Mmegi Blogs :: To get a feel for Botswana go to Australia!
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Friday 19 January 2018, 18:00 pm.
To get a feel for Botswana go to Australia!

Rre Magang in his recent, very interesting lecture at University of Botswana pointed out a number of peculiarities in what might be termed, our state of affairs. Because he has opened this particular door it may be that others will now take their opportunity and spell out their own concerns.
By Sandy Grant Wed 06 Sep 2017, 15:33 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: To get a feel for Botswana go to Australia!

One of mine is the state of our architecture which really means of course the architecture of Gaborone, Francistown and now Palapye. Much of this being dominated, for most people, by the dreary, unimaginative design of so many of its shopping malls. But wait before leaping to too many conclusions. There is one award winning building which has been gaining all sorts of plaudits since it was opened by Minister Skelamani in 2009.

The design concept of this particular building was to present architecture of a timeless contemporary character, so says the blurb, which also incorporates elements of traditional forms and crafts.

In addition culturally significant elements such as brick patterns and colours, timber panels, metal acoustic panels, custom rugs, and photo murals of local subject matter are Integrated throughout the building. This is just the job isn’t it? Just what we have been hoping for during all those long past years.

True there has been the President’s encouragement of the arts but this appears to have had only narrow effect – there being little to indicate that it has had any effect on architectural design and, say, creative writing. But then, for all of the last eight years, there has been this one truly outstanding building which rarely if ever gets a mention and which seems to have had not the slightest influence on the design of other buildings. But then, the building that I am having in mind, which so strongly reflects design elements of this


country, happens to be, not here but in Australia.

It is our High Commission building in Canberra! In the circumstances, it cannot seem so surprising that the Australian architects who were commissioned to design the  building came here in a deliberate attempt to gain a feel for the country, to get a sniff of its forms, colours, and textures. They then went home and wove into their design much of what they had found here.

Wonderful. None of our newspapers have architectural correspondents so I can have no idea about the design quality of the new BIUST buildings but I do regularly drive past the new Oodi College, I do see the new buildings in Gaborone’s CBD and I do get to Gaborone’s woeful SSK terminal. Put the lot together and there is precious little to admire. This is not just strange. It is extraordinary. 

The old tribal capitals and smaller villages were, in the past, hugely attractive with homes imaginatively decorated with a range of naturally derived browns and yellows. Today, the traditional forms, materials and colours have been largely replaced by suburban housing of routine design so that each place now is little more than a mini replica of Gaborone.

What is so odd about Gaborone is that it has drawn so little inspiration from the settlements around it. It has been a one-way process with the new Gaborone so strongly influencing those settlements which in turn have contributed so little to the national capital.


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