Dezeen Magazine

Genocide Memorial
 Amphitheatre, Kigali, by John McAslan and Partners

Architecture highlights from east Africa include projects from Madagascar and Burundi

Continuing our collaboration with Dom Publishers, the editors of the Sub-Saharan Africa Architectural Guide select architectural highlights from east Africa.

The Sub-Saharan Africa Architectural Guide contains over 850 buildings in 49 countries in Africa. It aims to be a comprehensive guide to architecture in the African countries that lie south of the Sahara.

Sub-Saharan Africa Architectural Guide
Sub-Saharan Africa Architectural Guide is a seven-volume book focused on architecture in Africa

The fifth volume of the seven-volume publication is named Eastern Africa from the Great Lakes to the Indian Ocean and includes chapters on Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar.

"It is not only a guide book in the traditional sense but much more, featuring impressive photographs and essays on various aspects of the continent's building culture," said co-editor Philipp Meuser in an interview with Dezeen.

Read on for picks from each country in the region selected by Meuser and co-editor Adil Dalbai:

Swahili Gem Apartments, Mombasa, by Urko Sánchez Architects
Photo by Javier Callejas

Swahili Gem Apartments, Mombasa, by Urko Sánchez Architects

Arguably one of the most iconic residential buildings in all of Africa, even if it was planned more for the upper middle class, the Swahili Gem Apartments combine features that make the most of the creekfront setting yet still ensure pri­vacy.

The fourteen-home luxury development includes four patio houses that run down to the water and flats above them. It takes its inspiration from the rich traditions of Swahili architecture: the mashrabiyya outer skin shields occupants from view on all facades except the water-facing one.

Wooden lattices carved by local artisans add to the shade and airflow. Rainwater is collected, and water is solar-heated to save energy. In addition to white plaster finishing, the project uses a mtomo finish, a coralstone cladding technique original to Lamu that helps keep thermal capacity thanks to the porosity of the stone.

Baha'i House of Worship, Kampala, by Charles Mason Remey,
Cobb, Powell and Freeman
Photo by Arnold Mugasha

Baha'i House of Worship, Kampala, by Charles Mason Remey,
 Cobb, Powell and Freeman

Called the Mother Temple of Africa, the structure on the outskirts of the city is one of eight Baha'i Houses of Worship in the world, and the only one in Africa.

This sacred building is enthroned on one of Kampala's hills. In the evening sun, the place looks picturesque, while the pulse of the metropolis beats in the valleys between the hills.

Charles Mason Remey initially designed the building, and the architectural firm of Cobb, Powell and Freeman, who also created the Bulange, modified the design to accommodate the existing local conditions and oversaw the construction, which began in 1958.

Measuring over 40 metres in height and with a pointed tip at the very top, the structure is roofed by a dome covered in green mosaic tiles. The dome rests on nine reinforced concrete columns which are filled in with brick walls featuring coloured glass panels. Nine windows are set into the dome and it is painted pale blue inside.

Genocide Memorial
Amphitheatre, Kigali, by John McAslan and Partners
Photo by Adil Dalbai

Genocide Memorial
 Amphitheatre, Kigali, by John McAslan and Partners

Expressing the national collective memory in architecture is always a great challenge.

The fact that a Scottish architect planned Rwanda's genocide memorial as a theatre with a spectacular backdrop of the city silhouette is evidence of a new openness to the world in one of the smallest African states, which just a generation ago was a non-place with racism and civil war.

Even though it is only one of the numerous physical spaces devoted to the commemoration of those murdered in the 1994 geno­cide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi, established in 2004, is defin­itely the most important.

In the mass graves located in its gardens, over 250,000 bodies are buried. The Memorial also houses the Genocide Archive of Rwanda and exhibitions on the history of the Rwandan genocide.

Muyinga Library, Muyinga, by BC Architects
Photo by BC Architects

Muyinga Library, Muyinga, by BC Architects

The Muyinga Library is part of a future inclusive­ school for deaf children. It was built in locally­ sourced compressed earth blocks, according to a participatory approach. The buil­ding is organised along a longitudinal covered circulation space.

The building shows that it is possible to design thoroughly modern architecture using local building methods.

It is an exemplary example of how foreign architects, in this case from the former colonial power Belgium, have found an adapted design. However, the typology of the library still remains somewhat alien.

Michenzani flats, Zanzibar Stone Town, by Hubert Scholz
Photo by Vitaly Pozdeyev

Michenzani flats, Zanzibar Stone Town, by Hubert Scholz

The rows of houses, more than a kilometre long, lie like a scar in the middle of the huts.

Yet the socialist series buildings were the first to be erected on the newly won land. In the 1970s, the GDR donated architectural know-how along with the complete supply of materials.

The fact that East German housing construction was successful in Africa has unfortunately been forgotten in Germany.

Mitsamiouli Stele, Grande Comore Island, by Mahmoud Keldi, Nadia Moussa
Photo by Nadia Moussa

Mitsamiouli Stele, Grande Comore Island, by Mahmoud Keldi, Nadia Moussa

Only a few remarkable examples of the architecture of the poor island state in the Indian Ocean have been documented. One of them is this monument in honour of the victims of the Yemenia Airways crash, which was inaug­urated on 30 June 2011 in Mitsamiouli, northern Grande Comore.

This monument, a collaboration between local architect Nadia Moussa and Mahmoud Keldi, a Paris-based French-Comoran architect, aims to commemorate the crash's French-Comoran victims.

The memorial is a tall, thin slab of reinforced concrete, shaped like an abstract sail and coated with cut volcanic stone and sheets of stainless steel, on which the names of the 153 victims were to be engraved.

One would like to see more monuments in Africa that have such a high level of abstraction.

Kempinski Seychelles Resort, Mahé Island, by DHK Architects
Photo by DHK Architects

Kempinski Seychelles Resort, Mahé Island, by DHK Architects

This project shows one of the places of longing that one would like to visit once in a lifetime. As long as you remain aware that not all places in Africa radiate this peace, and that even in the Seychelles more than 80 per cent of the population live in poverty, you can enjoy this foreign world.

Designed by the South African office, DHK Architects, the Kempinski Seychelles Resort project required that the former Plantation Club Resort and Casino on the island of Mahé be redeveloped.

Mauritius Commercial Bank, Plaines Wilhelms, by Jean Francois Koenig
Photo by Ulandi van Dyk

Mauritius Commercial Bank, Quatre Bornes, by Jean Francois Koenig

The Mauritius Commercial Bank Building, an unusual edifice with a large water basin at its foot, is located in Quatre Bornes. Constructed in 2010, the structure was designed by Jean Francois Koenig Archi­tects as an elliptical shape that rests on four travertine-­clad pillars.

The building has open office floor plates that are naturally lit by glass from floor to floor, providing visual connections between l­evels and facilitating communication. It also features two auditoriums, training facilities, a modern kitchen and canteen, and plantrooms.

It was the first project in the southern hemi­sphere to obtain a BREEAM good environmental certificate and has become an iconic structure in Mauritius.

Why does the national bank of a tax haven build such a conspicuous building in the countryside? And this, shortly after the global financial crisis of 2008/2009? Some architectural thoughts remain a mystery. For a bank anyway.

Under the Sails Residence, Nosy Be Island, by Stefano Carera, Eirini Giannakopoulou
Photo by Stefano Carera

Under the Sails Residence, Nosy Be Island, by Stefano Carera, Eirini Giannakopoulou

Four simple volumes united under one roof make up this two-storey private residence by the sea. The quartet of separate volumes are linked by wooden decking and a central patio. This central patio, a living space that mediates between inside and out, connects the front of the house to the back, and therefore the sea to the forest.

The choice of local materials and trad­itional construction techniques embrace the landscape of Nosy Be, an island about eight kilometres off the northwestern coast of Madagascar which is a popular tourist destination.

The thatching, a material often used for roofs on the island, becomes a natural carpet that, with its form and scale, covers the whole house. Viewed from the beach, the roof conceals the concrete columns of the house.

The architectural style may be irritating for Africa. But Madagascar has part of its cultural roots in Southeast Asia. In the local architecture, the similarities to buildings in Indonesia are not accidental but deliberate.