Book Review: A Brick By Brick View Of Africa

Book Review: A Brick By Brick View Of Africa

By Joseph Hammond

Too often visitors to Africa weather tourists on a safari holiday or CEOS jetting into the a bustling capitol city over look Africa’s unique built environment.   Africa’s unique and diverse architectural finally gets the attention it deserves in this new book series that should be on the shelves of any business leader or anyone working on Africa.

Out from “Architectural Guide : Sub Saharan Africa” from Dom Publishers edited by Philipp Meuser, Adil Dalbai, and Livingstone Mukasa is much more than its rather modest title at first offers. This landmark study offers a window not only to works of clay, glass, steel, wood, and concrete – but a window on to Africa itself. One would expect nothing less from a work that was 6 years in the making.             

It has 49 chapters each focusing on a single country in Africa with a wide variety of short essays that are lavishly illustrated (some 5,000 photos are spread across the volumes) and provide insight to the topic at hand. Sometimes a single building is the focus and sometimes an entire building.    With 350 contributors this book could be seen as an anthology of essays but, the editors of the series have done a masterful job of weaving the essays into a coherent narrative. Secular, cultural, religious governmental all receive their due as well as the relevant cultural and historical context.

While the usefulness to a CEO working in an architectural field is apparent anyone who commits himself to all the entries associated with a single country will finish with a good knowledge of the country beyond just the build environment.

Since any citizen or expatriate is familiar with at least the exterior of his country’s most famous buildings, the book can provide business leaders with some ready-made conversation starters. Maps and helpful graphics help make the work approachable for someone not familiar with a particular countries geography.

Some buildings are recent buildings others are far older or push the notion of what a building is —- Gambia’s ritualistic stone circles maybe 1500 years old or potentially event older. This important because too often such work over-romanticize the remaining colonial era structures.  Famous buildings like the mud-brick Djenne Mosque are covered in detail the book’s strength is in giving little noticed gems their due. One wishes that he “Sub” was removed from the title and the entirety of Africa was considered.    

The brightly colore books themselves are attractive. The photos are good enough for a coffee table but, the entire seven volume work deserves top billing on any bookshelf —Though the reviewer only had access to a single volume in the series. This is a book that will be unexpectedly useful to any professional involved daily in Africa or any person with even just a passing interest should have this one their bookshelf.

Source: Published without changes from Zenger News

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