Diwouta-Kotto. Architect and interior designer

Creativity, closeness and reactivation. This is the recipe used by the Diwouta Architecture office since 1989. As Danièle Diwouta-Kotto explains in the presentation of her study’s website, “Most of our work is carried out in Cameroon and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, covering all public and private sectors, from tertiary and industrial to medical and social.”

Born in Cameroon but trained in France, Diwouta-Kotto was always clear that it would be in her home country where she would develop her creativity. Duala, on the Atlantic coast, is her headquarters, from where she has devised the works with which she has participated in the MIC Hall in Paris or in Los Angeles, and which have also been exhibited in Dak-Art, the biennial of the Senegalese capital, or Havana.

Among these works, Mobilier Planeur stands out, a line of furniture in wood and metal, such as the “Pat” chair for Mambo. In these scenarios, Diwouta-Kotto has shared her reflections on design and architecture, always linked to urban development, because she believes that art is the source of transformation of the places where life goes on.

Diwouta-Kotto plays a fundamental role in the reflection on African design, architecture and urbanism, as well as in the relationship between art and the transformation of the city, according to scholars of her work. Indeed, as she explains in her book Architectural Suits: “Kinshasa, Douala, Dakar”, published in 2010, contemporary African cities are spaces in permanent construction, simulating warehouses for the slow or rapid accumulation of abundance. For this work, she dares to recover, modify and restore African colonial architecture, which is often called into question, and to highlight its transformation and reworking over time.

More than 20 years ago, Express International Magazine included Diwouta-Kotto in the list of the 100 people who animate Cameroon. A mission to which she has remained faithful. Observant and discreet, she explained in a television interview that in her architectural projects, she is often faced with a ‘double challenge’: to represent a place and how it is conceived. In the case of Yaoundé airport, which is her first architectural memory, this was due to the mixture of the concept of modernity with a space conceived as a point of departure for travellers.

Her style has been described as contemporary creativity adapted to a socio-cultural environment. In her idea of urbanism, buildings should be at the service of urbanism and not vice versa, (…) the city must be accessible to all. (…) It is necessary to regenerate and not deny the historical centres in order to learn the lesson. Transport problems must be solved together, and a participatory debate on major public projects between future users and professionals must be communicated and integrated.

Carla Fibla García-Sala  – Illustration: Tina Ramos Ekongo