The gala awards ceremony was the culmination of a two-year awards programme that was initiated and supported by Saint-Gobain, with the goal of stimulating conversations about African architecture on a global level. A steering panel headed by Professor Lesley Lokko guided the awards with strategic input from Ambassador Phill Mashabane, advisor Zahira Asmal, and patron Sir David Adjaye, one of the world's most influential voices in architecture.
According to Adjaye: “The Africa Architecture Awards are very critical. Now is the time to promote excellence and best practice on the continent. The Africa Architecture Awards are particularly important because this is the moment that a lot is happening on the continent in terms of development, in terms of the architecture that’s being produced.”
The initial shortlist of 21 projects was chosen by the master jury and announced earlier in 2017. Chaired by Dr Mark Olweny, the jury comprised leading African architects and academics including: Anna Abengowe (Nigeria), Guillaume Koffi (Ivory Coast), Professor Edgar Pieterse (South Africa), Patti Anahory (Cape Verde), Tanzeem Razak (South Africa), and Phill Mashabane (South Africa).
The master jury then re-convened for two days prior to the awards ceremony to evaluate the 21 shortlisted projects and decided on the most deserving entries across four categories. The final category winners, each of whom received a specially designed bronze trophy, were decided as follows:
- Critical Dialogue: Forum de Arquitectura - by CEICA, Angola
- Speculative: The Territory In-between, Cape Verde - by Guinea’s Aissata Balde, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg
- Emerging Voices: The Exchange Consulate: Trading Passports for Hyper-Performative Economic Enclaves, South Africa - by Nigerian student Ogundare Olawale Israel of the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg
- Built: Umkhumbane Museum, South Africa - by Choromanski Architects, South Africa
- Grand Prix: Umkhumbane Museum, South Africa by Choromanski Architects
The Grand Prix winner received both a bespoke trophy and the cash prize of $10,000.
In addition to the projects highlighted by the master jury, the awards programme ran a public participation component earlier in 2017, where members of the public could vote for their favourite project. The People’s Choice Award had over a million viewers and votes across a range of projects stretching from kiosks to urban regeneration schemes. The winning project received a Certificate of Excellence at the ceremony and this went to James Cubitt Architects Lagos for the speculative project titled Bank Head Office in Lagos, Nigeria.