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Heritage

An annotated diary of my visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo: a brief stop in Kinshasa before flying to Kisangani and then, following the Congo River, a preliminary exploration of one the regions where the Huileries du Congo Belge – HCB had established its oil palm plantations.

This trip would have not been possible without the help of >>Istituto per la Bioeconomia – CNR and Forets (Formation et Recherche dans le Tshopo) – >>Cifor (Centre for International Forestry Research).



May 2022



Kinshasa — Me and Ottaviano landed in Kinshasa on a Monday morning. I had never crossed the Equator before.

Papa Victor is waiting for us outside on a white Toyota jeep with a EU flag on the door and dents and scratches on all sides. A description that would fit most of the vehicles I travelled in during this trip and, as I came to discover, a stereotype for Westerners in this country. Victor is a tall, pleasant man who talk and laugh quietly even when we plunge into the suffocating traffic of Kinshasa. The 25 kilometers between the airport and my hotel in Gombe are an endless sequence of taxis, yellow Wokswagen vans running with the doors open to bring some air to the passengers squeezed inside, a multitude of weva moto-taxis, and trucks covered in sticky black dust.

The two days in Kinshasa are chaotic. We meet with some people and don’t see much. I watch street scenes, buildings, and billboards passing by from the window of Victor’s car.

During the last night in the city, I meet my old friends and former colleagues Raphael, Paul, and Pietro – who became a real Kinois in the meanwhile. From the hall of my overpriced hotel Raphael, tells me with his usually sharp irony: “Il faut que tu sors de cette Leopoldville”. And so we drive away, leaving Gombe behind us. Paul, who has a thing for infrastructures, gives us a lecture from behind the wheel of his car while we cross the city. Boulevard du 30 Juin, which originally connected the two Stanley’s times settlements of Kintambo Ngaliema and Nshasha, and later became the first of the large avenues of the colonial capital [>>Kinshasa Then and Now]. Avenue des Huileries, pointing to the area formerly occupied by the Huileries du Congo Belge, now hosting its successor Marsavco.. And then, Matonge, the neighborhooud that everyone here calls the musical capital of the DRC. After having lived for years few hundred meters from Matonge (Brussels) – a product of Congolese diaspora in Belgium – I finally get to see its original counterpart.

It’s early in the morning when we leave again for the airport but the city is well awake.


Congo River — After landing in Kisangani we are brought directly to the dock on the Tshopo river. The beach, as docks are locally called borrowing the word from English, is just a sandy stretch where dugout canoes and boats come ashore. We get on board of the canot rapide that Cifor made available for us and, following the Tshopo and Lindi rivers, we finally reach the Congo. Few kilometres upriver, the Wagenia/Boyoma falls, a one-hundred kilometres long sequence of cataracts, make the river impossible to navigate. After the falls, the Congo begins its ‘quiet’ descent of the 1,700 navigable kilometers dividing the place where we are navigating now from Kinshasa’s Pool Malebo before rushing again, through impressive rapids, up to Matadi and to the Ocean.


From this moment on, this broad, magnificient river, with its banks covered in thick vegetation, becomes the silent protagonist of the travel.

Moving along the river coast, the canot go past busy docks where pirogues – simple boats built by carving a single tree trunk and manouvred by one or two rowers – carry large, white sacks of coal to sell. Apart from our boat and the infrequent barges, the river is populated by these small crafts and by the noisy baleinières (‘whaler’), a wooden boat used for goods transport. Besides being painfully slow, the two half-sunken relics I could spot along the way, testify the scarce reliabilty of these bizarrely named boats.

From the canot, on the right bank, flanked by colonial villas, I spot the prominent facade of the Yakusu hospital, a now run-down gem of the Baptist Missionary Society in the Belgian Congo and an important institution for the educational and medical history of the country [Nancy Rose Hunt,>>Colonial lexicon: of birth ritual, medicalization, and mobility in the Congo].


Further down the river, the Belgika, a private island owned by the heirs of a high-rank military chief under Mobutu dictatorship. Our boat speeds close to the coast; the waves agitate the fishermen’s pirogues moving under the branches of leaning trees. The shape of old buildings with porches facing the river vanishes rapidly behind the vegetation. >>During the colonial time, the island was a coffee and rubber plantation owned by the Comptoir Colonial Belgika. The company realised barracks for the workers and villas for the European technicians and now, half a century after it abrupty left the island, those buildings are occupied by the few hundred people still living on the island or are left in disrepair.


Yanonge — 50 kilometers downriver to Kisangani, we disembark in Yanonge, a small town built around a river dock and its market; a commercial gate to the river for the backland Opala territory and the Turumbu people. Up from the dock, over the steep river banks, I can read dates and names of European firms inscribed on the front of wharehouses now surrounded by the wooden stands of the weekly market. Along the riverfront, the traders’ villas and shops are almost untouched. Guélor, who shows me the place, lives in one of them with his family of five. The rest of the town is made of single-floor brick houses – the construction material coming from the local furnaces – and by simple clay, wood and straw houses. Outside the busy market area and the two main roads, people walk calmly in the shade of the many acacia and palm trees.

Since few years, Cifor established one of its bases in the town and carries our reforestation, agricultural and local development projects. Silvia, among the many other things, coordinates the construction of a small sawmill. A solar drying kiln is close to completion and an oddly sorted team of Congolese and Italians welds metal, cuts wood boards, make electrical and hydraulic connections, rushing to complete it before our departure. (My contribution to the works is barely symbolic). The aim is to prepare the way for a locally managed, and economically sustainable activity which, allowing to meet the quality standards required for exporting wood, would eventually offer a credible alternative to illegal logging [>>Forets]


During our days in Yanonge we stay at the local Catholic mission. Outside cities, missions often offers one of the few reasonably comfortable accommodations and in Yanonge, the Comboni community also gives the occasion for some peculiar encounters. Our early equatorial evenings are filled by the accounts of Father Vittorio, a truly remarkable character who spent 50 years in the Congolese rainforest, has unlimited energies, and a passion for >>improbable projects. When sitting in front of the usual plate of rice, pondu and tilapia, he starts talking and so I put my recorder on the table. I collect hours and hours of his improvised local history monologues in which he mixes personal memories with the accounts of the people among whom he have lived. “There weren’t many books in the places I have lived – he keeps saying, not without theatricality – but people love to talk to good listeners.”

Here, the buildings have stories to tell too. The religious mission was established in the early days of the Belgian Congo and abandoned for decades after the brutal incursion in the convent by the Simba rebels in 1964. The concrete lintel mounted on rounded jambs – a motive that many times I saw in Brussels – at the entrance of what was the mission’s carpentry school is marked with the date ‘1944’. Behind the art-deco facade, a large room covered with an overly complex wooden trusses system. The three wings with porches on both sides form a courtyard and are in ruin. Part of the high-pitched roofs – a large ventilated chamber was originally left on top of classrooms to protect them from the heat – had been replaced; the rest had crumbled. Kids are everywhere, playing among the teetering walls. Our not so credible recommendations to stay away from the crumbling structures are (quite understandably) ignored. The mostly disappeared wood worshop is now a favourite spot for discreet nocturnal encounters and Paolo says that the large wood cutting machine built in Belgium in the 1940s was still bolted to the floor until not so long ago.

Private archive Vittorio Farronato


Next to this complex, the church and the old convent – now used as a school. The convent has a familiar shape that I had never had the chance to look closely before. A single-floor building – despite what the view from the outside may suggest – with a central corridor cutting longitudinally, facade-to-facade, through the building and rooms on both sides. Seen in cross-section, the corridor with openings placed at the ceiling level was meant to extract the hot air through natural ventilation. Next to this group of buildings and most probably coeval, a structure carrying a sign MATERNITE’ and two groups of identical brick houses which once hosted the school’s teachers.

The few days I planned on staying in this small town became more than a week as I’m stuck in bed, ill. “The full tropical experience” Iain writes me from Liverpool.
I missed the boat for my next destination and I look for an alternative.

Yangambi — Sitting on the backseat of a motorbike running on a rutted dirt road, the lacking comfort is compensated by the view of riverine villages plunged in the luxuriant vegetation and by the glimpses of open horizon on the Congo river. When approaching the Yangambi reserve, the red brick walls of large villas appears on the side of the road, half concealed by the foliage of large ferns. The 250 villas built between 1933 and 1960 scattered across the reserve once housed the scientists and technicians of what was one of the largest ecological, biological, and agricultural research hubs in Africa, the >>Institut National pour les Etudes Agronomiques du Congo Belge – INEAC, later renamed INERA. The derelict storage tanks and the broken windows of the two large buildings facing the river port are the first visible signs of the now partly lost thriving life of this centre. But some sections of the research hub are >>still active.


During the few days I spend in Yangambi, Dorcas drive me from one section to the other of the reserve The library, inside the recently restored administrative building, has a large collection of magazines and publications dating back both to the colonial and Mobuto’s regimes as well as reports and correspondence documenting the exchanges that the institution had established with private companies such as the Huileries du Congo Belge and Lever Brothers. Even today, the centre carries out agronomic research and provide the germinated seeds of oil palm trees to smaller and larger >> Elaeis plantations in the country.
The number of houses, communal facilites, and buildings dedicated to the different research sectors that I could brielfy see from the car or from the photographic albums stored in the library would definetely deserve to be explored with more attention but I’ve run out of time. The boat is waiting.


Kisangani — I’m already on the way back to Kinshasa when, during a two days stop in Kisangani that allows for a quick visit to the city, I find a piece of wax print fabric depicting the destination of my next trip to the DRC. In a small shop, one of the last selling locally produced Congolese wax fabric, among the most bizarelly decorated pieces of cloths, one is dedicated to the >>Plantation et Huileries du Congo, the company owning three of the former HCB plantation. Over a green background, the same palm tree and red oil palm bunch is repeated over and over. At the bottom, a sketched and colourful representation of the Congo River and its green banks along with some particularly >>optimistic mottoes of the company.

I greet the country carrying with me this small trace of the persisting signs of British-Belgian colonial capitalism in Congo. Lokutu (Elisabetha), Bumba (Alberta), and Lusanga (Leverville), three of the five company towns built by the Huileries du Congo Belge will be the subject of my next fieldwork in the coming months.

Invented Modernisms: Getting to Grips with Modernity in Three African State Buildings
Kuukuwa ManfulInnocent Batsani-NcubeJulia Gallagher

Jubilee House, Accra, Ghana. Source: Julia Gallagher, March 2019

This article examines recent attempts to create specifically African forms of modernist political architecture that draw on ‘traditional’ or ‘pre-colonial’ aesthetic forms and ideas. Taking examples of three prestigious structures – the presidential palace in Ghana, the parliament in Malawi and the Northern Cape regional parliament in South Africa – the article shows how vernacular ideas have been incorporated into state-of-the-art political architecture, producing new or explicitly ‘African’ forms of modernism. It explores how such buildings, which draw on ‘invented traditions’, are used alongside conventional, monolithic representations of the state to produce ‘invented modernisms’ that both uphold and question the African state as a project of modernity.

Read the full article here: https://doi.org/10.1111/cura.12505

Returning to Accra after a 30 month break, I was expecting there to be changes, but not on the scale I witnessed. Three major projects have commenced – the new cathedral; the Marine Drive project; and the new fishing harbour. When completed they will have a drastic impact on the city and how it is experienced. Marine Drive, in particular, promises some spectacular changes to the much neglected and large sea front. For a port city Accra has never really utilised its enviable position overlooking the sea with its refreshing breeze, until now. The scale of the Marine Drive project is vast and incorporates the set design piece of Independence Square as its focal point.  

The project for Marine Drive initially commenced back in 1958 with Geoffrey Jellicoe as lead designer, and various other projects have been mooted since. Jellicoe’s proposal centred around the Community Centre, and also utilised the cricket stadium and polo pitch on the current site of Black Star Square, as well as a golf course and series of club houses.

1958 plan for Marine Drive: source PRAAD

After so many other false starts it looks like Marine Drive is finally going to happen this time, with Sir David Adjaye as the lead architect. Whereas Jellicoe’s design was mainly concerned with providing sport facilities to the Colonial residents, the new proposal includes provision for other leisure facilities including beach bars, shopping, a promenade, and a series of residential and commercial towers. Sir David’s practice is also designing the new Accra cathedral and initial ground works have also commenced, with the site hoarded off and clad with architectural renderings explaining the project’s concept.

A rendering of the new Marine Drive project: towers around Black Star Square.
Current view of Black Star Square

The fishing harbour project has resulted in an extension of the old breakwater wall along with some major engineering works linking the shore to the harbour, as shown above.

It’s impressive that the city is conducting works of this scale, ambition, and vision. We’ll continue to record the developments here and to document the changes.

We also revisited the classic modernist constellation of the law court, library, and community centre. Whilst the library is still in use the community centre is not, other than as a store. It’s looking particularly tired, and the building fabric is beginning to deteriorate. Its future is uncertain, and as it sits within the Marine Drive development area discussed above it isn’t clear what, if any, it’s role will be. Even the beautiful Ghana Club is potentially at risk from the new development. It’s been mooted that the club might have to be physically moved to a new site. It’s not an impossible solution as the upper level is a timber structure with louvred facades. It could be jacked up and rolled to a new location, but equally it’s also disappointing that these older structures were not incorporated and woven into the new plans. 

ESALA Architectural History & Theory Seminar Series

INTERVIEWS ON METHOD encompasses a cycle of pre-recorded conversations with scholars of architecture and the built environment across the globe and at all career stages. The conversations span a diversity of methods, including environmental studies, economic history, filmmaking, heritage, the study of colonialism, history of the book, print history, oral history, and exhibition. The interviews were recorded during spring of 2021.

The discussions are centred on methods for the study of architecture and the built environment for a number of reasons. The Seminar Series has always showcased works-in-progress, but turning focus to methods presented an opportunity to scrutinise the mechanisms and techniques of that work. The result is a public and durable record of emergent and changing approaches to research and teaching on the history of architecture and the built environment during the current moment.

The interviewees include:

– Samia Henni (Cornell University)

– Iain Jackson (University of Liverpool)

– Heather Hyde Minor (University of Notre Dame) and Carolyn Yerkes(Princeton University)

– Laurajane Smith (Australian National University)

– Margaret Stewart (University of Edinburgh)

– Jason E. Nguyen (University of Toronto)

– Jessica Varner (University of Southern California)

– Ana María León (University of Michigan)

We hope that you will enjoy the conversations!

/Dr. Elizabeth Petcu & Dr. Moa Carlsson, 20/21 AH&T Seminar Series convenors

If you have a question about the ESALA Architectural History and Theory Seminar Series, or would like to join our mailing list, please contact Dr Moa Carlsson:   Moa.Carlsson@ed.ac.uk

Have a look at https://www.design233.com/articles/from-buckman-to-turkson for my article on some lesser known Ghanaian architects, including John Buckman and Peter Nathaniel Kwegyir Turkson. I uncovered Turkson’s architecture thesis project in the University of Liverpool archives and discuss his plans for a new Parliament Assembly building in Accra.

Peter Turkson in Liverpool with his architectural model for a new parliament building in Accra, 1954.

Turkson wanted a design that was ‘classic in character and at the same time distinctly modern in feeling and detail…[exhibiting] the spirit of modern times’. 

Proposal for the Accra Assembly building, by Peter Turkson, 1954

Turkson’s solution proposed using a ‘sandcrete’ (laterite soil mixed with cement) block wall along with a brise-soleil frame of fixed vertical and horizontal fins. Topping the structure and reflecting the chamber below was a reinforced concrete dome clad in copper, whilst some of the walls would be clad with faience finish. The plan was symmetrical forming two courtyards with a central drum for the debating chamber and library above. 

Site plan showing the proposed location of the new Assembly on Accra’s Barnes Road and Christianborg Road.

Call for Papers for Modern Heritage in the Anthropocene Symposium

Modern Heritage in the Anthropocene is part of the MoHoA global collaborative and builds on the Modern Heritage of Africa symposium hosted by the University of Cape Town in September 2021. Coordinated by The Bartlett’s Professor Edward Denison and Head of the University of Liverpool’s School of Architecture, Professor Ola Uduku, along with partners at the University of Cape Town, the Africa World Heritage Fund and around the world, this upcoming hybrid symposium responds to an age of planetary crisis in which a precarious present reflects an inequitable past and a perilous future.

The international railway settlement of Fushun (northeast China), with its modern town planning and the Ryuho Colliery, built by Denang and Siemens, and home to one of the world’s largest open cast mines in the 1930s.

Modern heritage in all its forms and from around the world is the subject of this multidisciplinary symposium, presenting the paradox of being of modernity and yet threatened by its consequences. MoHoA was originally conceived within an African context to interrogate this paradox because the continent encapsulates the historical inequities that characterise the modern and its associated notions of development and progress while also facing the highest rates of urbanisation over the next 30 years, demanding new approaches to the past and present that achieve equitable and sustainable futures on a planetary scale. The outcomes of the two symposia will synthesise in the recognition of the Cape Town Document on Modern Heritage.

Call for papers

Submissions are invited from researchers, academics, and practitioners. The organisers are seeking papers or equivalent submissions that critically engage with reframing, re-evaluating, decentring, and decolonising recent, hidden or marginalised pasts in pursuit of achieving more equitable, just, and sustainable futures. Participants will contribute to the completion of the Cape Town Document on Modern Heritage, supporting policy change at a global level through our partner UNESCO.

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

  • Practices of coloniality, decentring and decolonising history and historiography
  • Considerations and conceptualisations of multiple modernities
  • Modern heritage and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Planetary futures and the Anthropocene
  • Infrastructure and (post)-industrial heritage
  • Combining culture and nature, and the role of natural heritage in society
  • Challenging binaries (rural/urban, modern/traditional, nature/culture, tangible/intangible, racial/non-racial etc)
  • Public space and memory: memorialisation, commemoration and remembering
  • Modern heritage and the World Heritage Convention

How to submit

Submissions should be in English or French and should be emailed to mohoa@ucl.ac.uk by 31 May 2022. 

Notification of acceptance will be provided by 30 June. Abstracts should be a maximum of 300 words or equivalent format (e.g. film shorts, blog, or Instagram story) for other types of digital submissions.

Selected papers or presentations will be published as part of the MoHoA Book Series after the conference and selected extended papers will appear in a special edition of the journal ‘Curator’.

More here: http://www.mohoa.uct.ac.za

Document Fever: Encounters with the architecture of the *colonial architecture archive: Organised by the Architectural Association in collaboration with the Architecture Space & Society Centre, Birkbeck School of Arts

Date: Friday 25 February 2022 Time:10:00 – 17:00

Fever: An intense enthusiasm for or interest in a person, pastime, event, etc., typically widespread but short-lived; an obsession, a craze / A state of intense nervous excitement or agitation / to elevate in intensity, temperature, etc., to heighten emotionally. OED

Book here

An architectural archive is expected to contain drawings, plans, maps, photographs, models, and sample materials. However, the archives of post-war architects working for the United Nations — Jacky Tyrwhitt, Charles Abrams, or Otto Koenigsberger, to name a few — contain letters, invoices, book drafts, repetitive lecture notes, photographs, press cuttings, and, mostly, reports, piles of them. Reports consist of from two to dozens of typed pages with advice on the development of the environment as a whole, spanning issues such as landscape, ecology, economy, housing, migration, labour, water management, and others. These reports are mostly addressed at regions in Africa, Latin America, and South and Southeast Asia that were colonised at the time or had recently gained independence.

It is common to find report-based archives in Western departments of architecture and architectural institutions. Both the architectural category and the Western homes of these archives could be questioned for their interdisciplinary content and their embodiment of neo/post/post-/re/trans/inter/—/*colonial relations. These probably get complicated by other questions: the exiled condition of some of its authors, the aspirations of the UN and of the recipients of these reports, or the political and economic international dynamics behind these reports. Maybe one first question is about what these archives represent: is it their authors, their ideas and practices, their network, the lands and peoples reported, or something other?

This symposium adds to the work on *colonial networks of planning consultants since the 2000s and specifically to the work from critical studies and the social sciences developed in the 2010s on *colonial exchanges between Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, US, UK, Nigeria, South Africa, Singapore, The Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Ghana, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Belgium. This work has until now scrutinised these archives through theses on climate and race, capitalism and extraction, green infrastructure, socialist worldmaking, and misogynist endurances, amongst others. None of these topics were explicit in the archives which are partial, unclassified, and under rigorous custodianship most of the times. This symposium focusses on the feverish encounter with the architecture of the archive that made possible these forms of research and asks how to make ‘privilegings, elisions, and silencing’ of the ‘work of the archive’ present, accessible, and suggestive, if at all appropriate, in the architectural *colonial archive?

The symposium will explore the following themes:

  • space, geoposition, and structure of the archive; 
  • property, representation, and audience; 
  • socio-cultural pressures; 
  • fantasies of the writer of the document; 
  • encounters with the document; 
  • critical approaches to the architectural category of these papers; 
  • intellectual frameworks to approach these archives; 
  • evidence finding and the power of “critical fabulations”; 
  • emotional fever in the archive; 
  • connection to the material and personal qualities of the archive; 
  • and the way one would have liked that the encounter with the archive could be framed for future researchers.

CONFIRMED PARTICIPANTS:

Keynote: Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni (Professor and Chair of Epistemologies of the Global South with Emphasis on Africa at the University of Bayreuth in Germany)

Irene Appeaning Addo (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana)

Ed Bottoms (Archivist, Architectural Association)

Albert Brenchat-Aguilar (PhD student Art History, Architectural Association and Birkbeck; curator, IAS, UCL)

Mark Crinson (Professor of Architectural History, Birkbeck)

Ayala Levin (Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, UCLA)

Shivani Shedde (PhD student Architectural History, Princeton)

Shirley Surya (Curator, M+)

Ola Uduku (Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture, Liverpool)

H. Koon Wee (Architect and Assistant Professor of Architecture, HKU and SKEW Collaborative)

In the UAC archive amongst the Public Relations files is ‘Nigeria Magazine‘. From within the mat brown cardboard of the archive box springs a collection of beautifully designed and printed set of publications. The magazine was a Government sponsored venture, published by the Cultural Division of the Ministry of Information in Lagos. It was issued quarterly from around 1937 until the mid-1980s “for everyone interested in the country and its peoples”. The focus of the editorial was varied and wide ranging, covering topics across the arts, history, architecture, literature, and culture in Nigeria. There was a strong commitment and celebration of ‘local’ art, as well as extensive articles on planning, housing, and architecture from across the ages. The contributing authors were often experts and highly regarded scholars. Ulli Beier was a frequent writer, and the quality and tone of the editorial was consciously accomplished, supplemented by some striking images and high quality graphics.

Covers of Nigeria Magazine from the 1960s, held in UAC archive

Articles were published on the history of cities, including “Ibadan, Black Metropolis” in 1961, relishing in the city’s longevity and traditions, as well as welcoming its position as a new centre for finance and media (see Design Group’s Finance building below). Other sections included biographies on key personalities, such as June 1966 with its feature on architect Alex Ifeanyichikwu Ekwueme (1932-2017).

Ekwueme studied at Washington University on a Fullbright Scholarship in 1952, and went onto to work at Nickson and Partners in London (is this Nickson and Boris?) before setting up a firm in Nigeria that grew to 16 offices. He designed the United Christian College at Apapa, Universal Insurance Building Enugu, and the Administration Building for the Nigerian Petroleum Refinery Company, amongst others. Ekwueme’s architectural career ended when he was elected Vice-President of Nigeria in 1979.

Architect and Vice-President of Nigeria, Alex Ifeanyichikwu Ekwueme (1932-2017), from Nigeria Magazine, June 1966.

Whilst there was a lofty desire to promote local art, culture, and history, other articles appear to focus on trade and industry, presenting what are effectively op-eds or public relations pieces as historical accounts. In 1960 there was a special report on The Niger River Transport Company and Burutu, “Nigeria’s Timber Industry” featured in December 1962, focusing on the work and settlements of the African Timber and Plywood company – both subsidiary companies of of United Africa Company (UAC). Again, the Company features in various other articles, such as “The UAC in Nigeria’s economic growth” in December 1965. It’s a thorough and detailed account, going to some length to stress how the company is ‘inseparable’ from Nigeria’s economic growth. The article was also eager to stress the restructuring of the company and how it now operated as a series of smaller locally managed entities ‘to encourage the growth of industry and trade in local Nigerian hands’.

It seems that the magazine had a mandate beyond art and culture, and sought to shape opinion (particularly in the emerging and educated middle classes) on business and trade matters. The seductive and authoritative format of the journal gave these opinions validity, and allowed a particular and curated message to be carefully presented. The advertisements within the journal also reinforced these messages and narratives of progress through industry.

At the same time, ‘traditional’ and ‘local’ practices were celebrated and discussed. There is something disarming in this technique. An ahistorical image was usually shown on the front cover, often a decontextualised figure in traditional dress sometimes playing an instrument – followed on the inner leaf by an advertisement for the latest fashions from Kingsway department store. The advertisers tended to belong to, or were in partnership with, the UAC group (e.g. Taylor Woodrow, Guinness, Kingsway Stores), and it seems likely their extensive patronage held some sway over the editorial content. The adverts were not geared towards selling specific products, but were there simply to bolster public opinion and shift attitudes towards modernity, progress, and societal advancement alongside a romanticised nationalist sense of history and culture.

The articles on architecture were also propagandist and concerned with presenting Nigeria as a place of rapid progress and impatient ambition. Again, the UAC story is followed with interest, and their newly proposed offices in Lagos (by Watkins and Gray) demonstrates the Company’s commitment to ongoing business in the newly independent country, and also the shift in its focus from import/export to real estate and property development.

Artist impression of the UAC’s Niger House in Lagos. Designed by Watkins Gray and Partners.

John Godwin, wrote an article entitled, “Architecture in Nigeria” in December 1966. It’s a potted history that starts with the regional building types, local materials, and climatic responses before moving onto the impact of corrugated iron sheeting (pan) and its limitations. Godwin sets out this story to demonstrate the sudden change in scale, building types, and growth of the construction industry in West Africa post-1945,

“Tower cranes were on the scene in 1955 and by 1961 two twenty-five-storey buildings had been completed in Ibadan and Lagos built by Italian firms who thirty years earlier were struggling with their labour force to build small houses”

Whilst acknowledging this rapid growth and exciting possibilities, he also goes on to caution that more ‘research’ is required, greater collaboration should exist between architects, and that building components and materials were still being imported at prohibitive costs. Overly extravagant “prestige building” was also targeted whilst low-cost housing problems remained unresolved. Whilst the claims and hopes for air-conditioning now seem somewhat out-dated, his desire for a civic pride and community spirit, tree planting, and care of the environment is pertinent and all the more urgent. Godwin’s approach was to propose an “architecture of ventilators and sun breakers”, a lexicon that he viewed as, “increasingly identifiable as West African.”

Offices and Flats in Kaduna, designed by Godwin and Hopwood, 1964

Contributing to this West African style was the Design Group’s “Nigerian Institute of International Affairs” (located on Lagos’s Kofo Abayomi Street). It was discussed at length by Alan Vaughan-Richards in the March/May 1968 edition of the magazine, where he particularly admired the sculptural mural, ‘The Art of Understanding” by Erhabor Emokpae in tooled concrete that revealed the granite aggregate. Inside the Institute are further sculptural elements, including a bronze figure representing Knowledge by Ben Enwonwu and positioned hovering above an evaporation pool. The interior includes some grand double-height spaces, dramatic cantilevered spiral staircases and travertine marble cladding (donated by the Italian contractor). At the rear of the plot there is an octagonal conference room with a dramatic star-shaped roof (still visible on Google maps).

The Institute was to promote peace and progress (the internal conflict taking place in Nigeria at that time was not mentioned), and was to operate as a centre for learning, research, and debate on global affairs.

June 1962 edition included an article on “Contemporary Nigerian Architecture” by D. J. Vickery, the former Head of Department at Singapore Polytechnic (did he then go on to work in Nigeria?). This is an exceptional article covering some of the latest construction in Nigeria, and Lagos in particular. As a gazetteer of the latest building work – including the work from recently qualified Nigerian architects – it formed one of the most detailed architectural surveys of the country. Although the crude categorisation of the works under three types; ‘Climate’, ‘Traditional Spirit’, and ‘Skyline’ is somewhat limited, it gets the message across, and more importantly illustrates what the Independence Boom meant to the towns and cities across Nigeria.

In addition to the speculative offices, headquarters and banking halls there was an impressive array of schools and libraries (many designed by James Cubitt who had also designed similar works in Sekondi and Koforidua, Ghana), but the focus here was undoubtedly on real estate and speculative construction.

Nigeria magazine illustrates how UAC and other global companies shifted their approach and emphasis during the early Independence period. UAC was presenting its suite of businesses as nationalist, pro-development, and key partners in the country’s future. They rapidly placed an emphasis on real estate, finance, and industrial development, whilst curating a sophisticated advertisement and public relations campaign, through an arts and culture journal, to bolster their local credentials and legitimacy in the history of Nigeria.

Shared Heritage Africa: Call for Applications: Digital Fellowships March-September 2022: https://sha.architectuul.com

We are pleased to announce an open call for 6 Digital Fellowships, to be awarded to students and young professionals in architecture related fields or with demonstrable interest in architecture, who are based in Ghana, Uganda or Nigeria.

Shared Heritage Africa: Rediscovering Masterpieces

The documentation and investigation of buildings can tell us a lot about how politics works, and a lot about the nature of the relationship between state and society – a concern of all partner organisations. The project focuses on the rediscovery of post-war modern buildings from the 1950-1970s. These fall in the period of independence from colonial rule, here from the United Kingdom (Ghana 1957, Nigeria 1960 and Uganda 1962), and have a great educational and socio-political significance. One focus of our discussions with the respective universities, which were founded by the majority during this period of independence and for which new campuses were usually built, among others:

  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana (1952/1961),
  • University of Lagos (UNILAG), Lagos, Nigeria (1962),
  • University of Nigeria (UNN) (formerly Nigeria College of Arts Science and Technology), Nsukka, Nigeria,(1950s),
  • Busitema University (formerly National College of Agricultural Mechanisation), Busitema, Uganda (1968),
  • Kyambogo University (formerly Uganda Polytechnic), Kampala, Uganda (1958).Digital Fellowship ProgramThe 6 month long digital fellowship program involves participants working on documentation, investigation and representation of those post-war modernist buildings from the 1950-1970s in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. The fellowship program focuses on development of written and visual material on those buildings through scientific writing, photography and digital publishing using different media (text, photo, film and internet).The fellows will be involved in online tutoring and in-person activities undertaken over the period. They will contribute to the online platform Architectuul and the new digest/Blog “Shared Heritage Africa”, allowing for exchange with the professional actors and society, locally and globally. The results shall be presented and discussed at the 17th International DOCOMOMO Conference (IDC) in Valencia (Spain) in September 2022. Each fellow will receive a travel grant for joining the conference.

  • EligibilityPlease note the following conditions for participation:
    • –  Students and young professionals in architecture related fields or with demonstrable interest inarchitecture and other related disciplines, such as: Architecture, Urban Design, History, Social Science,Journalism, Urban Studies, Creative Writing, are eligible to participate.
    • –  If they are based in Ghana, Uganda or Nigeria.
    • –  Strong written communication skills and/or photography and/or digital publishing skills are required.
    • –  Previous experience conducting and communicating ideas or research publicly (blogs, articles,dissertations) is desirable.

Full Details and Application Form: https://sha.architectuul.com

Research Title and Summary: From One Slum to Another : A Journey of Understanding and Redefining Informal Districts in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

At a time where Saudi Arabia undergoes many mega development plans, Jeddah, located in the western region of Saudi Arabia, continuously aims to adjust the urban development strategies in an attempt to accommodate the future vision of the country. However, it suffers from the increasing numbers of informal districts where it currently adds up to sixty-six documented informal districts. This built environment has been vulnerable to socio-cultural implications and considerable complications. The community in these areas suffer from lack of proper housing, amenities, water supply, safety, and basic accessible healthcare. Living in closed clusters depending on and not limited to ethnicity and affordability. Saudi and non-Saudi people have inhabited informal districts for generations. For many years, policy makers along with governmental officials have put in action strategies to infiltrate these zones and prevent the spread of this architecture scar. Consequently, a bird eye view of the situation with no consideration to the communities needs and struggles have led to two types of people: landowners who refused to move and low-income communities who relocated to other informal low-income areas. 

Previous research investigated the informal districts crises, the root cause, the history and possible solutions. However, this historical crisis still reoccurs today. The oil boom, the mega projects, the rise in population and cost of living all have aided in the process of replacing, reproducing these slums. This research will shed the light on previous reasons of the crisis, However, it aims to investigate the mechanism of the informal districts and characteristics influenced by the behavior of different sociocultural aspects and to identify the variables that define these areas in Jeddah. 

Aims and Objectives:

This research aims to reveal the actual characteristics of Jeddah’s informal districts highlighting the different building and spatial dimensions. It aims to layer the social, economic and space relations to highlight the consistent power of such districts and the growth of this particular economy and space. 

The architecture of these zones in Jeddah can be abstracted into many indicators that differ from one district to another despite the close distance they are from each other. Considerably, the urban fabric and socio-cultural characteristics also differ from one zone to another. This is an understanding on how housing conditions and living challenges implicate the socio-culture nature of inhabitants. The research is an empirical analysis of the factors influencing the social and cultural patterns affected by the built environment that aid in the occurrence and recurrence of informal districts. 

Many descriptions have been mentioned in research and media talking about the problem of slums. The root cause, the history and possible solutions. However, a historical issue still reoccurs today. The oil boom, the mega projects, the rise in population and cost of living all have aided in the process of replacing and reproducing these slums. This research does aim to extensively explore previous reasons of the crisis. It aims to investigate the mechanism of the informal districts and characteristics. The aims are as following: 

  • To research the history of the urban fabric and the development of the built environment of Jeddah.  
  • To research the history of the existence and recurrence of informal districts in Jeddah. 
  • To investigate the different types of informal districts in Jeddah. 
  • To examine the current situation and analyze the relationship between the city and informal districts.
  • To examine the inhibitors socio-cultural background and economic status. 
  • To define the characteristics of the informal districts’ built environment where they differ in terms of culture, architecture, and economy. 
  • To set new indicators that categorizes the districts based on physical and social differences according to the previous definition. 
  • To propose recommendations for new strategies to enhance the built environment to accommodate inhabitants needs 

Why did you pursue a PhD, and what made you choose University of Liverpool?

Honestly, I have never thought I would. In 2013 I finished my master’s degree in Sustainable Architecture from the Catholic University of America. I was very eager to start working in the field. I went back to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and worked at Dar Al-Hekma University as a lecturer, alongside I founded with my husband Vertix Design Studio where I worked as an Architect and Interior Designer. In 2017 I moved to teach at Jeddah University. I taught various subjects during my years at both universities such as design studios, sustainability, and computer aided design. Teaching was a very enriching experience and as a result I have been very enthusiastic about research and exploring new methods of developing the built environment. During COVID-19 lockdown, a worldwide crisis affecting humanity, I realized that the aftermath of this would lay within us for a very long periods of time. I started to research with my colleague Dr. Sherin Sameh, a former chair of the School of Architecture at Dar Al-Hekma University, about pandemic lockdowns and space layout in houses in Jeddah according to new resident’s needs. Research revealed how this pandemic affected the more vulnerable low-income society and how houses and neighborhoods were not equipped to deal with such events.

After exploring many prominent universities, I have chosen University of Liverpool because the School of Architecture is one of the excellent schools across the United Kingdom, and the areas of research I am interested in are compatible with the vision of the wonderful staff. Liverpool is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in the UK, the very welcoming atmosphere and the beautiful architecture has made the decision much easier. 

What have you found the most fun part of the PhD, and the most challenging?

Exploring my city and meeting people from different backgrounds has been the most rewarding part of the PhD so far. Although I have lived most of my life in Jeddah, I had the chance of visiting areas for the first time. Seeing the city from a different point of view has been an eye-opening experience. 

The most challenging part has been starting my PhD online during the COVID-19 lockdown. Although e-learning has proved to be a revolutionary mechanism managing to bring people together in one room despite the physical distance, it has been challenging to build actual work/study relationships. As a new student, it takes time to be familiar with the new system and new instructors, nevertheless having to do it online made it challenging as there is limited time during online meetings and the importance of using that limited time effectively. However, I have been very fortunate that my supervisors have been very encouraging and supporting throughout time and I have been very motivated to work hard after each online meeting. 

Post-Phd? Any ideas of what you’d like to do next?

Although teaching has been a huge part of my career, I look forward to research further solutions for the constant rise in informal settlements in Saudi Arabia. I would like to effectively implement strategies that deal with such zones with consideration of the society living there. Finding sustainable solutions to eliminate such occurrences in the future for a more resilient country. I aim to influence and implement polices that would help mitigate this situation. 

Any advice for others interested in doing a PhD?

The dilemma I had in the past was constantly asking myself why do I want to do a PhD? Every time I thought about applying, I asked myself that, and only when I was able to answer I knew I was ready with a purpose. Don’t be afraid to be curious – the more you are – the better researcher you become. I have always seen myself since I started as more of an investigator researching for answers in the field. Choose a topic that you feel passionate about and do not be discouraged when you reach dead end, it just means there is an alternative road you need to take. Enjoy the journey.