It’s that time of year again, when design lovers around the world seek out gifts that surprise, delight, and won’t be swiftly returned for store credit. In the coming days, we’ll offer an alphabet of suggestions in the UnBeige Gift Guide, which we hope will also supply some ideas on how to spend the seasonal smattering of gift certificates (and store credit) that will soon be burning a hole in your pocket. Our first pick: African Metropolitan Architecture (Rizzoli), the sublime new book by David Adjaye. The set of seven slipcased volumes is the culmination of the Tanzanian-born, London-based architect’s decade-long project to document the built environment of every major African city. It’s a fresh look at a continent that the world has come to know through exotic images from National Geographic.
“I just wanted ordinary pictures. Everyday life,” said Adjaye last week at Design Miami, where he was celebrated as Designer of the Year. “There’s a sense that Africa’s all a jungle, with savannahs, animals running around, and some nice natives.” In fact, with 54 countries and 1.5 billion people, Africa is on an urbanization streak. Growth of cities on the continent is now outpacing that of China. “But nobody’s talking about Africa. I couldn’t even talk to architects about it,” he added. In the course of visiting every African city, Adjaye looked beyond the political boundaries to examine the distinctive aspects of six regions: the maghreb, the sahel, savannah and grassland, mountain and gighveld, desert, and forest. A book of essays about African urban development rounds out the edition. “The landscape of Africa is one of the most primal and powerful environments that we have on this planet,” said Adjaye. “It’s nurtured a lot of artists and creative people, and even when architecture doesn’t realize what’s happening, it’s actually authoring architecture, and that’s what this book is about.”
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