Lesley Freedman is the Founder and Executive Director of the Whole Earth Building Foundation.
She graduated as an architect at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She was the architect in charge of the restoration of the Bokaap for the City of Cape Town and the National Monuments Council (now the South African Heritage Resources Agency) and then published the book Bokaap – Faces and Façades, describing the restoration process in its historical context.
While working at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) as the national Manager of the Architectural Heritage Landscape, she wrote the Heritage Management Plan for the Eastern Cape settlements in which Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela lived while he was growing up. The landscape, architecture, archaeology and oral and written history spoke of sustainable ecological living and self reliance, still practiced by rural South Africans and by a third of the world population.
She realised that this lifestyle provides the solution to the settlement challenge in South Africa. Her interest in earth building deepened after attending the Conservation of Earthen Architectural Heritage programme at CRAterre-ENSAG (International Centre for Earth Construction, within the School of Architecture, Grenoble, France) in 2001.
Traveling in Mali and seeing how women and men build their own houses, are able to trade freely and often dress in traditional clothing opened her eyes to an independent way of life.
Freedman has met many development workers and earth practitioners who have enriched her knowledge. Attending local, continental and international conferences, courses and being involved in projects over these many years of travel and discovery have enhanced her life immeasurably.