The City Speaks for Itself: Notes on approaching architecture in Kinshasa

Monday, 6 August, 2018 - 15:00

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This paper deals with ways of approaching architecture within the shifting uncertainties of the giant Congolese capital. Taking a cue from Kinshasa, I will make a case for being receptive to what the current situation of built matter in urban space has to say. It is the recalcitrant aspects of Kinshasa’s personality that made themselves felt during the course of my research into post-independence sites which prompted me to consider architecture from a different perspective. In the face of few archival records and circumlocutious points of access, I was forced to consider what the sites themselves could tell. They are perfectly capable of shouting across the skyline and making their presence felt. Moreover, the urban space around them is far from a passive backdrop. Through the example of Tour de l’Echangeur in Limete (1970 - 1974) I will examine the ways in which a monumental modernist structure resists being reduced to the categorizations of architectural history and theoretical modes of analysis developed in the global north because of the intervention of the forces of the city. Kinshasa tends to have the final word on how the meaning of its sites is made up. The city can speak for itself. If we choose to listen, we can hear the its silences and resistentences, anger and clamoring, as well as its pleasures and fascinations.


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