Changing Places - Re:make  

The Embassy of Mantenhas

The Embassy of Mantenhas
By Stephanie Ryder
MArch, Graduate School of Architecture Johannesburg

This project is both another way of speaking about architecture and another architecture of speech. It continuously plays and slips between language and architecture, confusions and contradictions, meaning and representation, exploring intertwined dichotomies of a search for national ‘créole’ identity, the formation of territory and a shared understanding. Language and territory are mutually interdependent and irrevocably bound to one another.

(Narrative codes series: Roland Bathes identifies five codes that define a network (or a topos) that form a space of meaning that the text runs through. These codes were analysed through the site’s own narrative and its potential stories. Stephanie Ryder)

Language is instrumental in the formation of territory (home); identity (literature) and shared understanding (communication). Language plays a vital role in the ‘reading’ of landscape, and is a crucial tool in the articulation of national identity. In complex sites such as Cape Verde, where history, language, race, class, diaspora and migration play such important roles, the term ‘lost in translation’ takes on new meaning.

(Rock, paper, scissors series: Exploring the material, human and mechanical aspects of architecture, Title relates to the idea of using hand gestures and oppositional elements to communicate one meaning through two gestures, simultaneously. Stephanie Ryder)

This project seeks to create a piece of architecture that enables a créole identity to be ‘found in translation’, becoming both a root and a route for the transmission of new stories, new words, new spaces and forms that more accurately describe contemporary Cape Verde.

(Ghost drawing series, “Love letter”.  Based on ideas of geometry, mechanism, ritual, function and imagination the drawings and captions acts as triggers and reactions. This architecture generates objects that are simultaneously conceived, represented and realized within a process of constructing sense. An unfolding space where opposite logics coexist and where obscure meanings appear, turning interpretation into the paramount architectural experience. This series is a method for analysing spatial concepts and their relationship to behaviour, perception, observation and imagination. Stephanie Ryder)


In many creole cultures there is a continuous struggle for self-definition, that is wrought with confusions and contradictions which gravitate around the following, sometimes intertwined, dichotomies of African-ness and European-ness, tradition vs modernity and colonial subjugation vs autonomy. Architecture is often seen as the art of a thinking mind that arranges, organizes and establishes relationships between the parts and the whole.

(Battle and journey series, "An Allegorical Dialogue". This series looks at philosopher Jacques Derrida’s notion of binary opposites. According to Barthes, the impulse in human communication towards allegory is a mode linked to the origins of language and representation that coincides with the appearance of the ‘other.’ All allegories comprise two key patterns: the battle/ opposition between two forces and the progress/ the journey, or sequence of events. The series is structured as a dialogue between two characters. Stephanie Ryder)

Conceptual ordering, spatial and social narrative are fundamental to the ways in which buildings are shaped, used and perceived. This project proposes an opposition between traditional modes and means of architecture, an exploration of the inbetween of the categories of process and product, past and present, explore and explain, thought and perception, essence and accident, mind and body, theory and practice, speech and writing,  building and non-building, exterior and interior.

The changing place of architectural practice

The importance of the role of interdisciplinary influence on architectural practice, as a way of taking cues from unexpected modes, mediums or media, is essential in order to generate a new way of looking at a particular situation, which could address various cultural, economic or environmental possibilities. The value of speculation, critical thinking and fiction-based ideas is that they convey notions of curiosity and chance, that in turn have the ability to access the world at a completely new level.

Architecture that can be expressed in new languages, that can imagine  how new technologies and networks influence space, culture, and community and that can be understood by more people, is how I see the change of architectural practice. As Liam Young simply states “the change is just an expanding role of the discipline”

(Connections and gaps series: Exploring ideas of ‘writing’ the architecture into site using the typewriter mechanism as a tool to connect the sea and the land, through triggers, shifts and reactions. This process can be compared to the reading of a text, which has a series of gaps and connections of ideas, narratives and sequences, which inturn leaves the reader a chance to interpret, understand or misunderstand. The reader, thus, performs a secondary creative act. The model shows the site as shifting, or translating, between homeland and sea. Site is peripheral, marginal, an unraveling edge, and is secondary to both the sea and the land. It is in a continuous state of transformation, a fleeting spatial situation where the tension between the changing and the unchanging produces a temporal cut. Stephanie Ryder)


I studied my masters in architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture in Johannesburg South Africa, the first school in Africa that has implemented the unit system way of teaching. I am now employed at Kate Otten Architects and tutor part-time at the GSA.

See Stephanie Ryder's portfolio here   Email: