Sites
Participants must explore the aesthetics and artistic languages of their selected ethnic groups or African regions to gain inspiration from their decorative and symbolic patterns, motifs, textures, colours, forms and finishes.

Participants must also understand the use of particular materials and building techniques, paying special attention to sustainability, availability and affordability of local materials in their selected African region. It is critical to utilize such materials and techniques in a way that proves their relevance in a contemporary built environment for Africa.

Participants are encouraged to acquire additional inspiration from the evolution of other African arts, such as music, fashion, visual arts, cuisine, film and theater, for more intricate expressions of African creativity, but most importantly how African life is lived. It is the architectural translation of these elements of daily life that will strengthen your design concept. 

Finally, participants must harmonize their research findings to develop their designs according to the CPDI Africa 2021 design brief. Through this process, collaborating architects, artists, designers and allied built environment professionals will create stimulating and successful design prototypes for a culturally appropriate and sustainable Cultural Center for Africa and the Diaspora.

Entry Requirements:

All individuals and team members participating in the competition must register to participate on the CPDI Africa website and submit the participation waiver. Registration, payment of the entry fee, and submission of your design will also serve as an official participation waiver.
Early bird registration/discounted registration fees are available on the website as of January 1st, 2021. Participation waivers and payment validations will be required (during the submission phase) for the design entries to be accepted. 

Upon registering, participants will receive the CPDI Africa 2021 design brief and one pager submission template. Participants may submit more than one entry, but each entry requires its own identification, registration and fee payment.
The submission portal opens April 1st, 2021 and the deadline for submissions is August 31st, 2021. Winners will be announced in November 2021.

Design Brief Preview:

The Cultural Community Center - A cultural center inspired by African origins.

Create a design concept for the Cultural Center that:
    1. Is unique and iconic, preserving the architectural heritage of the culture.
    2. Draws functional inspiration from 1 (one) specific Ethnic Group or Region in Africa
    3. Occupies a minimum built-up area of 600m2
    4. Occupies a culturally appropriate context that is reflective of the functionality of urban African spaces
    5. Utilizes a spatial program that elaborates on the building’s use as a museum & cultural center
    6. Reflects elements of African culture, lifestyle and philosophy in its functionality
    7. Celebrates the African identity in its interior design, aesthetics and visual imagery
    8. Is built with materials that are locally available, sustainable and affordable
    9. Is realistic, buildable and can be replicated easily by both skilled and unskilled laborer.
    10. Can be constructed successfully given issues of cost, materiality and regional economic factors.

Submission Requirements:

Apart from uploading the submission poster (JPEG/PNG file format) on the CPDI Africa website, participants will also be required to provide a link to a separate folder on their online drive (google drive/dropbox) with the title format: Participant’s name_Prototype name_CPDI 2021Each folder should contain the following information:

  • A name for the prototype:
A name should be chosen from the primary ethnic group that inspired the design. It should be a female or feminine name and the meaning of the name should be provided.
  • Inspirational & conceptual narrative:
This should be a 1500 word narrative submitted in Word doc format that details the unique features of your design and how it reflects the African design elements you researched. Details of the ethnic group or region of Africa, traditional aesthetics and elements that inspired the prototype design should be provided. Original images, of the motifs or patterns used in the design, alongside their names and meanings if available, should be provided. Sustainable building materials for the foundation, frame, interior walls, roofing, fenestration and other structural elements should be specified. It should also answer the questions:
    • How does your design translate traditional architecture elements in new and innovative ways, through cultural and aesthetic elements in your design concept?
    • How does your design address issues of heat, cooling, ventilation and airflow within the building?
    • What are the reasons a prospective developer would choose to buy your design?
    • Which of the unique features of your design are worthy of becoming a building code requirement for construction in Africa?
    • What built environment challenges have you resolved through your use of indigenous science and technology?
  • Floor plans, elevations and sections:
Should be represented in schematic form only (construction/working drawings are not required) and should be submitted as Jpeg format. Every room should be labeled with its function (use) and room size and dimensions should be in the Metric system only (sqm/square meters).
  • 3D Renders:
Minimum of two 3D perspectives of the building façade should be provided in JPEG format only. There should be no texts or labels in the renders. The renders may be articulated with landscaping or waterbodies but be devoid of vehicles, people or animals.
  • Waiver acknowledgements:
The populated waiver form serves as evidence of you agreeing to the terms and conditions of the design competition.


The jury panel consists of professional architects, designers and professors of Afrocentric architecture & design. The competition entries will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
  • Design originality
  • Design innovation
  • Cultural appropriateness
  • Contextual relevance
  • Architectural preservation
  • Community participation
  • Form
  • Function
  • Impact
  • Sustainability

Awards & Honors:

Award categories include:
  • Six Regional Winners (West Africa, East, Central, North, South, Diaspora)
  • Five Honorable Mentions per region


  • Promote your favorite African architecture to the world
  • Winners earn paid internships with CPDI Africa & Associates
  • Become an ambassador in your country for CPDI Africa initiatives
  • Showcase your resume and design portfolio internationally
  • Feature in CPDI Africa Heritage Compendium & Exhibitions
Alongside award certificates, winners and honorable mentions will be featured on the CPDI Africa website and social media platforms and will also be invited to virtually present their designs to the jurors during the award ceremony. They will also gain a free placement in any CPDI Africa Global Studio certified short course of their choice. Their designs will be featured on the CPDI Africa website and will be showcased as part of the CPDI Africa publications and travelling exhibitions. Winners and honorable mentions will be the face of CPDI Africa in their respective regions/countries.
To participate in the CPDI African Architecture Heritage Competition, register at


Popular posts from this blog

CPDI Africa Global Studio: The Premiere Academy for Teaching African Centered Design & Architecture!

CPDI Africa Global Studio, the Premiere Academy for Teaching a New Pedagogy in African Centered Architecture. Virtual certificate programs. Culturally diverse curriculum. Distinguished professors. Study abroad in Africa. Scholarship programs. Available now: courses in History & Critical Theory, Design Studio, CAD, BIM, Sustainable Design and Design-Build practicals during our summer Study Abroad sessions in Africa. To learn more visit us online, and do inquire about our Scholarship Programs.  CpdiAfrica.Org Global Studio for African Centered Architecture: A CPDI AFRICA INITIATIVE. #AfricanHeritageArchitecture #CPDIAfrica #AfricanArchitecture #CulturalArchitecture #Architecture

Elements of Traditional Hausa Architecture

Emir's Palace Kano. Image:  ⓒ Hauwa Mahmoud Hausa architecture, as dictated by culture, is traditionally designed to be inward-looking in order to maximize privacy. Residential architecture is characterized by high walls with openings few and small, large courtyards, and entrance porches meant to welcome but keep out strange male visitors from the inner private quarters. These features usually have the double function of ensuring privacy, which is an important consideration in Hausa architecture. They also aid temperature regulation which is vital in the hot and arid regions of the West African Sahel where the Hausas are predominantly located. Plan and layout of Emir's Palace, Kano    Dmochowski 1990 The layout of a traditional  Hausa residence rarely takes a defined shape. This flexibility allows for expansion as needed as most households tend to be polygamous. However, there are certain features that are consistent in any layout no matter how big or small.

Comfort in an African Home

So much research has gone into the connection between mental and physical health in relation to greenery within the built environment. Experiencing nature through its green outdoor spaces has been linked to reduced heart and respiratory diseases, higher happiness levels and stronger societal bonds. However, living in urban areas nowadays limits the number of green spaces one can have physical or even visual access to. Our living conditions have turned inwards, such that most of our activities are carried out indoors, with little regard to the outdoors. To this end, the large windows we typically find in contemporary buildings are not only for daylighting and ventilation, but also for maintaining a visual connection to the outdoors. However, the positive benefits to be gained from looking outside through a window depend on the nature of the built environment and whether the outdoors are worth gazing at. Most traditional African homes had one vestibule entrance and tiny openings as windo

How does architecture differ in ethnic groups split by country borders?

Have you heard about Africa before? Not the Africa you see on TV, but the real Africa. Contrary to the conventional view of Africa as a homogeneous entity, it is the continent with the highest number of countries, and it is highly rich in ethnic diversity as shown by the map below. Map of the World’s most and least diverse countries | Source: Washington Post , Data source: Harvard Institute for Economic Research.  So what if you found out that most country borders aren’t physical walls but a figment of our imagination? You’d probably look to maps to prove that borders exist. But before maps of Africa with country borders were produced, there were people - people with different languages and cultures. There are about 2,000 languages spoken across more than 3,000 ethnic groups in Africa. Numerous maps have been created to illustrate just how diverse the continent is. If you’d like to explore other facts about Africa’s diversity, this article is for you. Map of ethnic gr


CPDI Africa is PROUD to Announce our 2017 African Architecture Competition Winners: Our Geniuses Have Emerged!! We Celebrate architect Aisha Aminu, 1st place with INARA House; architects Olalekan Afolabi and Olalekan Ileola-Gold 2nd place, with The ITAN Complex; and architects Chitani Ndisale, Kouyate Toure and Muhammad Shehata 3rd place, with The EKYANZ House! Congratulations to all of our Honorable Mention Winners, we look forward to Celebrating your Genius with our Upcoming Awards, Exhibitions, Internships, Consultancies and Publications. Thank You CPDI Africa Distinguished Jury Members, Partners, Sponsors, Team Members, as we continue to Celebrate Africa's' Voice in the Global Built Environment! Nmadili Okwumabua, Founder, CPDI Africa!


"YALAM" , the name of the said courageous leader of the JARAWA nation who migrated from political unrest around Bornu-Chad region during the regime of Shehu Ali Ghaji, inspired the the label of my design, something that was almost lost is to have base from the very origin, thus provide befitting foundation to build upon. Courage, and determination to a cause is one attribute JARAWA nation are known for, this quality i can find in the very leader of my ancestors that seek peace, and favorable atmosphere to grow as a people and explore their gifts in trade and craftmanship. Play video below to watch the design Quick Animation. The concept of "YALAM JAR CULTURAL RESORT" in FLOOR LAYOUT PLAN was inspired by the arewa logo and it fusion with the structure of an atom. Arewa to show our geographical location where we are mostly living and the atom as smallest indivisible unit of matter to show our strength in unity. And in elevation was inspired by a collection of some Jar

The GIDAN - HAUSA RESORT AND CULTURAL CENTER: CPDI 2020 Internship Design by Hauwa Mahmoud

The Hausa Resort and Cultural Center aims to capture the essence of Hausa culture at a glance given the visitor an immersive experience at one location. Drawing inspiration from the layout of a typical Hausa city, and more specifically inspired by the Emir’s Palace in Kano, the resort has been laid out as a mini gated city that captures various activities that highlight Hausa culture and architecture. Play video below to watch the design  Quick Animation. Conceptual Statement The Gidan Hausa Resort and Cultural Center is designed to give the visitor an experience of Hausa culture from the large scale i.e. the city with its robust activities to the small scale of the home with its intimacy and privacy. Play video below to watch the full design Presentation. 15 elements of Hausa architecture incorporated into the design of the resort Illustration of the main entrance  Illustration of a villa entrance View from within a courtyard in a private villa Read also some of Hauwa research wor

True Leaders in Afrocentric Design: Africa's Women in Architecture.

MARIAM KAMARA:  African Architectures Leading Architect! As Mariam Kamara spoke on her return home to Niger West Africa, after studying architecture in the US, she articulated the essence of which CPDI Africa - The Community Planning & Design Initiative Africa - was built upon!! She is brilliant! @mariamkamr, GSA Johannesburg Lecture.  When African architects and designers define architecture through their world view and realities, all the 'Confusions' in our built environments will dissipate, both on and off the Continent! As we continue to Teach Architecture from an African Centered Curriculum! How Many Afrocentric Architects do you know who are solving challenges in your communities, preserving your culture and identity, and creating powerful opportunities for generations to come! #AfricaDefinesArchitecture #CPDIAfrica #GeniusRising #MariamKamara #NigerArchitect #TheAfricanArchitect #Architecture #AfricanArchitectureMatters #africanarchitecture