One of Africa’s most significant examples of modernism is under threat

La Maison du Peuple, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, has been named as one of the most under-threat building for 2022, because of its advanced state of decay and lack of legal protection.

Opened in 1965, La Maison du Peuple, located in central Ouagadougou and designed by the French architect René Faublée, is considered one of the most important examples of modernist architecture in Africa. Unfortunately, the brutalist 2,500-seat theatre was placed on the World Monuments Fund’s (WMF) “2022 World Monuments Watch list”, because of its “advanced state of decay”, “long-deferred maintenance and lack of legal protection”.

“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 Monuments Fund project manager Javier Ors Ausín.

Built as a civic centre and seat of governance in Burkina Faso’s new capital city (following the country’s independence from France in 1960), the building mixes elements of brutalist architecture with local colours and motifs. The concrete facade mimics the sourrounding ground, while lanterns on the top of the building allow light and air into the auditorium and recall traditional Mossi architecture.

La Maison du Peuple. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Image courtesy of World Monuments Fund
La Maison du Peuple. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Image courtesy of World Monuments Fund

“[The building] 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. […] 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”, said Ausín.

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