Cotonou System D City_Re-defining Public Space in an African Context

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Cotonou System D City_Re-defining Public Space in an African Context 

Kemi Amede_Maxime Vigneau


What does “public space” mean in Africa? Does the word “public space” have a place in an African context or does this expression only fit into a western concept?
How can we think to create public space when other social, politic, ecologic, economic issues seam as,or more important. Moreover who is going to pay for this intervention? Subsidies? Or maybe is the money just going to disappear (Yes, we do talk about the corruption).

These very urgent issues don’t only occur in Cotonou, Benin but contrarily exist everywhere in all big urban African cities. Instead of creating one local solution, the project aims at creating ideas, uses; suttle experiences lead by the population. Create a system which can work in Benin but also in the entire country. Space valued in uses and users not in its shape.
The project wants to act, act and dream!

The most important aspect isn’t the output but the process. The project doesn’t intend to be built but is intended make people think. It offers locally applied global strategies , which develop consistent solutions in an economic and technical terms. The project interconnects knowledge, techniques, materials and practices culturally appropriate.


Who influences you graphically?
We are inspired by a lot of people. For this particular project the main reference was Hayao Miyazaki, for all the crazy dreaming machine in his movies. We were also inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis drawings and environment.
We love the work of Claude Ponti who draws amazing and strange universes in illustrated books for children.

What does public space mean for you? By the very essence it is intended as a space for public interaction, as such what is the effect and purpose of the lack of people within your images?

In addition to the above stated in the project objective, another big statement was defining the meaning of a public space, a space for public interaction doesn’t have the same meaning confronting to the culture context. We believe that in Africa space and public space valued only by the use, and the users. This is the reason the question has been addressed through programmatic elements intended to be built by the people through an informal process.

The lack of people in the axonometric was about presenting these programmatic elements as machines, strange objects removed from reality. We wanted the viewer to be not even sure of the objects’ scale. Is it a real tower or a lego toy ?

What dictated your colour palette and what determines the shift between a coloured axonometric and a monochromatic elevation?

Similarly to the lack of people, the light pastel colour palette settles the project in another universe. Potentially it relates to the color range used in fairy tales as a reminder that the proposal is an utopian one.
The monochromatic elevation is a reference to our other main inspiration : machine aesthetics, mechanic, technical drawing.

How do images work as tools which make people think? To what extent is todays overexposure to imagery numbing?

Images can bring attention, make people think about real problematics and finally enrich and improve the design process. This overexposure is critical because images are a very strong tool. Even though very close to reality, numbing imagery sells a concept which isn’t reality. It’s more about marketing than architecture. I prefer unusual diagrams, singular images, collages which instead of selling this fake reality make us questioning about the real subject.


Open Air Cinema

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Blue Zone Elevation

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Blue Zone Elevation


The Blue Zone

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Aquaponics Centre Plan

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Aquaponic Centre Plan Elevation

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Aquaponics Centre Plan Detail



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