Modern and Contemporary Architecture in Africa, W. W. Norton, 2010

Link to faculty eProfessional résumé

Dr. Nnamdi Elleh, Ph.D.

Associate Professor School of Architecture & Interior Design
College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning
+1 (513) 556-0945

Prepared to function as a primary teaching text in American, European, and African colleges and universities, and for the general interest reader, this book will be a thematic and a historical study of modern and contemporary architecture in Africa. The book will have an introduction, seven chapters, and a conclusion.

The Focus of this Book:
The book will examine how modern and contemporary architectural practices began to take root on the African continent through the agents of capitalism and colonialism, beginning in the fifteenth century through the era of independence movements in the middle of the twentieth century and continuing on to the present time. As early as 1482 A.D., the Portuguese built Fort Elmina in the Gold Coast of West Africa, now known as the Republic of Ghana. Such building enterprises along the Atlantic Coast of Africa continued through the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries and we have fortresses in Cape Town, Senegal, and Kenya which date to those periods. The construction of the fortresses suggests that although colonialism—as practiced by the Belgians, English, Dutch, French, Germans, Portuguese, and Spaniards—was not consolidated in many Sub-Saharan African countries until the later part of the nineteenth century, it nevertheless was set in motion by trade and the implantation of trading centers along the coastal waters of Africa in late fifteenth-century. After the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, something that has come to be known as “the scramble for Africa,” the competing European powers started to carve out spheres of commercial interests beyond the coastal regions and further inland into different parts of the continent.

While the Europeans expanded inland and established colonial administrations, plantations, mining, and commercial activities, they brought their cultural and technical ways of building with them. In many cases, such buildings were designed and constructed to adapt to the climates of the host countries, sometimes superficially on the façades only for political reasons.

Why I am writing this book: Raising the discourse beyond colonial modernism in Africa:
What is known as colonial architectural productions in Africa are the results of the interactions of European and African building practices starting in the fifteenth century. The study of modern architecture on the continent has been limited to this genre of colonial buildings. This proposed book intends to go beyond the categories of colonial buildings by presenting an in-depth discussion of the projects that have been completed in different African countries after independence. Also, I will conduct an investigation of the contributions of Jewish communities who constructed synagogues in different cities, particularly in North Africa where there are ancient Jewish settlements, and in Sub-Saharan Africa where art deco style of buildings were built during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The contributions of Indians in countries like Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Uganda, where there are many Hindu temples and house types in large settlements, will also be included. It is important to include the building practices of these ethnic minorities because they are closely related to the projects of the colonial enterprises. Thus, while the unique conditions in which Africa’s modernisms emerged should be appreciated, grounding the history of modern Architecture in the Renaissance period has the advantage of locating the modernist aspirations of the continent within the larger discourse of architectural modernisms around the world.

Project commenced on April 22, 2008

Target Countries

Collaborative Institutions