With the seven-volume “Architectural Guide Sub-Sahara Africa”, Philipp Meuser and Adil Dalbai have succeeded in creating a compendium that not only presents a panorama of Africa’s diverse architectures, but also helps to correct distorted images of the continent.
Text by Thomas Wagner
Museum of Black Civilisations in Dakar (Beijing Institute of Architecture, 2018). © Adil Dalbai
The oldest European building in sub-Saharan Africa is Elmira Castle, 160 kilometres west of Ghana’s capital Accra. Colonial buildings from different eras may seem familiar to the Eurocentric eye. But who outside Africa knows anything about the ornate clay buildings in the savannah? Or about how, in the midst of a building boom and the spread of the “Africa Rising” narrative, the Ghanaian architecture industry has developed, and the role played by rapid economic growth and an emerging middle class? Are we familiar with the anthropomorphic buildings in Togo, the government buildings of Kenzo Tange in Nigeria? The Al-Nilein mosque in Sudan? What do we know about the architecture of the Nubians or the pyramids of Meroë? The list could go on and on.
The image of the African continent in many European countries is notoriously deficient, not to say distorted, incomplete, often characterised by ignorance. This does not only apply to the post-colonial political and economic conditions, about which sweeping judgements are often made. Only a few are familiar with the diverse cultures and buildings of Africa.
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