The colonial history and culture of tropical America has been depicted on a 36-metre-long brise-soleu. modernism At the Applied Arts Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale.
Called Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Power in West Africa, this year’s Applied Arts Pavilion exhibition is a collaboration between the UK’s Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A( ) and the Venice Architecture Biennale.
Christopher Turner is the curator of this event. V&A Nana Biamah Ofosu of the Architectural Association (AA) pavilion The origins and evolution of the tropical-modernist style of architecture is explored.
The book examines the evolution of the movement from its origins as a way to support British colonial rule to its adaptation by African nations to a uniquely African expression. This began with Ghana in 1957.
Turner told Dezeen that “the exhibition will look at the colonial beginnings of tropical Modernism in British West Africa and the survival and progression of this style during the post-colonial era, when it represented the independence, progress and pan-African dreams of Ghana and other newly independent countries.”
He added, “We deliberately set about complicating the history of tropical Modernism by looking the architecture in relation to the anti-colonial struggles of the period and by engaging and focusing on African perspectives.”
The curators have chosen to embed photographs, plans, and other examples tropical modernism into large brise-sole screens inside the Applied Arts Pavilion.
The facade of the University of Ibadan Library in Nigeria was designed by Biamah and Mohamed, in a style that was loosely based off of Maxwell Fry’s and Jane Drew’s married architectural duo.
In the 1940s they adapted the minimalist style of modernism to British West Africa and created the tools for tropicalism. Fry taught tropical architecture at the AA where architects were prepared to work in British colonies.
Turner stated that “the brise-sun, or sunbreaker, was a classic attribute of tropical modernism which adapted the International Style for the hot and humid climate of the Tropics.”
“The 36-metre brise soleil used in the exhibition was inspired by the display used in the stained glass galleries at the V&A, and the large plate glass photographic slides in the AA archive devoted to the Department of Tropical Studies.”
The Tropical Modernism: Power and Power in West Africa Exhibition is centred around a 28 minute film which showcases 14 of the key tropical modernist buildings that are still in Ghana. This includes an Accra community center designed by Fry and Drew and John Owusu Addo’s Unity Hall.
Addo, a former Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology professor and one of the first African architects qualified, is also interviewed.KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana.
The curators believe that showing the movie will help preserve buildings that are featured in it.
Turner explained that some of the buildings that were filmed and featured in the three-screen, 28-minute film, which is the centerpiece of our exhibit, are under threat of being redeveloped and falling into decay. We wanted them to be celebrated before they fell and contributed to campaigns to preserve them.
Curators also believe that tropical-modernist buildings with climate-control features and designs like brise soleils and wide eaves, as well as adjustable louvres and a wide range of eaves, can teach valuable lessons on how to design in an increasingly hot climate.
Turner said that the air-conditioning units are now ubiquitous, and have effectively ended tropical Modernism. However, this comes at a high cost in terms of energy.
As we prepare for a new era in which climate change is a reality, could tropical modernism – which utilised the most advanced building and environmental sciences available at that time to passively cool structures – serve as a guide?
Biamah and Mohamed, co-curators of Tropical Modernism: Power and Architecture in West Africa, said that the Applied Arts Pavilion was also intended to focus on African architecture.
The architects said, “By returning to key buildings designed by prominent architects at the time, we’re interested in the story about politics, power and resistance that this architecture became associated with in the Pan-African post-independence dream.”
This exhibition represents an important moment for African architecture and its architects and historians. It also addresses the omissions that are evident in the archive.
The exhibition’s focus on Africa is in line with the Venice Architecture Biennale’s larger theme, Laboratory of the Future. More than half of the 89 participants at the biennale come from Africa and the African diaspora.
Lesley Lokko (Ghanian-Scottish), the first person of African descent who has curated the Venice Architecture Biennale told Dezeen Africa’s unique context is “a powerful way to examine the topics that will dominate the 21st century” in an exclusive interview.
This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale will also feature the Australian Pavilion, which explores and criticizes the legacy of British colonialism. which focuses on several settlements named Queenstown Exclusively on Dezeen, the new Dezeen store is now open.
The pavilions shown first on Dezeen included the Danish pavilion. US pavilion, British pavilion and the Finnish pavilion that “declares the death of the flushing toilet”.
Tropical Modernism : Architecture and power in West Africa, was organized by the AA and KNUST.
The photography is courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Dezeen is live reporting From the Venice Architecture BiennaleSee the, which will take place between 20 May and 26 November 2023. See Dezeen Events Guide For all the information you need about the event and a list of other design and architecture events around the world, please visit the website.