Architecture of Independence – African Modernism

Center for Architecture, New York, United States
16 Feb 2017 - 27 May 2017

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 Center for Architecture presents the exhibition ‘Architecture of Independence—African Modernism‘.

The Between 1957 and 1966, 32 countries—almost two thirds of all African nations—gained their independence from colonial powers. In these budding nations, including Ghana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia that are featured in this exhibition, technology and development became tools of liberation and instruments for expressing national identity. The daring and ambitious designs of new buildings, from state banks to convention centers and stadiums, mirrored the optimism and aspirations of the newly liberated states.

Presenting over 700 photographs, as well as archival materials, historical photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, videos, plans, and sketches, Architecture of Independence documents the ambivalences of decolonization, its contradictions, and inconsistencies, but also its ambitions, aims, and aspirations.

Curated by Manuel Herz and organized by the Vitra Design Museum, Architecture of Independence includes contemporary photography by renowned photographer Iwan Baan and award-winning South African humanitarian photo-documentarian Alexia Webster.


Lecture: Kunlé Adeyemi
April 18, 6–8pm

Kunlé Adeyemi is an architect, designer and urban researcher. He is the founder/principle of NLÉ and a Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His notable work includes ‘Makoko Floating School’, an innovative prototype floating structure located on the lagoon heart of Lagos, Nigeria. This acclaimed project is part of an extensive research project—‘African Water Cities’—being developed by NLÉ an architecture, design and urbanism practice founded by Adeyemi in 2010, focusing on developing cities and communities. NLÉ recently launched MFS II—a new, improved iteration of Makoko Floating School at this years’ La Biennale di Venezia, for which it was awarded the Silver Lion. Other projects include Chicoco Radio Media Center, an amphibious community building in Port Harcourt, Nigeria; ROCK Lakefront Kiosk in Chicago; CDL Microfinance Bank in Lagos, Nigeria; and Serpentine Summer House at the Royal Kensington Gardens in London.

Symposium: African Modernism(s): Past/Present/Future
April 22, 1–4pm

African Modernism(s): Past/Present/Future explores the legacy of architectural modernism featured in the exhibition Architecture of Independence – African Modernism. It is vital to consider the complexity of modernism’s political and social agendas and the influence of this body of modernism on contemporary and future building projects in various parts of Africa. The afternoon symposium brings together scholars and architects to critically examine the modernism built in the 1950s and 1960s in post-colonial nations around the African continent. Architects will also discuss recently built works including schools and health facilities and share projects underway that address the future of architecture in African cities.

With Mark L. Gardner, Mario Gooden, LOT-EK, Joseph G. Mizzi, Dr. Ikem Stanley Okoye and Mabel O. Wilson


Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place
New York City, New York 10012



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