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Interview with Hayatte Ndiaye, President of the national order of architects of Chad

Hayatte Ndiaye, president of the National Order of Architects of Chad, emphasizes the importance of defining the vision of African cities and implementing urbanization plans through strategic tools. She believes that financing the urbanization of cities is crucial, as it promotes local economies, supports industrialization, and creates jobs locally. Ndiaye emphasizes the need for a sustainable city that addresses local needs and incorporates financial policies that promote local economies. She believes that the current African city is built on fortuitous foundations that are disconnected from reality, and that a strong political will is needed to design a more sustainable future. She calls for young urban planners and architects to experiment with the local context, study the history of cities and civilizations, and question their social and cultural framework. She calls for the younger generation to continue this work of cultural reappropriation and take on new challenges such as security, health, environmental issues, and digital and technological issues.

“I am Hayatte Ndiaye, pioneer architect and president of the National Order of Architects of Chad” 

My journey began in Chad where I did my primary and part of my secondary education before moving to France where I obtained a scientific baccalaureate. I then joined the Institut Supérieur d’Architecture Victor Horta / Université Libre de Bruxelles, for a course in architecture: design and realization of buildings. Upon graduation, I began my professional career in France with the Parisian firm Architecture Studio where I worked for a year before returning to Chad in 2009, which was then in the middle of a construction boom thanks to the oil windfall. 

Back in N’Djaména, I collaborated with the Cabinet Atepa on two major public works from 2009 to 2011, before setting up the Hayatt Architecture firm. Under the seal of responsible architecture, the firm defends an unconventional architecture, respectful of the environment, which pays particular attention to the energy performance of the building. 

The social dimension and the impact that architecture can have on the daily life of people have always been at the center of my concerns. Member of the international jury of the African School of Architecture and Urbanism (EAMAU) graduation, I also intervene in various conferences, including the West African Festival of Architecture (WAAF).Member of the international jury TERRA AWARD SAHEL and the Forum of Earthen Construction Actors (FACT Sahel), I will be at the origin of the international conference, Sustainable Habitat in the Sahel, the first edition of which will be held in April 2018 in N’Djamena. 

In July 2019, I was elected president of the National Order of Architects of Chad (ONAT), and in November of the same year, we organized in N’Djaména the very first round table of architecture on the future of African cities, with the theme «African cities of the future», which brought together many actors in the world of construction, including about fifteen presidents of continental and international orders. Under the aegis of the National Assembly, I will preside in March 2021, the jury of the architectural competition for the construction of the memorial stele of Bohoma, a locality on Lake Chad.

“Urbanization should not be a matter of chance” 

Urban development must be the result of a long-term vision, a conscious and concerted vision, accompanied by a substantial financing plan, likely to support its implementation. This regalian mission for the future of our cities and the image they project is the responsibility of our states, and should not be the result of a haphazard process, built according to the financial aid of international organizations or the specifications of intransigent donors. 

The urgency is therefore in the definition of this vision of the actors of the African city, of the present and the future of their living environment, and in the implementation of this urbanization plan through a transcendent leadership of our governors. These visions must be guided by strategic tools, including territorial coherence plans for the harmonious development of our territories. 

To effectively mobilize financing, we must put in place mechanisms that promote the development of local economies, supporting industrialization, and creating jobs locally. It is unacceptable that after decades of independence we are still relying on international donations to finance development. The question of financing the urbanization of our cities is therefore crucial.

Most African cities develop in spontaneous concentric rings around a more or less planned central core. These unplanned new districts crystallize most of the governance problems that these cities face. It is therefore essential to question our modes of production of urban space, when we know that even our villages respond to well-defined principles and schemes in their development. For example, public squares occupy a central place in our villages and disappear in the orthogonality of our cities. 

Our way of making the city must take into consideration our culture, our identity, our uses by giving back to the village square its determining place in our cities. And because the African (subSaharan) man is by nature an outdoor man, particular care must be taken in the design and management of urban public spaces. Our cities must reflect the people who live in them, they must be more inclusive and more sustainable. Imported models, designed outside, have shown their limits because they are unsuitable. They often lead to dehumanization with all the consequences that we know. Integrating the notion of identity and culture in the planning of our cities from the outset is the price of their resilience.

“The sustainable city is above all a city thought locally by the inhabitants”

We are in a context of globalization where African cities are under attack from multinational firms, selling concepts and turnkey products, without having had the time to learn or to experiment, which is the key to sustainable development. It is therefore clear that for us the music is going a little too fast. If we consider that the notion of sustainability and its corollary, resilience, presuppose a mastery of the processes and techniques of creating and managing a city, the African city has every interest in defining and implementing its own score in this new voracious configuration of the world. 

Our cities are developing more and more rapidly, with a construction market in constant evolution. However, most of the building materials, representing 50% to 70% of the total cost of construction, come from imports. This has the effect of making access to housing expensive, excluding vulnerable people with low incomes, who represent the largest segment of the population. 

Panorama of N'djamena, Photo by Dmitry Moiseenko, austria-forum

The advent of the sustainable city in Africa must therefore integrate financial policies that promote the development of local economies, have a holistic approach that integrates local expertise, and address the financial dimension in a sustainable manner. This is why the sustainable city is above all a city thought locally by its inhabitants, a city that responds to local needs, otherwise it becomes useless. 

Paradoxically, historically, African cities were sustainable cities, because they were designed according to their environment, and the ways of life of our ancestral societies. Unfortunately, all these skills have been abandoned in the design of the modern city. The current African city is built on fortuitous foundations that do not work because they are disconnected from reality. An introspection, a diagnosis and a repositioning are therefore necessary to build the city of tomorrow.

“Strong political will is needed to design a more sustainable future for our cities”

The construction of most of the world’s major cities is based on political visions and the commitment of governments. Similarly, in Africa, our leaders must first of all take a more proactive approach to urban issues. It is therefore through a strong, deliberate and conscious political will and citizenry, and a long-term projection of our cities that we can significantly and sustainably improve our urban environment.

N'Djamena, Photo by Dzmitry Aleinik

There is often an incompatibility between the problems we are experiencing and the answers that are given to them. It is more than urgent that our leaders become aware of the priority nature of the urban issue, as it has repercussions on the safety, health, well-being and economy of our cities. From this point on, we would gain by planning our cities with military rigor. The African city of tomorrow will therefore be the one we choose. 

“Young urban planners and architects must think in an uninhibited way about the design of African cities”

The mission of young urban planners and architects on the continent is to experiment with the local context, to study the history of our cities and civilizations, to question their social and cultural framework, etc. This should allow them to have a specific look and to propose innovative and contextualized approaches to the development of our cities. They have the responsibility to reappropriate their history and to propose models that best correspond to the needs of our populations. 

David Adjaye and Francis Kéré, among others, are architects who should serve as an example for them because they have succeeded in breaking away from the classic and standardized approaches to architecture.

These architects have paved the way, it is up to the younger generation to follow in their footsteps by continuing this work of cultural reappropriation which is the basis of our identity. The young generation of architects and urban planners must take on the new challenges facing our cities and countries, such as security, health and environmental issues with climate change, as well as digital and technological issues. Their greatest challenge will be to succeed in reconciling all these aspects so that we have cities that are pleasant to live in and that leave no one behind.

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