Starting Jan. 29, the Graham Foundation will premiere the first U.S. presentation of Architecture of Independence: African Modernism. The exhibition, curated by Swiss architect Manuel Herz, documents modernist buildings in Sub-Saharan Africa from the 1960s and 1970s, a time when the region was discovering its new found independence.
After gaining independence in the 1950s and 1960s, many Sub-Saharan countries, including Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia, began large, state-sponsored initiatives to bring more experimental architecture to the area. Architecture soon became a means to express the countries' departure from the colonial era, and ambitious parliament buildings, universities, stadiums, and other public buildings started popping up across the landscape. Architects largely came from Poland, Yugoslavia, Scandinavia, Israel, and the former colonial powers, but few local architects were commissioned until the late 1970s.
The exhibition, on display at the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House in Chicago until April 9, features more than 700 photographs, many commissioned by Dutch photographer Iwan Baan and South African photographer Alexia Webster. Archived material, including architectural plans and sketches, newspaper clippings, postcards, and historical photographs, narrate the stories of five selected buildings, one from each country.