African Modernism

African Modernism

The Architecture of Independence. Ghana, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia

Never before has modern architecture in Africa been studied and presented so comprehensively and thoroughly: a groundbreaking study, lavishly illustrated.


  • Out of Print


Title Information

Edited by Manuel Herz with Ingrid Schröder, Hans Focketyn, Julia Jamrozik. Photographs by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster

1st edition

, 2015

Hardback (flexicover)

640 pages, 909 color and 54 b/w illustrations, 246 plans

23.5 x 32 cm

ISBN 978-3-906027-74-6


In the 1950s and 1960s, most African countries gained independence from their respective colonial power. Architecture became one of the principal means by which the newly formed countries expressed their national identity. Parliament buildings, central banks, stadiums, convention centers, universities and independence memorials were built, often to heroic and daring designs. At the same time, these buildings exemplify also the difficulties, contradictions and dilemmas these countries experienced in their nation-building process.

This groundbreaking new book investigates for the first time the relationship between architecture and nation building in Ghana, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia. It features 103 buildings with brief descriptive texts, images, site plans and selected floor plans and sections. The vast majority of images, commissioned especially for this book, is contributed by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. Their photographs document the buildings in their present state. Each country is portrayed in an introductory text and a timeline of historic events. Further essays on post-colonial Africa and specific aspects and topics, also illustrated with images and documents, round out this outstanding book.


Published to coincide with an exhibition at Vitra Design Museum Gallery in Weil am Rhein.


Winner of the FILAF d'or, the first prize for Best Books on Art 2015 at the FILAF (The International Art Book and Film Festival).


Named one of the Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2015.


Winner of the DAM Architectural Book Award 2016.


Designed by Marie Lusa.

Authors & Editors

Zvi Efrat

Hans Focketyn

François de Font-Réaulx

Till Förster

Manuel Herz

 runs his own architectural firm with offices in Basel and Cologne. He has taught at Bartlett School of Architecture (London), Berlage Institute (Rotterdam), Harvard Graduate School of Design, ETH Studio Basel – Contemporary City Institute, and is currently teaching as a visiting professor for architectural design at ETH Zurich.

Julia Jamrozik

Hannah Le Roux

Léo Noyer-Duplaix

Ingrid Schröder


"You really have to get Mr. Herz’s book African Modernism, a 640-page doorstop published when this show first appeared in Germany, to appreciate the breadth of modern African architecture, as well as its political significance and contemporary afterlives." Jason Farago, The New York Times


"This book has emerged from researchers at ETH Zurich, one of Europe’s leading architecture schools, and it shows how lively engagement by academic institutions with interesting questions can produce first-rate results. Very far from being a dusty tome, this large and generous book combines its photographic surveys and detailed case studies with useful historical summaries and charts, and essays by experts on specific themes." Timothy Brittain-Catlin, World of Interiors


"Documenting the grand, optimistic architecture of the post-independence era in Africa, this gorgeous book (with photos by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster) introduces us to an extraordinary collection of unfamiliar buildings." Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times


"The care that Herz and his fellow editors, Ingrid Schröder, Hans Focketyn, and Julia Jamrozi, have taken to provide a balanced and comprehensive discussion of the origins of modernism in Africa will make this a seminal work in the discourse of African Architecture. It offers intellectual rigor, fascinating insights, and marvellous visuals in equal measures. No book collection on African architecture would be complete without it." David Adjaye, Architectural Record