It is one thing to renovate, transform and repurpose a space, but to give a building a new soul is something else. Freehausdesign architects in collaboration with the interior designer Tola Ojuolape and brand agency Mam'gobozi Design Factory have done just that with The Africa Centre’s new home in Southwark.
I was commissioned to photograph and capture how the design team has breathed new life into the building, filling it with the colours, tastes, and vibe of Africa.
The Africa Centre started life in the 1960’s as a cultural hub for the UK’s African Diaspora, and for a long time was based in Covent Garden. It was a place to inspire, challenge, enlighten and encourage, hosting distinguished cultural, literary and political figures of African heritage.
The new headquarters in Great Suffolk Street has been completely rejuvenated into a multi-purpose site that offers flexible spaces for a variety of events and activities such as art exhibitions, pop-ups, and networking.
Inside, the 2216 sq. ft is divided across three floors with a new feature staircase connecting the first and second ﬂoors.
In contrast to the black painted exterior there is a palette of sandy clay plaster walls, rustic polished concrete floor, African inspired feature pendant lighting, authentic carved wooden furniture, vibrant fabrics and artwork. The ground floor opens out to a reception plus collaborative meeting space, and houses “Tatale”, a contemporary pan-African restaurant. The building has been extended at the back, with a row of glass doors that fold open completely, connecting the restaurant to an animated alleyway of railway arches.
The second floor is an events area, complete with bar clad in African geometric tiles and lounge with a mixture of contemporary African seating options. Both areas open out onto their own balconies, with the front terrace being supported by a sturdy black steel canopy that the architects added on the exterior as a welcoming feature.
On the third floor is the gallery space for artists to support the centre’s values and inspire others.
The Africa Centre has already featured in a number of prominent online forums and publications, including the Architects Journal, the Guardian, the Evening Standard, Wallpaper Magazine, Dezeen Magazine, The RIBA Journal and Forbes Africa.