Vitra Design Museum offers a new insight on African Modernism

Showcasing over 80 buildings in five countries, the exhibition shows the countries’ efforts to join an architectural ideal of progress and modernity to the simultaneous nation-building process that was taking place in the 1960’s.

 

Rinaldo Olivieri, La Pyramide, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), 1973. Photo © Iwan Baan

Rinaldo Olivieri, La Pyramide, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), 1973. Photo © Iwan Baan

 

The Vitra Design Gallery in Weil am Rhein is hosting an exhibtion on a remarkable and rather unknown period of architectural history, set in the 1960’s post-colonialist Africa. It adresses the relationship between the architectural production of five countries and their individual nation-building processes.

 

Heinz Fenchel and Thomas Leiterdorf, Hotel Ivoire, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), 1962-1970. Photo © Iwan Baan

Heinz Fenchel and Thomas Leiterdorf, Hotel Ivoire, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), 1962-1970. Photo © Iwan Baan

Karl Henrik Nostvik, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi (Kenya), 1967-73. Photo © Iwan Baan

Karl Henrik Nostvik, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi (Kenya), 1967-73. Photo © Iwan Baan

 

Architecture of Independence – African Modernism” is part of Vitra Design Museum’s theme on Africa for spring 2015, as it will be followed by an exhibition on contemporary African design later in March. Curated by Manuel Herz, the exhibition will be showing from February 20 to May 31, 2015.

 

Henri Chomette and Roland Depret, Hotel Independence, Dakar (Senegal), 1973-78. Photo © Iwan Baan

Henri Chomette and Roland Depret, Hotel Independence, Dakar (Senegal), 1973-78. Photo © Iwan Baan

James Cubitt, School of Engineering at KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), Kumasi (Ghana), 1956. Photo © Alexia Webster

James Cubitt, School of Engineering at KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), Kumasi (Ghana), 1956. Photo © Alexia Webster

 

Following the independence of many countries in Central and Sub-Saharan Africa, young nations embraced architecture as one of the principal means by which to express their national identities.

The exhibition showcases buildings in five countries seen through the eyes and lens of renowned architecture photographer Iwan Baan and the exhibition’s curator Manuel Herz. A desire for experimental and futuristic constructions pairs up with these countries’ local take on international modernism, resulting in an incomparable set of over 80 buildings in Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Zambia, Ghana and Senegal.

 

Karl Henrik Nostvik, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi (Kenya), 1967-1973. Photo © Iwan Baan

Karl Henrik Nostvik, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi (Kenya), 1967-1973. Photo © Iwan Baan

KNUST Development Office, Stadium at KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), Kumasi (Ghana), 1964-1967. Photo © Alexia Webster

KNUST Development Office, Stadium at KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), Kumasi (Ghana), 1964-1967. Photo © Alexia Webster

 

“The often heroic and daring designs of parliament buildings, central banks, stadiums, conference centres, universities and independence memorials mirror the forward-looking spirit that was dominant in these countries at the time. However, this architecture also represents the difficulties, contradictions and dilemmas that the young nations experienced in their independence process, as building designs and architects were often imported from foreign countries, if not from one of the former colonial powers.”

 

Julian Elliott, University of Zambia - UNZA, Lusaka (Zambia), 1965-1970. Photo © Iwan Baan

Julian Elliott, University of Zambia – UNZA, Lusaka (Zambia), 1965-1970. Photo © Iwan Baan

Jean Francois Lamoureux & Jean-Louis Marin, FIDAK - Foire Internationale de Dakar, Dakar (Senegal), 1974. Photo © Iwan Baan

Jean Francois Lamoureux & Jean-Louis Marin, FIDAK – Foire Internationale de Dakar, Dakar (Senegal), 1974. Photo © Iwan Baan

Fry, Drew and Partners, Mfantsipim School (Ausschnitt), Cape Coast (Ghana), 1958. Photo © Manuel Herz

Fry, Drew and Partners, Mfantsipim School (Ausschnitt), Cape Coast (Ghana), 1958. Photo © Manuel Herz

 

Architecture of Independence

African Modernism
20.02.2015  – 31.05.2015

Vitra Design Museum Gallery
Weil am Rhein