Sunday, 8 June 2008
Pierre Goudiaby Atepa | Senegalese Architect
We are all observing it : Africa today has begun its own renaissance. The Atepa Group has for more than 30 years striven to participate all over the continent at the rebuilding of what was once known as one of the leading civilizations of the world.
Think of Timbuktu, the Pyramids of Egypt!
Changing Africa, by participating in the making of its future, by identifying here and there partners in business, partners in progress, to use the potentials of this rich continent and work hand in hand to make them blossom.
That is the reason why we have decided to go global. Global in the choice of our partners, global in the activities we have identified as being useful for the welfare of Africans and their partners, be it financial engineering, architecture, real estate, mining, transport, agriculture, energy.
At Atepa, we want to create conditions for win-win ventures with our partners.
So come and join us in this tremendous task of building Africa together.
Well ! we have being doing it for more than 32 years and counting.
Pierre Goudiaby ATEPA, Bâtisseur du futur - Master-builder of the future
Interview de Mathieu Ropitault
Interview by Mathieu Ropitault
The seat of the BCEAO, the Central Bank of West African States, and the Millenary Door in Dakar, the Banjul airport, the bank of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Lomé, etc. The list of architect Pierre Goudiaby Atepa’s accomplishements is a long one. As long as his projects in progress.
Since his first achievement in 1975, the man has gone far, imposing, successfuly, his African and contemporary stamp. And if his first works still evoke admiration, he continues to bustle about numerous sites, each one more ambitious than the other.
A workaholic, Pierre Goudiaby Atepa exerts himself to do his part in the construction of a great Africa. Encounter in Dakar.
After 34 years in architecture, how do you look at your career ?
Actually, it’s gone very quickly. But that’s normal, when you do things with a passion, like I do, you don’t dwell upon the time.
Time, we live it, we don’t ask any questions and we move on. And when I realize that it’s been 28 years since I started my compagny, in fact, it’s like it was yesterday...
For several years, Senegal has been a construction site, that must be very satisfying for the architect that you are ?
It is more than a satisfaction. As for me, I am happy. I regret, however, that other architects did not follow suit. It is a criticism that I have of them because President Abdoulaye Wade invited them to participate several times, but they became enmeshed in quarrels that really made no sense.
Unfortunately, we are only three or four architects that are benefiting from this inspiration, this state of cultural and architectural effervescene. They are not all benefiting from it, and I think that’s a shame.
Is it a challenge to give Senegal a new image ?
You know, let’s not pull the wool over our eyes. Africa is the cradle of art. If African architects succeed one day in making the symbiosis between African art and modern architecture, the result will be magnificent.
I am almost 60 and I have to think about taking a rest in ten years. But I am sure that the new generation will revolutionize modern African architecture, which will have nothing to reproach itself of in terms of modernity and wich will maintain, as Senghor advocated, the true values of African civilisation.
A spanish journalist wrote that we do architecture without a complex. Not only do we want to create architecture without a complex, but we want to go beyond that. Not that we want to give others a complex, just simply to represent new modern architecture.
In 1973, you presented a thesis on the ideal African city, this city is it on the agenda today ?
It could be the same one. The ideal city had three essential properties. The first, that it be profoundly African. The second, that it is turned towards an assured modernity. The third, that it is a solar city. I had, for example, designed a solar-powered bus that was invented 15 years later. So I had thought about it without having the means to create it.
This solar city, convivial and ecological, hasn’t aged a bit. At the time it was nearly visionary, no one took it up because petroleum was 5 dollars a barrel. Today, the price has gone beyond 100 dollars !
Right now I am working on solar light bulbs, because the current solar panels that you have to position to capture the sun are not nice looking. In Africa, we are not lacking in sunshine, so let’s do something so it is aesthetic, so that people can consume solar energy and that it is a pleasant commodity.
You are putting a great deal into the African continent.
I received everything from Africa, so I must give something back to reciprocate. I don’t have anything against football players and singers but I am tired of seeing on television only Africans who sing, who dance and who play football. I am not saying to the youngers that there are better things to do, but that there isn’t only that to do. They have to go into business, change the economy.
To do that Africans have to be enterprising and not have any complexes. The wealth of tomorrow is in Africa. We have to develop it ourselves in partnership with others, in a frank collaboration that is beneficial to all, African youth must be aware of its potential, to accept that it is possible.
You have also just launched the IDEE-A initiative.
Once again it is to bring together, through new technologies, intelligence and allow Africans to participate wherever they are. If before I told Africans to come back to Africa, today I tell them to stay where they are and to use modern means of communication to develop Africa. And to develop is first of all to have ideas.
We are trying to put into synergy every competence that we can have throughout the world and locally in order to create projects for the society. That is what is important to me, to participate in an intelligent way in the development of Africa.
Among your future projects, which is the one that is the most important to do ?
I would say Diamond City in Liberia because we are starting from nothing. We are going to create, completely, a city to bring wealth to a poor country that is potentially among the richest in the world. The idea is to develop the diamond industry by creating a free trade zone to boost the Liberian economy. I will say it again, wealth must be created and everyone must benefit from it. That is how Africa will get ahead.
www.idee-a.org May - june 2008