Events - International

Architecture of independence – African modernism

Architecture of Independence

When: February 16 – May 27, 2017

Where: The Center for Architecture, New York, USA


The Center for Architecture announced the first NYC showing of Architecture of Independence – African Modernism. Featuring nearly 80 buildings, the exhibition explores the complex legacy of modern architecture and nation-building in 1960s and ’70s postcolonial Africa, when many Sub-Saharan countries gained their independence and turned to experimental and futuristic architecture to express their national identities.

Between 1957 and 1966, 32 countries – almost two thirds of all African nations – gained their independence from colonial powers. In these budding nations, including Ghana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia that are featured in this exhibition, technology and development became tools of liberation and instruments for expressing national identity. The daring and ambitious designs of new buildings, from state banks to convention centers and stadiums, mirrored the optimism and aspirations of the newly liberated states.

Presenting over 700 photographs, as well as archival materials, historical photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, videos, plans, and sketches, Architecture of Independence documents the ambivalences of decolonization, its contradictions, and inconsistencies, but also its ambitions, aims, and aspirations.

Curated by Manuel Herz and organized by the Vitra Design Museum, Architecture of Independence includes contemporary photography by renowned photographer Iwan Baan and award-winning South African humanitarian photo-documentarian Alexia Webster.



Related Programming:

  • FamilyDay@theCenter: Make it Modern
When: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM Saturday, March 11 (Two sessions: 11 am – 1 pm or 2 pm – 4 pm)

Where: The Center for Architecture


Families will explore our current exhibition Architecture of Independence – African Modernism, then create their own buildings in the modernist style.

Family Day Programs are designed for children ages 5 and up, accompanied by an adult.



  • African Modernsim: Iwan Baan
When: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Wednesday, March 15

Where: The Center for Architecture

Please join us for a conversation with architectural photographer Iwan Baan. Baan’s work is included in the exhibition Architecture of Independence – African Modernism, currently on view at the Center for Architecture.

Iwan Baan’s photographic investigations record the ways in which individuals, communities and societies create and interact within their built environments. Commissioned by Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito and SANAA to showcase their designs, his documentary work has been published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and in books including Brasilia & Chandigarh: Living with Modernity (Lars Müller, 2010) and Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities (Lars Müller, 2012).

The exhibition features original photography by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. .

When: 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM TUESDAY, APRIL 18

Please join us for a lecture with architect Kunlé Adeyemi.

Kunlé Adeyemi is an architect, designer and urban researcher. He is the founder/principle of NLÉ and a Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His notable work includes ‘Makoko Floating School’, an innovative prototype floating structure located on the lagoon heart of Lagos, Nigeria. This acclaimed project is part of an extensive research project – ‘African Water Cities’ – being developed by NLÉ an architecture, design and urbanism practice founded by Adeyemi in 2010, focusing on developing cities and communities. NLÉ recently launched MFS II – a new, improved iteration of Makoko Floating School at this years’ la Biennale di Venezia, for which it was awarded the Silver Lion. Other projects include Chicoco Radio Media Center – an amphibious community building in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, ROCK – Lakefront Kiosk in Chicago, USA, CDL Microfinance Bank in Lagos, Nigeria and Serpentine Summer House at the Royal Kensington Gardens in London, UK.
Before founding NLÉ, Adeyemi worked for OMA, where he led the design, development and execution of high profile projects such as the Shenzhen Stock Exchange tower in China, the Qatar National Library, and Prada Transformer in Seoul.
Alongside his professional practice Adeyemi is an international speaker and thought leader serving as jurors for the 2014 AIA award and 2016 RIBA international Prize. He is a multiple award winner, and holds an honorary doctorate degree in Architecture. He has taught at Cornell University and was an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, New York, researching architecture and urban solutions that are closer to societal, environmental and economic needs.

  • Symposium – African Modernism(s): Past/Present/Future 
When: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM SATURDAY, APRIL 22

Through two panels the symposium will look at both the context for the architecture on view in the exhibition, and the variety of work being produced today on the continent by New York based architects.

The symposium is organized with the co-directors of Columbia GSAPP’s Global Africa Lab, Mario Gooden and Mabel O. Wilson.



adeyemiThe Center for Architecture is the premier cultural venue for architecture and the built environment in New York City, informed by the complexity of the City’s urban fabric and in dialogue with the global community. The Center shares a home with the AIA New York Chapter and has the unique advantage of drawing upon the ideas and experiences of practicing architects to produce thought-provoking exhibitions, informative public programs, and quality design education experiences for K-12 students. It also leads New York City’s annual month-long architecture and design festival, Archtober. The Center for Architecture’s aim is to further public knowledge about New York City architecture and architects, foster exchange and collaboration among members of the design, development, building, scholarly, and policy sectors, and inspire new ideas about the role of design in communities by presenting contemporary and practical issues in architecture and urbanism to a general audience.



Independence Arch, Accra, Ghana, by the Public Works Department, 1961 © Alexia Webster


Architecture of independence-African modernism
The Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, NYC,New York, USA-10012
Starting on
16 February, 2017
Ending on
27 May, 2017

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