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The Foundation: Design, Time, and Possibility in 1960s Nairobi

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Document pages: 30 pages

Abstract: This article explores the history of an experiment in architectural education that took place at what is today the University of Nairobi, between 1965 and 1967. Organized by Selby Mvusi, a South African industrial designer, and Derek Morgan, a British expatriate architect, what was known as the “Foundation Course” was both an experiment in architectural education in postcolonial Africa and a serious attempt to think through the African experience of time and equip students with the tools to recognize and respond to the unique conditions of the postcolonial African present. Based on archival sources, including those in private collections, and oral interviews, the article situates the Foundation Course within African intellectual history as an exercise in social theory and phenomenology. I examine the content of Mvusi and Morgan s intellectual partnership and project by tracing their individual trajectories, and especially the pedagogical scheme they developed at Nairobi, which came to focus more on humanity in dialogue with the material environment than on material objects themselves. I trace the intellectual lineages of their concepts and explore their articulation within the postcolonial university until the course was cancelled in 1967. I conclude by considering how Mvusi imagined the Foundation Course as a laboratory for both being and building in postcolonial Africa, drawing from a conference paper he delivered just weeks before he died in 1967.

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