Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kinshasa 2011 -- Albert Monument Sanitized

While searching the web for information about the Governor General’s residence, I came across a posting on showing a Chinese construction company currently engaged in cladding the Albert Monument pedestal in white marble.  Located on the Place du 30 Juin (See July 3, 2011, Jan. 9, 2011), the monument has been controversial since Mobutu ordered the removal of all colonial-era statues in January 1972 as part of the Recours a l’Authenticité campaign.  This latest development has divided Congolese, between those who argue that the colonial relics are part of collective history and should be maintained, and those who feel it is sufficient to place the statues in public parks (See July 5, 2011) and nostalgia should not stand in the way of modernizing the city.
Marble cladding being installed on the Albert Monument

The monument was completed in 1939, designed by René Schoentjes, chief architect of the Ministry of Colonies, who also designed the Gare Centrale behind it.  The art-deco lines of the pedestal, built in mauve Kinsuka stone, contrast with the austere rectangular planes of the railway station.  The introduction of imported marble and a cladding approach that appears intended to conceal rather than embellish, will likely result in a sterile public space as often found in China.  This development, coming a year after the creation of the Place du 30 Juin, begs the question whether the Kinshasa authorities have further plans for the pedestal.
The Albert Monument shortly after the statue was removed in 1972

The work in progress -- Place du 30 Juin


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Leopoldville 1960 - Independence Changes the Architectural Equation

After Independence, Kinshasa’s population boomed.  The carefully managed plans of the Belgian colonial administrators were lost in the push-pull factors of civil unrest that followed Independence and related growing recognition among Congolese that economic opportunities in the rural areas were becoming increasingly limited. From just under half a million residents in 1960, the urban population had increased by more than 60% by the time of Mobutu’s coup in 1965. The massive urban influx and lapse in urban management services saw the expansion of informal settlements around the periphery of Leopoldville coupled with the densification of established residential districts.
Leopoldville becomes Kinshasa -- the 24 Communes established in 1966

Historically, neither Catholic nor Protestant missionaries working in Leopoldville placed much of a priority on Congolese living in the colonial capital.  The missions were primarily based in the city for logistical reasons, to support up-country stations, but as the city grew, the churches belatedly began to consider the growing numbers of faithful who were moving into the city. The creation of 24 Communes in 1966 (from 10 in 1960) set the stage for construction of church buildings in the new administrative districts.  In 1965, the American Baptist mission assigned John Marshall to build new churches throughout the city (See Apr. 30, 2011).
The Baptist Church in Kintambo nearing completion -- 1965

Paul Dequeker (b.1930).  Brother Paul Dequeker joined the Diocese of Leopoldville in 1958, a recent graduate in tropical architecture from the Architectural Association School for Architecture in London.  One of his first projects was the Scolasticat Nkongolo for his Scheut Congregation at the recently completed Lovanium University on a hill outside the city.  Over the next 30 years, nearly every significant building built in the Diocese bore his imprint of simple, climate-sensitive style which could be constructed by artisans with limited experience and equipment.

Barumbu Commune was one of the three original cités (Barumbu, St. Jean (Lingwala) and Kinshasa) of Kinshasa.  Brother Piet Nooyen built the original church of St. Paul Parish near Ndolo Airport in 1945. In 1967, Dequeker designed a new brick church and parish buildings.

St. Paul's Church, Barumbu -- 2010

In the late 1970s, Dequeker designed a new residential complex for the priests at Ste. Anne parish.  Ste. Anne was the original parish of Kinshasa in 1903 (See Mar. 13, 2011) and was developed over the years to include the cathedral, rectory, procure, and College St. Joseph.  The three-story, U-shaped structure provided single and duplex apartments for the priests.
Ste. Anne church, priests' residence (L), College St. Joseph (R)
The Residence from the side
Interior Courtyard of the Residence
Another Dequeker church from this period, St. Augustin was constructed in Lemba Commune in 1977.  Lemba is known as the “Quartier Latin” for its proximity to the University of Kinshasa.  Lemba was one of the planned communities built before Independence and Lemba parish was established in 1959.
St. Augustin Church Interior -- 2010
In the 1980s, Dequeker designed a significant new church building in Parish St. Raphael on Ave. Lumumba.  St. Raphael Parish was established in 1958 and was likely named as a memorial to Father Raphael de la Kethulle de Ryhove, “Tata Raphael”, who promoted soccer in the city and who was instrumental in building Stade Astrid and Stade Baudouin (See Feb. 6, 2011). Built on a triangular site at the junction of Blvd. Lumumba and Ave. de l’Université, the church is constructed in the form of a stepped pyramid.    
St. Raphael viewed from Blvd. Lumumba -- 2005
St. Raphael Church Entrance -- 2010
Others in Kinshasa employed Dequeker designs.  In 1971, the American Baptist (CBCO) Christian Center at Kintambo (See Apr. 30, 2011) replaced the original primary school buildings on the old church compound with a series of single-story structures designed by Dequeker, including classrooms, a library and a kindergarten.
The kindergarten building at the CBCO Christian Center in Kintambo (original construction since modified) -- 2011
Eugène Palumbo. Educated in Milan and Lausanne in architecture and topography during World War II, Palumbo first came to Congo in 1952 to design the company town for the hydro-electric dam at Zongo on the Inkisi River near Leopoldville and later at the Bendera power station north of Albertville (Kalemie) in Katanga Province.  He returned to Switzerland in 1959, but was tapped by UNESCO in 1962 to head the ambitious national schools program.  He travelled extensively around the country in the early 1960s, producing designs for the School of Mines in Bukavu and the Athenée de Kenge in Bandundu Province.
The workers camp and maintenance buildings at Zongo Dam -- 1955
In Leopoldville, he contributed significantly to facilities for higher education, a priority of UNESCO, including the Institut Pédagogique National (Université Pédagogique National since 2005) on the Matadi road in Binza, created in 1961; the Institut Supérieur Pedagogique in 1961 next to Sacre Coeur in Kalina (now ISP Gombe); the Institut National du Batiment et des Travaux Publiques in 1962 (See Feb. 20, 2011); and the Institut Supérieur des Techinques Appliquées (ISTA) at Ndolo Airport.
The Rectorat at UPN viewed from the Matadi Road
Classroom block, ISP Gombe -- 2010
IBTP in Ngaliema Commune, rehabilitated for Independence observance -- 2010 
Palumbo also collaborated with M.Tolleri, on the design of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1968, the first post-Independence structure to be built on Ricquier and Heymans’ monumental boulevard in Kalina (See July 31, 2011).
Entrance to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- 2010
Olivier Cacoub (1920-2008). Cacoub was a Tunisian-born French architect, known as the “architecte du soleil” for his significant body of work in sub-Saharan Africa.  He might also have been known as the “architect of the dictators”, having produced Presidential palaces for Houphouet Boigny in Cote d’Ivoire, Paul Biya in Cameroun and Mobutu Sese Seko in his hometown of Gbadolite in northern Equateur.
On Independence Day, June 30, 1966, Mobutu proclaimed Patrice Lumumba a “national hero”.  In 1971, Safricas began construction of a monument to Lumumba from Cacoub in the form of a 210 metre tower, which was the tallest in the world at the time.  Located on Blvd. Lumumba on a roundabout called “Echangeur de Limete”, the tower, which was to have featured observation platforms and a restaurant, was never completed.  In 2002, a statue of Lumumba was erected in front of the monument at the entrance to the city from Ndjili Airport.  In 2010, the government launched reconstruction work around the base of the monument, but the intent or final outcome remained unclear in mid-2011.

The Statue of Patrice Lumumba and the Lumumba Monument
Mobutu began developing Mont Ngaliema into the Presidential Gardens in 1967 as part of the project to host the Organization of African Unity (OAU) meetings in September of that year.  Cacoub prepared the initial designs.  The work was completed in 1969 and included a fence around the hill, enclosing the Pioneer Cemetery (See July 5, 2011), creating an amphitheater, a Presidential Zoo and formal gardens on the promontory overlooking the rapids at Kinsuka.
The Presidential Gardens, the Presidential Residence (R) and Hopital de la Rive (below L)
A View of the Presidential Gardens in 1973
The CCIZ shortly after completion in 1977
Cacoub designed the Centre de Commerce International du Zaire (CCIZ) in 1972 on the river near the Hotel Intercontinental (See May 7, 2011), intended to place Kinshasa at the center of the African business world.  It was originally planned as a complex of three towers including a 1000-room luxury hotel and 6000-seat congress hall. Construction of the first 20-story structure began in 1975 and was completed in 1977.  Unfortunately, the design did not include operable windows and a few months after completion, the air-conditioning system broke down.  Lacking funds for repair, the building was abandoned.  In March 2011, a Chinese company began gutting the structure to convert the building into a 5-star hotel to be called the Hotel du Fleuve Congo.

Cacoub's original concept for the CCIZ
The CCIC undergoing renovation -- 2010
Fernand Tala-Ngai (1939-2006).  A Congolese trained in Belgium as an architect, Tala-Ngai was the son of Joseph Davier (he opted for the Congolese name after Mobutu introduced the Authenticité campaign in 1971). Tala-Ngai's father was born in the port city of Boma in 1910 and worked for the transport parastatal, Otraco, from 1929-44, after which Davier went into business for himself.  After Independence, he served as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Economic Affairs and was President of the Congolese Red Cross and continued his import-export business into the 1970s.  In 1968, newly-minted architect Fernand designed the new Supreme Court building on Ave. Valcke (now Justice) in collaboration with Eugène Palumbo.
The Cour Supreme de Justice viewed from Ave. Baudouin
Tala-Ngai is also credited with the Palais de Marbre, the Kinshasa International Fair (FIKIN), and the Immeuble Centennaire downtown and an apartment building opposite the Regideso headquarters on Blvd. 30e Juin.  At the end of the 1970s, he designed the Hotel de la Monnaie, an expansion of Ricquier’s Central Bank building (See July 31, 2011). The new structure was connected to the bank by an elevated concrete walkway.
Apartment building on Blvd. 30 Juin
The Hotel de la Monnaie
With the advent of multi-party politics in 1990, Tala-Ngai joined the opposition, and was named Minister of Economy in Tshisekedi wa Mulumba’s first government and Minister of Urban Affairs in 1992-93, however Mobutu’s intransigence meant little of substance was accomplished by the Tshisekedi government. With the advent of the first Kabila government in 1997 he was nominated Vice-Minister of Finance then Minister in the following year.  However, after the Rwandan-led invasion in August 1998, he was sacked and charged with treason.  He appealed the charge, but received a 7-month prison term in August 1999.
·        Dequeker, Paul & Mudiji Malamba Gilombe, 1984. Eglises tropicales, Kinshasa: Eds. C.E.P.
·        Fullerton, Garry, 1964. UNESCO in the Congo, Paris: UNESCO.
·        Le Potentiel, “Fernand Tala-Ngai n’est plus”, Kinshasa, 16 février, 2006.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Leopoldville 1950s - Tropical Modernism sets the tone

After WWII, and particularly with the ground-breaking construction of the Forescom Building (See May 28, 2011), high-rise buildings came to define the Leopoldville skyline as unique among the major cities in the colony. Indeed, richer provinces such as Katanga resented this apparent transfer of wealth to the capital.  Generally described as “tropical modernism”, the architectural genre drew heavily from the “international style” popular in Europe and North America, but with particular attention to accommodating tropical sunlight and heat.  These developments were enhanced by ambitious physical planning to shape the colony’s capital city, including Boulevard Albert 1er and plans for a monumental “Boulevard de la Dominion” intersecting Blvd. Albert as it passed through the government administrative district of Kalina (now Gombe) and which was intended to provide major vantage points for monumental buildings (See July 31, 2011). Several architects contributed significantly to the city’s metamorphosis.

Downtown Leopoldville -- Blvd. Albert - l959 (14 of the structures featured in the 3 posts since July 31 can be found in this photo)
Maurice Houyoux (1903-1960).   Houyoux, and partner Jules Ghobert, were awarded the winning designs in 1947 for the Mont des Arts redevelopment of Brussels, which incorporated the Albert 1er Library.  The Mont des Arts project, which continued through the 1950s, has been compared with the plans for the government district of Kalina in Leopoldville. In the late 1940s, Hoyoux received commissions from the Banque du Congo Belge (BCB) for buildings in Leopoldville, Stanleyville (Kisangani), Bukavu and Luluabourg (Kananga). The Bank project in Leopoldville, located next to the original pre-WWI structure on Ave. Hauzeur (Wagenia), also included apartments for bank staff.  The building now houses the Portfolio Ministry.

The Banque du Congo Belge, Ave. Hauzeur - 1949

BCB in Luluabourg

BCB in Stanleyville

BCB in Bukavu

The bank complex in Leopoldville
BCB staff apartments behind the main building

The Ministry of Portfolio - 2010
In the mid-1950s, Houyoux also designed the Interfina building on Blvd. Albert 1er and the CCCI (Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et de l'Industrie) building, also on the Boulevard, opposite the new post office (See Mar. 19, 2011). The Bank, Interfina trading firm and CCCI holding company were all subsidiaries of the Société Générale de Belgique.

The Interfina building, Blvd. Albert 1er -- 1950s

The Interfina building, Blvd. 30 Juin -- 2011

The CCCI building 1959

The Governor General leads a parade past the CCCI building

The CCCI building 2006
Lambrichs' winning design
Marcel Lambrichs (1917-1986). Lambrichs was a partner with Georges Ricquier in the Groupe Alpha in Belgium, which collaborated on the Cité administrative de l’Etat in Brussels in the mid-1950s.  In 1951 Lambrichs submitted the winning bid for the new Governor General’s residence at Kalina Point in Ricquier’s grand design for the governmental district (See July 31, 2011).  Construction of the more classical building, incorporating an arcaded façade and central cupola began in 1956 and was converted to serve as Congo’s first Parliament building at Independence in 1960.

The Governor General's residence on the eve of Independence (Aug. 1959)

The CADECO offices
Caisse d'Epargne. In 1953, Lambrichs received the commission for the Caisse d’Epargne du Congo (CADECO) headquarters in Kalina, in a competition in which Claude Laurens and Charles Van Neuten also submitted designs. CADECO was a savings institution created in 1950 to encourage Congolese to save for housing.  The headquarters building on Ave. Prince Charles (now CADECO) comprised a broad base housing the administrative offices topped by a 5-story tower with apartments for senior staff.

The Belgian Embassy 1960 -- Ivory Market in the Place Braconnier
Belgian Embassy.
Lambrichs also won the competition for the Building du Cinquantenaire, completed in 1958 to commemorate fifty years Belgian colonial rule.  Located on the Place Braconnier, the building has housed the Belgian Embassy since Independence.  After Independence, Lambrichs’ design for the Social Security agency INSS was erected on Blvd. 30 Juin (See June 28, 2011).

Kinois awaiting transportation at Place Braconnier, Belgian Embassy in background -- 2003

Claude Laurens (1908-2003). In the post-war period, the Belgian airline, Sabena, expanded services as did most airlines.  War surplus aircraft were widely available and new long-range planes, such as the Douglas DC-4, were coming on line.  In Brussels, Sabena’s new terminal set a signature statement. 

SABENA publicity for the first DC-4 flight arriving in Leopoldville Feb. 4, 1946 -- 25 hours from Brussels

The Cercle de Leopoldville on Blvd. Albert 1er

In 1951, Sabena commissioned Claude Laurens to undertake a series of commercial and residential projects for the firm in Congo.  Laurens had been born in Paris, the son of celebrated sculptor Henri Laurens, and grew up around such artists as Picasso, Chagall, Braque and Matisse, who were regular visitors. After working for the Bureau technique de Reconstruction in Zurich, he set up his own practice in Belgium in 1946.  Sabena wanted to build a new terminal in downtown Leopoldville and a luxury hotel adjacent to it on Blvd. Albert.  The site for the hotel, to be called “Aviamar”, was the Cercle de Leopoldville (See Mar. 19, 2011).   One of Laurens’ first tasks was to design a new building for the Cercle to induce it to move (presumably to the Golf Course, where it is today, though the Laurens design was never built).
The SABENA terminal (foreground) and proposed Hotel Aviamar behind

The apartment buildings were set on two-story piers

The Sabena Buildings. Laurens’ next project for Sabena was residential housing for Sabena staff and aircrews.  In January 1952, he produced plans for three 60 meter towers raised on piers to provide parking space and promote air circulation (See Mar. 19, 2011).  All access routes (stairs, elevators) were in a separate column along the side of the building.  The land-use plan was influenced by Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer’s designs for Brasilia, but the buildings were not popular with Sabena staff, who would have preferred individual houses and gardens and which they could see all around them.  Only two of the towers were built.  Nonetheless, the buildings remained iconic of the “new” Congo and featured frequently in the colonial government public relations materials. 

The SABENA buildings looking west on Blvd. Albert 1er

The SABENA buildings shortly after completion in 1956
SABENA building and Blvd. 30 Juin - 2011

Sabena’s Urban Terminal. The plans for the downtown air terminal were completed in 1954.   Located on Ave. du Port, the building provided ticketing and baggage registration on the ground floor and two floors of administrative offices above.  When completed in January 1956, passengers could check in and board Sabena’s courtesy bus for the trip to the airport.  
The SABENA Terminus Urbain on Ave. du Port -- Note old Cercle de Leopoldville extreme right

The designs for the 145-room Hotel Aviamar were completed in 1953 and featured a banquet hall, drug store, beauty parlor, offices and other amenities.  Facing Blvd. Albert in the heart of downtown Leopoldville, the luxury hotel was intended to provide international standard as Leopoldville became a hub for Africa. By the late 1950s recession hit the global economy and plans for the Aviamar were shelved.
The Terminus Urbain - Interior
Lignes Aeriennes Congolais Terminal - Ave. du Port

The Banque International de Credit
Other projects by Laurens in Kinshasa include the Crédit Congolais building (1954) on Ave. Beernaert (now the Banque Internationale de Crédit, Ave. Equateur) which housed the British and Liberian Embassies in the 1960s; the DIFCO garage (d’Ieteren Frères au Congo -- Volkswagen dealership, 1955) on Ave. Basoko; the Sarma retail complex next to the Central Market (1956), and Résidence Leopold II (1955) on Ave. Wagenia, now the Centre Médical de Kinshasa.

Residence Leopold II, Ave. Hauzeur - 1958
Notwithstanding this volume of work, Laurens never moved to Congo, preferring to fly in to visit his on-going projects.  In 1959, he submitted an unsuccessful concept for the Cultural Center of the Belgian Congo.  After Independence, he developed a number of projects in Rwanda, including Kigali Airport.
·        Caltagirone, Sandra. 2010. Maurice Hoyoux sous les Tropiques,Les Nouvelles du Patrimoine, pp. 27-29.
·        dePange, Isabelle. 2010. Modernisme sous l’Equateur, Claude Laurens au Congo, Les Nouvelles de la Patrimone, pp. 30-32.
·        Lagae, Johan. 2004. Colonial Encounters and Conflicting Memories: shared colonial heritage of the former Belgian Congo, The Journal of Architecture, Summer 2004, pp. 173-197.
·        Lagae, Johan. 2007. Léopoldville, Bruxelles: Villes Miroirs? L’Architecture et l’Urbanisme d’une Capitale Coloniale et Metropole Africaine, pp. 67-100, in: Vellut, Jean-Luc,  Villes d’Afrique: explorations en histoire urbaine, Tervuren: Musee Royale de l’Afrique Centrale.