Central African architecture highlights include projects from Equatorial Guinea and Angola
For the penultimate article of our collaboration with Dom Publishers, the editors of the Guide to Architecture of Sub-Saharan Africa have selected their architectural strengths in Central African countries.
Written to be a comprehensive guide to the architecture of the 49 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Guide to Architecture of Sub-Saharan Africa features over 850 buildings.
Named Central Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, the sixth volume of the publication features buildings in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Central African Republic and Angola.
Read on for the choices of each country in the region selected by editors Philipp Meuser and Adil Dalbai:
Yaoundé Town Hall, Yaoundé, by Armand Salomon
The town hall of Youndé is one of the icons of African architecture as a whole.
Built in the early 1980s, it looks like a 1960s cosmic-era spacecraft that landed too late. Nevertheless, its architectural expressiveness has no comparison in Central Africa.
The French building architect, Armand Salomon, first arrived in Cameroon around 1956, when the country was still under French rule. He was the first foreigner to be a certified architect in Cameroon.
Although of European descent, Salomon felt it was important to create architecture inspired by African design. The Town Hall is one of the most successful examples.
Sipopo Congress Center, near Malabo, by Tabanlıoğlu Architects
The Sipopo convention center near Malabo is nestled in a semi-transparent metal shell like a shield protecting it from strong light and creating a security implication. This protects interiors from bright sunlight while providing them with optimal daylight benefit.
Through the placement of metal panels in variations at different levels and angles, the facade is seen as an assortment of playful geometries sparkling with daylight, echoing not only the colors and tones but also the movements of winds and waves. .
Tabanlıoğlu Architects celebrated the typical surface trend of the Turkish design scene, which is quite appropriate for an international venue but does not contribute anything to the local architecture.
Sao Tome and Principe
Telecommunications company, São Tomé, by José Pinto da Cunha and José Pereira da Costa
This building by two Portuguese architects positively enriches the urban landscape. Located near the coast, it occupies an important place in the landscape of Ana Chaves Bay.
Former headquarters of the Post Office and Tourism, it has a modernist design, and is clearly adapted to the tropical context.
Reinforced concrete technology was adopted for the solar shading grid on the facade. This highlights the horizontality of the building, despite its height, and fulfills the functions of shading and ventilation while having a strong aesthetic impact.
The building of the telecommunications company is one of the most innovative and important works of modernist architecture in São Tomé. The interior remains virtually unchanged; it retains the modernist image of the structure.
E3MG Campus Moanda, Moanda, by Maïssa Architectures
Jean Pierre Maissa is the only architect from his country to have successfully presented his buildings to an international festival audience.
The fact that he was allowed to build such a modern campus in Moanda, 500 kilometers from the capital, is undoubtedly due to Gabon’s rich mineral resources. Admittedly, the E3MG looks like a spaceship that has landed in the African jungle. But it’s still a visual phenomenon.
Republic of Congo
Concorde Sports Complex, Brazzaville, by China State Construction and Engineering Corporation
In 1965, Brazzaville hosted the first Pan-African Games. In 2015, the old Massamba-Débat stadium, with its 33,000 seats, was insufficient for the eleventh matches and their fiftieth anniversary.
Built from 2013 to 2015 for the African Games, the stadium accommodates 60,000 spectators, protected from bad weather by a metal roof with petal shapes.
The complex also includes a gym, Olympic size swimming pool, conference center, offices and hotels. It was built as part of bilateral cooperation between the Republic of Congo and China by the China State Construction and Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).
It is always surprising to see where China is erecting new large-scale buildings for African governments. Beijing stadium diplomacy has a long tradition. After all, China also built a stadium along the Congo River embankment in the 1960s across the river in Kinshasa.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Bukavu Cathedral, Bukavu, by Georges Nef
With such a distinctive silhouette, consisting of two hinged roofs in the shape of a pointed arch and a modern, contoured dome perforated with slits for natural ventilation, Bukavu Cathedral is one of the most remarkable architectural projects in Central Africa.
The way in which the architect Georges Nef developed the architectural form of this cathedral in 1950 deserves to be commended. In the form of local huts with their roofs reaching to the ground, he designed this place of worship on a transverse plane.
To this day, the building remains an icon of late colonial architecture from Belgium in Africa and a good example of the rapprochement between tradition and modernity.
Central African Republic
Emergency pediatric center, Bangui, by Studio TAMassociati
Following the completion of the Salam Cardiac Surgery Center in Sudan, satellite clinics were planned in the nine neighboring countries, including the Central African Republic. Bangui, the capital of a country where life expectancy averages around fifty years for men and fifty-five for women, hosted the first of these clinics.
Built around a central patio, the Bangui Emergency Pediatric Center offers health assistance to children under the age of fifteen and also provides training courses on hygiene and health. On average, 100 children and 20 pregnant women are treated there every day.
The questionable activities of the Russian government and private mercenaries close to it contribute to the fact that the Central African Republic receives virtually no assistance from the international community.
In this context, the emergency pediatric center of Italian architects is like a beacon in the rough ocean.
Nossa Senhora da Conceicão Church, Sumbe, by Francisco Castro Rodrigues
Designed by Portuguese architect Francisco Castro Rodrigues from 1960 to 1966, Nossa Senhora da Conceicão Cathedral overlooks the sea in the town of Sumbe.
Rodrigues and his wife translated Le Corbusier’s Charter of Athens into Portuguese in 1948 and after moving to southwest Africa in 1953, the mayor of Lobito entrusted him with transforming Lobito into a modern port city.
Rodrigues made a name for himself during his three decades of architectural work in Lobito as well as in the Nordic town of Sumbe, where he designed a cathedral in a modern style. His work also underscores the thesis that it is only possible to create architectural masterpieces at a time when powerful clients are filling architects’ order books.