The Africa Centre’s new HQ in Southwark, London, has been awarded the Health and Community award at this year's Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards. The Awards recognise and celebrate the design expertise behind the vital renewal and repurposing of existing buildings, setting a precedent for ways to slash the industry’s carbon footprint in the process.
Completed in June 2022, Freehaus were appointed to transform an unremarkable 1960s former office building and bring to life the charity’s vision for a new home for contemporary African culture and heritage in London. Freehaus’ design themes were steered and developed with input from a range of stakeholders including interior design collaborators led by Tola Ojuolape, who brought a cohesive, authentic, and contemporary Afrocentric look and feel featuring elements sourced directly from different parts of Africa. South Africa-based designers Mam’gobozi Design Factory developed a new and compelling brand identity for The Africa Centre.

Key to the brief was for the new flagship building to be uncompromisingly African - not an easy task given the vast richness and diversity of the continent, and the oft-employed stereotypes and aesthetic tropes of what ‘African’ look like. The primary challenge faced by the collaborative design team was how to translate The Africa Centre’s bold ambition and convert an uninteresting structure into something truly inspiring, welcoming, expressive, and that fosters a real sense of 'home' and identity.

Thankfully, the retrofit has turned an otherwise nondescript office building into an iconic cultural institution that will hopefully endure for another 60 years!

Many thanks to Freehaus, the Architects’ Journal', Tola Ojuolape and the whole Design Team, Southwark Council, Greater London Authority the Mayor of London's Good Growth Fund which partly funded the project. And lastly but by no means least, thanks to all of our diverse communities for their patience and continued support.

Location London SE1 | Completion June 2022 | Occupation June 2022 | Project cost £2.6 million | Client The Africa Centre | Architects Freehaus | Interior Design Tola Ojuolape | Engineer Price & Myers | Services engineer OR Consulting | Main contractor QOB Interiors, Tower Demolition | Branding Designers Mam’gobozi Design Factory