Tanzanian Architecture

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The Doors of the Coast: From Zanzibar to Oman

A defining feature of the architecture of the Swahili Coast—apart from its coral stone buildings and mangrove poles used to elaborate those structures—is undoubtedly the ornamented door so commonly found across this coastal area. Richly decorated, and historically often layered with meaning, these doors, apart from serving the more utilitarian function of an entrance, were also signifiers of status and wealth. From this Swahili Coast to the Arabian Peninsula, these doors of the coast are very much markers of their location, representative of trade and migration.

OMT Architects Designs Africa's Tallest Timber Tower in Zanzibar City, Tanzania

German-based architecture firm OMT designed Africa's tallest hybrid timber tower in Zanzibar City, Tanzania. In partnership with Birk Heilmeyer Frenzel Architects, engineering firm Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineers, and CPS Developers, the "Burj Zanzibar" will rise 96 meters tall to accommodate 266 residences and recreational and conferencing facilities. The mixed-use tower will promote the locally available wood and support the growing urban infrastructure that, according to the government plans, expects to attract tech companies to turn the island into a leading hub for Africa's technology companies.

Reading Between the Skylines

Cities have been, and will always be multi-faceted, elastic sites. They are settlements in continuous evolution, molded by proximity to natural resources, by migrating populations, and by capital. Despite the diversity in the urban character of disparate cities, it has been said that cities look alike now more than ever before, a uniformity that means a glass-and-steel tower in Singapore would not look out of place in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex.

The Commons: Dissecting Open-Source Design

In New Mexico, irrigation channels that have been in continuous operation for three centuries replenish and nourish the wetlands of the American Southwest. These channels are known as Acequias – communally managed water systems built on democratic tradition. Members of the community own water rights, who then elect a three-person team to oversee the channels. In Cairo and Barcelona, Tahrir Square and Plaza de Catalunya have acted as important sites for voicing political dissatisfaction. The Tahrir Square protests of 2011, for instance, resulted in the eventual toppling of an almost 30-year-old government.

Adulation and Demonisation: Materiality vs. Morality

For centuries and centuries we’ve built – and the diversity in our global built environment is a testament to that. The many different cultures around the globe have had different ways of building throughout history, adapting locally found materials to construct their structures. Today, in our globalized present, building materials are transported across the globe far from their origins, a situation that means two buildings on completely opposites sides of the world can be more or less identical. 

UIA 2030 Award Finalists Announced

The International Union of Architects (UIA), in partnership with UN-HABITAT, have announced the Regional Finalists of first stage of the UIA 2030 Award. The biennial award, which is in its inaugural edition, honors the work of architects contributing to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and New Urban Agenda through built projects that demonstrate design quality and alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Uncovered Ground: Architectural Elements, Urbanism and Cities

The year 2021 has been a turbulent one –coronavirus rages on, and the design and construction industries have been forced to keep adapting two years into a global pandemic. As virtual methods of working and communicating continue to be tweaked and honed, a plethora of virtual events has meant that architectural discourse outside the western canon and Eurocentric gaze, in a small way, has been able to claim space front and center in the global architectural conversation.

Socialising, Commerce, and Trade: The African Market Hall in a Modernised World

A few months ago – in July 2021, the 47-year-old Kariakoo Market went up in flames in Dar es Salaam. Designed by Tanzanian architect Beda Amuli, the market is a central landmark – a key part of Dar es Salaam’s commercial hub. Early images of a new Kariakoo Market show a taller structure, with six floors compared to the three in Amuli’s design. Conversations on social media have abounded on the new design, and if a “tower” typology is really the appropriate choice considering the unpopular nature of other similar “tower” market halls in Dar es Salaam.

The Distinctive Mosques of Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to an enormous number of religious adherents – within which there is extraordinary diversity in religious expression. Iconic buildings serving a religious purpose are found throughout the continent, such as The Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family in central Nairobi or the Hare Krishna Temple in South Africa. What is evident is that architecture that hosts religious gatherings makes up a key part of the urban fabric of sub-Saharan African cities and that in a lot of cases, religious structures go against the grain – leaving aside or tweaking classical models in favour of a unique architectural approach.

The Urban Remnants of Colonial Planning in Africa: Dar es Salaam and Nairobi

A quick glance today at the cities of the African continent reveals a rich diversity of urban settlements, ranging in type from rural enclaves to sprawling metropolises. That quick glance also reveals a larger picture of cities that are continuously adapting and evolving as we enter the decade of the 2020s – yet this evolution in many places is taking place at the expense of those who are less fortunate. This is not happening in a vacuum, as the reason why a lot of African cities look as they do today is a result of a segregated organization during colonial rule.