Exhibition at Chicago’s Graham Foundation to Examine African Modernism

 Rinaldo Olivieri, La Pyramide, 1973, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Image © Iwan Baan
Rinaldo Olivieri, La Pyramide, 1973, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Image © Iwan Baan

A new exhibition opening later this month at Chicago’s Graham Foundation seeks to explore the complex history and legacy of modernist architecture in sub-Saharan Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. Architecture of Independence: African Modernism will feature nearly eighty buildings in commissioned photographs by Iwan Baan, Alexia Webster, and Manuel Herz. Alongside archival material, the exhibition “imparts a new perspective on the intersection of architecture and nation-building in Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia and investigates some of the most compelling yet under-studied examples of 1960s and 1970s architecture worldwide.”

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Henri Chomette and Roland Depret, Hotel Independence, 1973¬–78, Dakar (Senegal). Image © Iwan Baan

Henri Chomette and Roland Depret, Hotel Independence, 1973¬–78, Dakar (Senegal). Image © Iwan Baan

When many countries in sub-Saharan Africa gained their independence in the 1960s, experimental architecture became a primary means by which many young nations expressed their new identities and signaled a departure from their colonial pasts. Often the product of large state-sponsored initiatives, the ambitious designs of new parliament buildings, stadiums, universities, central banks, convention centers, and other major public buildings and housing projects mirrored the forward-looking spirit driving their construction and declared the new nation-states’ presence on the global stage. 

While numerous local designers, planners, and builders participated in this period of building, only a few local architects were commissioned for these projects until the later half of the 1970s. These include Senegalese architects Cheikh N’Gom and Pierre Goudiaby Atepa, who designed the Central Bank of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (1975–90) in Dakar. In most cases, however, the architects came from countries such as Poland, Yugoslavia, Scandinavia, Israel, and even the former colonial powers. 

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 Fry, Drew and Partners, Mfantsipim School, 1958, Cape Coast (Ghana). Image © Manuel Hertz

Fry, Drew and Partners, Mfantsipim School, 1958, Cape Coast (Ghana). Image © Manuel Hertz

You can find out more about the exhibition, which opens on the 29th January 2016, here.

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