“For us to look ahead, we really need to go back,” Mr. Karanja said, proposing a return to “a real, honest state” as a solution to the environmental and social damages inflicted by modern life. “It might sound romantic,” he added, “but we’re really trying to grapple with this kind of crisis.”
Ms. Lokko, who is a respected architectural teacher and critic, but also a best-selling novelist, has helped mentor many of the participants. “The Laboratory of the Future” emphasizes the role of story telling in the creation of architecture, challenging what the discipline is, what it needs to be and how it can transform society through creativity and inclusivity, not violence or disruption.
“The more we can fan out a greater collective of people to get their views on how the world can be, and to think imaginatively, the better,” said Zenna Tavares, a founder, with his brothers, Gaika and Kibwe Tavares, of a creative collaboration called Basis with GKZ. Loosely inspired by traditional West African storytellers, known as jalis, their installation, “Djali,” displays short stories within an imaginary, computer-augmented world set in the future. Viewers can interact with the display, navigating through scenes and exploring different artificial-intelligence and augmented-reality-enhanced stories and settings.
“It’s a tool for exploring how this technology can affect us and define us,” Kibwe Tavares said. “Any time there’s been a shift in technology, you see a shift in how people create buildings. How people draw. How people see and experience the world. How will the world unfold when we’re not the only voice?”
The global impact of young architects of African descent is another theme. The Tavares brothers grew up in South London to parents from Jamaica and Grenada who considered themselves Pan-Africanists. “We were always encouraged to think of ourselves as being from the African Diaspora,” Gaika Tavares said.
Sumayya Vally, the founder of the architecture firm Counterspace, was born in South Africa to Muslim parents from India and lives in London and Johannesburg. Her collaborator, Moad Musbahi, grew up in Libya and Tunisia and is an artist and a graduate student at Princeton University, in New Jersey. Their entry, “African Post Office,” presents literal columns — totems, minarets, instruments, posts embedded with audio speakers — of identical diameters, accompanied by sounds like prayer chants and bird calls recorded around the world.