Architecture of Independence - African Modernism

From February 20 the Vitra Design Museum will host "Architecture of Independence - African Modernism," an exhibition curated by architect and author Manuel Herz. Featuring numerous photographic contributions by Iwan Baan, "Architecture of Independence" explores the experimental and futuristic architecture produced in 1960s Central and Sub-Saharan Africa during the region's period of newfound independence.

The exhibition's extensive catalogue spans more than 80 buildings in five countries, including projects from Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal. Civic buildings such as banks, stadiums, memorials, and houses of parliament are heavily featured, highlighting what the Vitra Design Museum describes as "the relationship between the architectural production of the countries named above and their individual nation-building process."

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

"Architecture of Independence" conveys the architectural and social freedom and optimism of a region relishing the departure of colonial powers, constructing an image of Modernist Africa that is bold, imaginative, and unconventional.

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

Yet Herz does not avoid the complex political underpinnings of the exhibition's theme, acknowledging that many projects from this time— including several on display at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery— were designed by architects from countries other than the newly-independent nations in question. In some cases, architects and designers were citizens of colonial powers only recently fallen from of favour.

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

The prelude to the Vitra Design Museum's Africa focus in spring 2015, "Architecture of Independence— African Modernism" will be on display until May 31. A 700 page publication of the same name will be released by Park Books, Zürich, to coincide with the exhibition run.

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Cite: "Architecture of Independence - African Modernism" 15 Feb 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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