Visiting Professor of the Theory of Architecture
Hannah le Roux
About Us

Architecture shifts its alignment when its producers imagine radical change. Delinking from external dependencies is one such recurrent theme, where architects enact choices between complicity with powerful blocs, or a fragile autonomy. Recent histories show how others who have already faced down such conditions have not been sufficiently acknowledged in a Western canon. There is much to gain from the experiments undertaken in the new nations of the Cold War period - particularly the Non-Aligned Movement from 1956 onwards - as they struggled to design versions of modernity that would extend the hard-won condition of Independence. Their search for what Kwame Nkrumah called “a certain area of maneuver” to maintain freedom while negotiating modernity unfolds as fragmentary actions: sometimes heroic, often short-lived, and remarkably enduring.

The strategies of the Non-Aligned are not lost in history: they are transmitted differently. They inform projects such as the Keleketla! Library; the low-resource networks of grassroots adobe workshops; and land occupations, including ZAD activists in Europe. These low-key achievements are relevant to our shared vulnerability during global crises. Through respectful engagement with them, we can begin to sense how the architectural experiments of Independence were and could still be constituted, even with limited means. They involved diverse modalities, from the auto-produced media that connected autonomous experiments through what Arturo Escobar calls “self-organizing meshworks”, delinking construction from extractive technologies, and understanding land and materials as a vulnerable Commons.

Hannah le Roux is an architect, educator and writer from Johannesburg, South Africa. Her experience of post-apartheid transitions, and historical research on the architecture of Independence in West Africa, were the impetus for her PhD project, lived modernism: when architecture transforms. She is part of the Aggregate Toxics project, was a Canadian Centre for Architecture / Mellon fellow in Architecture and the Environment and edited the Africa volume of the forthcoming Bloomsbury Global Encyclopaedia of Women in Architecture. Her research during the 2022 Fall semester at ETH follows the international and corporate challenges to the autonomy of the architectural and urban design aspirations of Non-Aligned movement, 1957 to 1980.