Iconic architecture of Africa in 12 buildings

By Ijeoma Ndukwe
BBC News

Photo source, Adil Dalbai

Although the Egyptian pyramids are recognized worldwide, much of Africa’s architecture remains unknown – with some architects Adil Dalbai and Livingstone expecting mukasa changes.

They are part of a team that recently published a seven-volume architectural guide, Sub-Saharan Africa. Their in-depth research included buildings from the pre-colonial period, such as the recently renovated railway station (above) in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, for more modern masterpieces.

Here are the 12 most innovative, historic, historical and iconic entries:

1) Kasubi Tomb, Uganda – 1882

Photo source, Sebastian Morrisett

Across the hectare of agricultural land in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the Royal Complex in Kasubi is the tomb of the kings of the state of Buganda. It was originally made from wood and other organic materials. The interior is designed to mimic a sacred forest and is topped with 52 round rings to represent each of the 52 Buganda groups.

Mugasa, who was born in Uganda, visited the tomb for the first time when he was 10 years old. “It was amazing,” he told the BBC. “Not just the dimensions of it, the whole majesty of the building.

“[It] The materials were built in the late 19th century before the introduction of modern materials using centuries-old methods. I felt the presence of the building. When you were inside it, it dominated you. “

2) Lideta Market, Ethiopia – 2017

Photo source, Gonzalo Guazardo

A contemporary entry, this shopping center was built in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, with lightweight concrete.

The design considered has a perforated face that controls natural light flow and indoor ventilation.

Moreover, the cut-out pattern decorated with the glossy white shell of the building mimics a traditional thematic Ethiopian fabric.

3) Hikma Complex, Niger – 2018

Photo source, James Wang |

Miriam Kamara, the Nigerian founder of the architecture studio Atelier Masōmī, restored a former Hausa mosque that collapsed, adding a community space and library.

The compact-clay bricks make up most of the buildings in Dandaji village with most of the materials obtained from within 5 kilometers (three miles) of the site.

For Dalby, the project is particularly impressive for the unbroken mix of old and new.

The German architect told the BBC: “This is clearly a contemporary building that is deeply rooted in Nigerian tradition.” “Not only culturally, but also technically because it depends on the old traditional building techniques and materials.”

4) Maropeng Visitors Center, South Africa – 2006

Photo source, GAPP Architect and Urban Designer

Known as the place of human history, Maropeng is a state-of-the-art tourist center designed to help people learn about the early development of modern man.

This iconic structure was designed by South African firm GAPP Architects and MMA Studio.

The building itself resembles a mb of a cemetery rising from the earth in a design that actually appears to be integrated with nature.

5) Mero, the Pyramid of Sudan – 3,000BC

Photo source, Valerian Guillot

The oldest entries in the guide are these step-sided pyramids, located 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, about 300 kilometers east of Mero in the Nile Valley.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the capital of the ancient Kushite Empire and excavations have uncovered the ruins of palaces, temples and royal baths.

The pyramids of this cemetery were built with sandstone blocks, while elaborate reliefs were carved inside them.

6) Basotho House, Lesotho – date unknown

Photo source, Gary Van Week

In Lesotho, “Litma” is a mural decoration that includes carvings, mosaics and relief elements on the front of the house. Built with clay bricks and plaster, the house is painted in the traditional thematic colors of the red tree, a symbol of the blood of fertility and sacrifice, white to represent purity and peace, and black and rain promises to refer to the ancestors “dark rain“ clouds ”.

“Basotho houses have always fascinated me the way they stand in the landscape – the use of color and the use of geometric shapes,” Mukasa said.

“I’ve always found it interesting that people use the things around them to turn an elementary structure into art.”

7) Kenneth Dyke Library, Nigeria – 1954

Photo source, Ian Jackson

This library is often referred to as a major work known as “tropical modernity”.

It was built at a time when patterned sunscreen was gaining popularity, inspired by the use of Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s “Bryce-Solil” – an architectural feature of a building that reflects sunlight and reduces heat in a building.

The building was designed by Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, pioneers of the modern movement in England. The library is part of the Ibadan University campus – founded by British colonial authorities in 1948 – and has become an influential model for climate-responsive architecture in the sub-region.

8) Jenny, Mali – Great Mosque of the 13th century

Photo source, Getty Images

A monument to Islam, the Great Mosque is the largest earthen structure in the world. The mosque symbolizes the city of Jenny, which developed as a trading center between commerce00 and 1250.

The smooth sculpted walls of the building are made of a coat of sun-baked earth brick, sand and earth-based mortar and plaster.

Every year, city residents re-plaster the mosque during a one-day event known as the Crapesage de la Grand Mosque (Plastering of the Great Mosque).

9) The palace of Emperor Facilide, Ethiopia – early 17th century

Photo source, Heath Loser

The palace is located in the northern Ethiopian city of Gander, in a protected compound known as the “Fossil Ghebi” (Royal Enclosure).

The site has 20 palaces, royal buildings, elaborately decorated churches, monasteries and unique buildings.

The design of these buildings was influenced by the Baroque style of rhinoceros brought in by Jesuit missionaries.

10) Dominican Chapel, Nigeria-1973

Photo source, Andrew Moore

In this reconstructed Dominican chapel in Ibadan, artist Demas Novoko blends sculptural elements and modernity with Nigerian indigenous language architecture.

The structure includes carved wooden columns and extensive metal work on ballasts and gates.

Mukasa said it marked a fundamental break from the modernist movement that cemented itself as a means of expressing itself on the African continent that “originated from indigenous and local cultures”.

11) Great Mosque, Benin – 1912-1935

Photo source, Adil Dalbai

Located in Port-Novo, the capital of Benin, this mosque is an interesting example of Afro-Brazilian architecture built in the style of a 17th and 18th century church in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. The palette of bright yellow, brown, green, and blue is reminiscent of Bahia’s historic architecture.

Along the coast of West Africa, it is one of the many Afro-Brazilian mosques built by the descendants of freed slaves in the early twentieth century.

“It shows many levels specific to the architectural heritage of West Africa – the intercontinental connections between Europe, South America and the Benin Bay off the coast of West Africa at a time when there was a lot of exchange,” Dalby said.

12) Mapungube Interpretation Center, South Africa – 200.

Photo source, Peter Rich Architects

Located in a rocky landscape in Mapungube National Park, the center won the 2009 World Building of the Year award by South African architect Peter Rich at the World Architecture Festival.

The celebrated design is built on “a long-forgotten vaulting technique that led bricklayers from North Africa to Catalonia, and which were used by architects such as Anthony Gaudির”, according to Rich.

Mud bricks were made using soil and only 5% extra cement from the construction site to create a clay mixture.

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