Elisa Engel, Citizens Architects: Africa and sustainable architecture


Elisa Engel, Citizen Architects: Africa and sustainable architecture

“We work predominantly on community-based projects where we're much more interested in some ways in what a building does…rather than how the building looks…how can this building help this organization deliver better services? How can it bring people together? How can it free up space? How can a space enable teachers to teach in a different way?” --Elisa Engel, cofounder of Citizen Architects based in London, UK

Elisa and her partner Richard Hadley believe that architecture has an important part to play in improving communities and creating a more equitable, sustainable and beautiful world. Inquisitiveness, professionalism, and joy are at the core of everything they do.


Born in Germany, Elisa has lived in Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), South Africa, Botswana, and the UK.


Citizen Architects delivers community interest projects in London and sub-Saharan Africa, involving communities in the design process. She is a trustee at Architecture for Humanity London and teaches architecture at universities in the UK and abroad.

Building designed by Citizen Architects

Elisa has a strong track record of delivering education buildings and community architecture with a particular focus on participatory design processes.


We talked about her work in Africa, sustainability, ethics, and the challenges of being a woman in the male-dominated field of architecture.


“…Africa sticks to your feet. And once you cross the ocean, you're always on the wrong side. I went when I was really quite young, 17, a very formative time in my life. It did create a very strong bond with that part of the world…It has allowed me to become a little bit of an ambassador between Europe and Africa.”
Youth center in Botswana designed by Citizen Architects

I alternate the Companies That Care podcast with my original podcast, Finding Fertile Ground, which shares personal stories of grit and resilience. On both my podcasts I strive to highlight voices from historically excluded populations, people who don't always get a platform.


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