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Wilford and Dyson fall short with Africa plans

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I have just seen the Michael Wilford and Chris Dyson proposal for the Museum of Africa (AJ 25.11.04). I believe that the idea of building the museum is very exciting and it could be a great facility, but the design published is only significant in its shortcomings.

The design lacks any proper consideration of context, whether local, cultural, historical or climatic. It is clear from the visuals how the building sits on its site as a foreign object, simply set down without any feeling of authentic site-making, which is such a profound element of both indigenous building traditions and of the vernacular Cape Dutch architecture.

The 'traditional rammed earth' is not a traditional building technique at all. The triangular stone plinth is the only historical reference I can discern from the design - unfortunately it is to the castle in Cape Town built in the 17th century, which is symbolic of the European expansion and militarisation of trade routes that formed the springboard of colonialism in southern Africa.

This is a great opportunity to create a building that can take its place with significant museums such as Te Pau in New Zealand. It would be better, however, to see an architectural design competition come up with the best response to such an important and challenging brief, as was held for the Alexandria Library and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza.

Peter Newton, 3W, London W6

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