Architecture of Independence: African Modernism

Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Weil am Rhein, Germany
20 Feb 2015 - 31 May 2015

Architecture of Independence: African Modernism

Independence Arch, Accra (Ghana) des/by the Public Works Departments, 1961, Foto/photo: © Manuel Herz, courtesy: Vitra Design Museum

When many countries in Central and Sub-Saharan Africa gained their independence in the 1960s, experimental and futuristic architecture became a principal means by which the young nations ex- pressed their national identities. The exhibition in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is one of the first presentations of this remarkable period of more recent architectural history. This exhibition was researched and curated by architect and author Manuel Herz, with a substantial contribution by photographer Iwan Baan.

The exhibition documents more than 80 buildings in five countries; Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Zambia, Ghana and Senegal. The often heroic and daring designs of parliament buildings, central banks, stadiums, conference centers, 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 these countries experienced in their independence process. The building styles and architects often came from foreign countries, if not from one of the former colonial powers.


Hotel Ivoire, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), von/by Heinz Fenchel and Thomas Leiterdorf, 1962-1970, Foto/photo:© Iwan Baan, courtesy: Vitra Design Museum

On the basis of the projects shown, the exhibition traces the relationship between the architectural production of the countries named above and their individual nation-building processes. »Architec- ture of Independence — African Modernism« forms the prelude to the Vitra Design Museum’s Africa focus in spring 2015. It will continue with the comprehensive exhibition »Making Africa — A Continent of Contemporary Design«, which will be shown in the museum’s main building from 14.03. until 13.09.2015. Together, the exhibitions impart a new perspective on the design and everyday culture of the African continent.

»Architecture of Independence — African Modernism« coincides with the publication of a 700-page book, published in English by Park Books, Zürich.



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