Irony and Illusion in the Architecture of Imperial Dakar

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This book focuses on the architectural transformation that occurred in imperial Dakar. Several ideas are central to the work and they form its core: that the style was the result of a conscious effort of the French to enhance their colonial authority in West Africa; that it represented one positive outcome of the forced encounter of European and African culture through French colonialism; and that the style, despite its specific origins, is surprisingly linked to the long history of African architectural traditions. This book is of great value to scholars in African architecture and twentieth-century architecture, and also for those studying the colonial period of sub-Sahara Africa.


“The distinctiveness as well as the ironies of Dakar’s imperial century is the subject of Dr. Thomas Shaw’s admirable study of colonial architecture. His book is based upon just five buildings, constructed by the French in the late 1920s and 1930s in what has become known as the Sudanic style. The city’s central marketplace, a maternity hospital, a polyclinic in a working-class neighborhood, a Catholic cathedral, and a museum of French West African cultures all seem so “African,” even as they reflect an Art Deco sensitivity and European architectural practicalities ... Dr. Shaw’s achievement is to present in a most accessible manner five remarkable buildings and the compelling stories they continue to tell. His book leaves one fervently hoping that the structures will be appreciated and preserved by Senegalese, for they stand as material testimony to the ironies and ambiguities of the trans-colonial heritage—carried over, that is, from the imperial century to present days—that inform even the most mundane aspects of life in today’s bustling metropolis of Dakar.” – (from the Foreword) Professor Allen F. Roberts, University of California – Los Angeles

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. French West Africa
2. The Cultural and Political Factors
3. Sudanic Architecture
4. Neo-Sudanic Architecture

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