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South Africa’s Black Female Architects Build on Social Justice

Black female architects are a rare breed in South Africa, and they know all too well that their under-representation in design translates into buildings that fall short in meeting their needs. In keeping with movements across the globe to improve diversity and promote community-centric design, however, there are glimmers of hope for broader participation.Buildings are an important part of the equation as well, says Althea Peacock, co-founder of Lemon Pebble Architects in Johannesburg, one of South Africa’s only architecture firms fully run by women of color. For instance, female architects tend to design buildings that are “more empathetic to the ways in which women are vulnerable,” she says. That can mean including more lights for safety, more bathrooms, and more places to breastfeed or change a diaper. Ms. Ngillian Faal, a Gambian architect, recently worked on a Johannesburg law firm for Kate Otten Architects, South Africa’s most prominent woman-owned firm. The architects drew in part on advice from women working at the practice to create a space full of “places to sit and stop and chat, where life could happen.” That included a window seat designed specifically for pregnant women to rest in.