When it comes to architecture, people’s minds wander off to America, Dubai, Australia, and other European countries. However, many people fail to consider Africa. The continent’s cultural diversity is expressed in everything from food and clothing to architectural designs.
Here’s our list of 10 famous buildings in Africa:
Clay Palace of Ghardaïa — Algeria
It seems fitting to kick off this article with a palace. After all, Africa is known as the land for the regal. And royalty inhabits a castle, not a typical house. One of the most captivating palaces in Africa is the Clay Palace of Ghardaia. As the name suggests, the structure is made entirely of clay and stone.
Structures such as these are built by the Mozabites as far back as the tenth century. From that time till today, a few of their creations, such as the clay palace, remain tall with pride. Being located in the Sahara desert, most of the buildings are made from clay. It keeps the building cool during the summer and warm in the winter.
ISKCON Gaborone — Botswana
Iskcon temple is truly a sight to behold. Its delicate colors (saffron, white, and salmon pink) create a beautiful scene behind the blue Botswanan sky. The building is three stories tall, and each floor has its unique intricate design.
The first and second floors have a 1300 square foot hall. The first floor serves as living quarters for the priests, while its hall is used for dining. It has a fully equipped kitchen and store. The second floor is used as a temple room. In it, you can find a golden altar for Sri Krishna Balarama, a stage, and changing rooms for programs. The last floor also features another hall used for meditation and chanting.
St. Paul’s Cathedral — Côte d’Ivoire
St. Paul’s Cathedral is located in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The Church was designed and built by Aldo Spirito. Among other functions, the cathedral also serves as the mother church for the Abidjan Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
On the building’s exterior, we have a cross with its arms flanked. It is held up by cables connected to the church building. The reason for the cross’s unusual shape is one with symbolic significance. The structure is meant to mimic the statue of Lord Jesus with his arms akin in Rio.
The cathedral has a total capacity of approximately 5000 people, out of which 3500 are seated and the remainder stand.
One Airport Square — Ghana
Contrary to what one might think, One Airport Square is not an airport but a multi-functional building. It is located in the center of Ghana, Accra. The nine-story building is a host of office spaces, while the ground floor is used for commercial purposes. The building is also used for exhibitions and events.
It was built by Italian architect Mario Cucinella. His unusual design makes it difficult to look at it without turning your head to get a second look- this had resulted in it becoming a famous landmark.
Great Mosque of Djenné — Mali
The Great Mosque of Djenné could be referred to as a wonder of Africa. Not just because of its aesthetic appeal but also for its architectural genius. It is located on the flood plain of the Bani River. It currently holds the record for being the largest mud building in the world.
The structure’s design is common to the region of West Africa, where it is found. The buildings in this region are commonly made with mud-bricks, adobe plaster, and wooden beams. The structure is mainly open, and as one would imagine, it is prone to erosion from many elements.
Local skilled mud masons are hired to maintain the structure regularly and prevent it from collapsing or slowly eroding.
Church of Saint Anthony of Polana — Mozambique
St. Anthony’s Church is situated in Maputo, Mozambique. Construction of the building began in 1962 and ended two years later upon its completion. The building is born of modernist architecture. It was built by Portuguese architect Nuno Cavreiro Lopes.
This building made it to our list because of its uncommon shape. Due to its shape, it is popularly known as the “lemon squeezer.” The building’s windows have colorful crystals in them that allow the entrance of light in several colors. A sight that many
Christuskirche — Namibia
Christuskirche looks like something that fell out of a German fairytale. Its color scheme makes it easy for one to imagine a gingerbread man living inside. Located in Windhoek, Namibia, Christuskirche is regarded as a landmark in the area.
The building paints an excellent picture of German neo-Romanic architecture at the time it was built. Its walls are made of quartz sandstone imported from Avis Dam, while its portal is crafted from Italian marble. The Church’s bronze bells are imported from Germany.
As you can imagine, the German community of Windhoek played a significant role in ensuring the building is completed; They donated stained windows, decorative plaques, and even bibles.
National Theatre — Nigeria
The National Theater is located in Western Nigeria, specifically in the city of Lagos. The theatre is still considered one of the best architectural monuments in Nigeria to date. A Bulgarian construction company constructed the National Theater in the 70s during the military regime of Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo.
The building’s exterior is synonymous with a military hat- we commend the architect for this clever play on detail. The auditorium has a capacity of about 5000, and the hall a capacity of approximately 1000. The hall is even facilitated with equipment to translate eight languages simultaneously.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina — Egypt
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is located in Alexandria, Egypt. From the look of the building, you may have already guessed it is a library. The building is 11 stories tall and houses over 4 million books.
The building is more than just a library; it also performs other functions. It has a planetarium, many museums, a school for information science. The library is inspired by an attempt to revive the ancient city of Alexandria.
We think the best way to describe this building’s design is bold and timeless. The monument represents learning and culture.
Great Mosque of Touba — Senegal
There are few things as beautiful as religion and architecture coming together. In Mouride, Senegal, the pair came together and gave birth to what we know today as the Great Mosque of Touba. The structure can be viewed from virtually any vantage point in the city.
The mosque is presumed to be the largest building in the city and the largest mosque in Africa. It has a capacity of about 7000 people. Since its completion in the early ’60s, the building has continued to attract worshippers and tourists from around the world.
The Great Mosque has undergone many additions and embellishments since it was completed. It features five minarets and three large domes where the founder of the Mouride brotherhood, Amadou Bamba, lies buried.
Monuments des Martyrs — Burkina Faso
Monuments de martyrs, also known as Monument to National Heroes, is located in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. Without a doubt, the building is one of the country’s most unique landmarks.
The structure is symbolic; it represents the people whose lives were lost in the revolution. Few people have compared Monument des Martyrs to the Eiffel Tower. We can’t say why since they look nothing alike.
Church of St George, Lalibela — Ethiopia
Ethiopia has a long history characterized by royalty, dynasties, and religion that goes as far back as 3000 years ago. A town in Ethiopia, Lalibela has a few medieval churches that it has preserved to date. One of them is the Church of St George.
The Church’s roof is shaped like a crucifix, and this is the most visible part of the Church. Its interior boasts of images, carvings, and other symbols relevant to Christendom and beyond. An example of such items includes the star of David with a cross carved inside and a two-headed eagle.
While we admit this structure is not as mind-blowing as the others in terms of modern architecture, it is still a marvel to behold, considering how old it is.
Ishnashri Dispensary in Zanzibar — Tanzania
Better known as the “Old Dispensary,” it is perhaps one of the most attractive landmarks on the waterfront. This historical building is located halfway between the Palace Museum and the harbor. It is called the “old dispensary” because it functioned as one in the first half of the twentieth century.
The building’s appearance is of Indian influence since it was built by an Indian. The main structure is built with materials from Zanzibar. On the interior, you will find that the Dispensary is sophisticatedly decorated. The Dispensary is one of Stone Town’s major tourist attractions.
This list proves that Africa has always been a force to reckon with when it comes to structural designs. Buildings such as Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Monuments des Martyrs are one side of the coin, portraying modern architecture. While the Great Mosque boasts of the ingenious methods used by Africans in architecture.
If you are interested in exploring different tourist attractions, why not start with these places from the eastern part of the continent.