Located in central Ouagadougou, La Maison du Peuple was placed on the World Monument Fund‘s (WMF) 2022 World Monuments Watch list as it is in an “advanced state of decay” and “suffers from long-deferred maintenance and lack of legal protection”.
Opened in 1965, the 2,500-seat theatre, which was designed by French architect René Faublée, is considered an exemplar of modernist architecture in Africa.
“[It is] the finest example of modernist architecture in Burkina Faso and one of the most important examples of modernism in Africa,” said Burkinabe architect Diébédo Francis Kéré.
“Powerful architectural statement of post-colonial cultural identity”
Built as a civic centre and seat of governance in Burkina Faso’s new capital city following the country’s independence from France, the building combines elements of brutalist architecture with local colours and motifs.
Its concrete facade mimics the colour of the surrounding ground, while it is topped with whimsical lanterns that allow light and air into the building’s main auditorium and were designed to recall traditional Mossi architecture.
After years of neglect, the building’s fabric is rapidly deteriorating.
“Combining modernist and brutalist influences with local vernacular architecture, the building is a powerful architectural statement of post-colonial cultural identity and democratic self-determination, and a noteworthy – but frequently overlooked – example of global architectural history,” said World Monument Fund project manager Javier Ors Ausí.
“Due to long-deferred maintenance and lack of legal protection, the site has fallen into a state of advanced decay that threatens the integrity and usability of the structure,” he told Dezeen.
“Based on preliminary information provided by our local partners, we know that the structure suffers from a certain level of deterioration due to lack of resources for proper maintenance, which is needed to protect against weather conditions and pollution.”
“Underrecognized chapter of African architectural history”
The World Monument Fund placed it on its 2022 watchlist to draw attention to the building’s situation and help fund a “rigorous assessment” of the condition of the building and future renovation works.
“It was included on the 2022 World Monuments Watch to bring attention to an underrecognized chapter of African architectural history and support local efforts to sustainably reuse the site so it may continue to serve future generations,” said Ausí.
“We hope that the site’s inclusion on the Watch will attract the funds necessary for a rigorous physical assessment of the building and subsequent conservation work, as well as the development of a sustainable reuse plan.”
In recent years numerous brutalist buildings around the world have been lost, often to demolition, including Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in the UK by British architects Peter and Alison Smithson.
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