Day 7, The Architecture of Loss (#31DaysOfDecember)

The Kampala Museum has an interesting feature: a grassed field populated with buildings from across the country, all constructed in the traditional design of the various ethnic nations in Uganda. Similar then, to the vision of Nigeria’s Museum of Traditional Architecture in Jos. The two ladies modeling the Toro house in the picture were urban museum visitors like me, who wanted to experience a sense of traditional residence, however fleeting…

Visiting Toro in Kampala

Why do we have to visit museums to get this sense? Why is there so little use of inspiration derived from the traditional, whether in construction materials or in design? Why are African cities overwhelming architectural bastards, with no genetic fidelity to their African ancestries? In Nigeria, cities like Makurdi seem to have done a better job at migrating traditional forms onto the urban street, but overall, I suppose, like an architect once told me, we may have to ask the client, not the designer.

This is from Urban Architecture, a short story in The Ghost of Sani Abacha.

The mud house now wears a cap of palm thatch. Your guard has polished the mud walls to a smooth finish. You walk into the adobe hut. There is not a scrap of paint on the walls, yet it does not look ‘unpainted’. You, kind of, like the earthy smell of it, the lime with which the external walls are varnished. You cannot get over how cool the interior is, despite the tiny windows, as you walk in from the blistering heat of your Kano or Enugu day. The fat walls of clay, the thick roof impregnated with dead air pockets, they all drink in the heat, leaving the inside of the adobe as cool as an egg. The last time you felt this snugly comfortable was in the womb. It will be a pity to demolish it when the time comes.

This is the 7th day of my #31DaysofDecember challenge. 24 days to go!

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