Africa has a rich history in architecture just like its culture. The continent houses most of the world’s most beautiful architecture. Africans developed their own architecture. However, some buildings in some parts of the continent have been influenced by external cultures. Western culture has therefore become an important source of inspiration for many larger buildings on the continent.
African architecture uses a wide range of materials which includes stone, wood, thatch, mud, mudbrick, and rammed earth. However, architectural material preferences vary by region across the continent. North Africa is known for stone and rammed earth, the Horn of Africa for stone and mortar, West Africa for mud or adobe, Central Africa for thatch or wood, and Southeast and Southern Africa for stone and thatch or wood.
Stone is found to be the most durable of building materials. Many ancient stone structures survive while other materials have succumbed to rain, rot, or termites. Typical examples are the stone-walled kraals from early Sotho and Tswana settlements in South Africa and Botswana respectively. Other examples are found in Zimbabwe – the stone-lined pit circles with sunken kraals for pygmy cattle.
Egypt can boast of great achievements in architecture that include pyramids, temples, enclosed cities, canals, and dams. The architecture in ancient Egypt was not uniform. Although a set of architectural styles differed over time in Egypt, there were some commonalities. Some famous examples are the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza, the Temple of Karnak, and the Temple of Abu Simbel. Most buildings in Egypt were built of locally available mud brick and limestone by levied workers. The columns of buildings were typically adorned with capitals decorated to resemble plants important to Egyptian civilization, such as the papyrus plant.
While the pyramids of Egypt are widely recognised around the world, they are just a few of Africa’s rich architecture. Other iconic architecture on the continent includes the Pyramids of Meroë, Sudan - 300BC, the Palace of Emperor Fasilides, Ethiopia - early 17th Century, the Kenneth Dike Library, Nigeria – 1954, the Dominican Chapel, Nigeria -1973, the Maropeng Visitors' Centre, South Africa – 2006, the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre, South Africa – 2009, the Hikma Complex, Niger – 2018, and the Lideta Market, Ethiopia – 2017.
The Arab and Amazigh (Berber) architecture of Egypt and North Africa significantly impacted African architecture south of the Sahara. The states of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea have also influenced architectural forms in Sudan, the Horn of Africa, and the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania.
Religion also had an important influence on architecture in some parts of the continent. Islam and Christianity predominated in many architectural forms. Some examples are the magnificent mud-built mosques in Djenné (13th century) and Mopti in Mali, the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia, and the Islamic monuments of coastal Eastern Africa. A consideration of architecture in sub-Saharan Africa focuses mainly on housing in villages, rural mosques, and the mélange of colonial and modern influences that characterize urban areas.
The architecture in Zimbabwe stands out compared to that of many African architectural styles. Zimbabwean architectural forms have a massive defensive wall and a conical tower included in the elliptical building. However, the purpose of the conical tower is unknown. It is also monumental in scale and has become a national symbol. While some of these features can be found in other examples of African buildings, they are rare. Zimbabwean architecture overshadows the great diversity of materials, forms, and purposes of architecture elsewhere on the continent.
The architecture of Africa reflects the interaction of environmental factors such as natural resources, climate, and vegetation. It also mirrors the economies and population densities of the continent’s various regions
Information from https://www.britannica.com/art/African-architecture, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-58855205 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Africa was used in this story