The Beauty of Africa’s Traditional Architecture, In One Big Database

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The Beauty of Africa's Traditional Architecture, In One Big Database

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The Beauty of Africa's Traditional Architecture, In One Big Database

How do traditional homes in Gambia differ from those in Cameroon? What materials are popular in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to the continent’s northern regions?

Those were the sorts of questions the architect Jon Sojkowski hoped to answer as he prepared to teach architectural design at Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia, as part of the Peace Corps program. What he discovered was a serious dearth of available information on traditional African housing design—either in books or online. To be fair, it was 1997 and the internet was nowhere near what it is today, but Sojkowski says documentation and research on the topic can be hard to find online even now.

So he decided to fill in the gap. In 2014, Sojkowski created the first online database of African vernacular architecture, using photos he’d taken during his research trips to Zambia, Malawi, and Swaziland, as well as photos from Flickr and photographer submissions. So far, his database includes photos for 48 countries. []

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