African Modernism- Architecture in the future

“African modernism, architecture of independence” is a theme of a temporally exhibition being showcased at Kandt House Museum from 24th January till 28th February 2018.

This photo exhibition consists of archival showcasing more than 80 buildings from different cities within 5 Sub Saharan African Countries built between 1950s and 1960s. All these buildings are still strong and useful.

After getting their independence, some African countries’ architecture changed from traditional to modern in terms of designs, construction materials and strength.

At the same time, this architecture also shows the difficulties, contradictions and dilemmas that the countries experienced during the process of independence struggle.

Who built these buildings and to whom they were built?

In most cases, the architects and engineers were not local; they came from countries such as Poland, Yugoslavia, Scandinavian nations, Israel, or even from the former colonial powers. Most of these buildings were universities, stadiums, airports, etc. and they were given to the states as gifts.

Does architecture have a relationship with culture/identity of a nation?

Architecture and culture have got both direct and indirect linkage depending on some factors.

Wambete Soita is an architect and lecturer in the faculty of architecture and environment design at University of Rwanda, college of science and technology. Through his presentation entitled “architecture and ethnography”, he highlighted the importance of providing public places in cities, involvement of population in urban settlements, as well promoting ownership among residents.

Architecture can play a big role in showcasing the identity of a nation but sometimes it does not happen for some reasons. One of these reasons is that most of the architects in Rwanda are from abroad, local architects are not so many because of late establishment of the faculty of Architecture   at the former KIST around 2009. Mostly, these foreign architects were inspired by designs from other projects constructed in other countries.

Noella Nibakuze who is an architect and currently working with African Design Center fellowship program at Mass Design Group, highlighted some key elements that can link the development of cities especially Kigali city and identity/culture of a nation. These include: promoting the ownership of structures of the cities among population, adopting local arts and workmanship, using local building materials, as well as providing public places to residents to let them enjoy the beauty of the city.

Architectural structures are some of the features that characterize urban development. In many countries, they can refer to a country’s history at a given period, heritage, etc. to witness any act to visitors or future generation. Housing and urban development entities must think about the future of architecture in their respective countries if they work on big projects in terms of protecting environment by using ecological and local materials as well as keeping the country’s identity, heritage and culture.

By Mugwaneza Jean Paul