In May an international conference, the Forum for Sustainable Construction, was hosted by the American University in Cairo. The conference was sponsored by LafargeHolcim, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of cement. According to Graham Wood the conference was marked by plans for extravagant and glamorous megaprocjects on the one hand and architects trying to find ways to build sustainably on the other hand. An example of this was Egypt’s deputy minister of housing, Khaled Abbas, who described how the Egyptians were building the biggest new desert city about 50 km outside of Cairo with a towerbuilding at its centre that is aiming to be the tallest building in Africa.
At the opposing end was Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, also a previous Pritzker prize-winner, who pointed at the insustainability of glass towers and concrete buildings. Diébédo Francis Kéré, originally from Burkina Faso but now a German-based architect and known for the design of the Serpentine Pavilion in London, also underlined the need to build with local and traditional materials, but also to involve local communities in building projects. Accordingly the most important highlight of the conference was that (new) cities in Africa should be sustainable and furthermore, that Europe should lead the way as it seems as if developing countries are copying European designs.
Earlier this month President Ramaphosa also suggested that a new smart city should be build in South Africa. According to several critics this city with “scyscrapers, schools, universities and factories” has the potential to become a disastrous experiment. See Wessels se mening for his reasons behind the criticism.