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Women in Architecture: Itsuko Hasegawa

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re celebrating the incredible work of Itsuko Hasegawa, a trailblazer in the worlds of design and architecture. Hasegawa’s unique blend of traditional Japanese elements and modern design techniques has established her as a leading figure in the architectural realm, inspiring us with her innovative and thoughtful creations.

The Life of Itsuko Hasegawa
Born in 1941 in Yaizu, Japan, Itsuko Hasegawa was raised in a post-war era brimming with opportunities for growth and innovation. Hasegawa’s early life was marked by an exposure to education, a privilege that paved the way for her future achievements. After graduating from Kanto Gakuin University in 1964, she further honed her skills at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. It was during this period that Hasegawa’s architectural philosophy began to take shape, influenced by both modern advancements and the rich tapestry of traditional Japanese design.

A pivotal moment in Hasegawa’s early career was her time working with the renowned architect Kiyonori Kikutake, a leading figure in the Metabolist Movement. This experience significantly impacted her design approach, blending modernist techniques with an inherent appreciation for natural and cultural harmony.

Itsuko Hasegawa sofa
A sofa designed by Itsuko Hasegawa held in the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, Photo from Wikipedia

Notable Works and Achievements
In 1979, Hasegawa established her own firm, Itsuko Hasegawa Atelier, marking the beginning of a series of groundbreaking projects that would define her career. Her work is characterized by a deep sensitivity to the environment and a unique understanding of space.

Shonandai Cultural Centre in Fujisaw
Shonandai Cultural Centre, Itsuko Hasegawa Atelier, 1987, Photo from Wikipedia

One of Hasegawa’s most acclaimed projects is the Shonandai Cultural Centre in Fujisawa.

Built in 1987, this cultural hub is a testament to her ability to create dynamic and fluid spaces that resonate with the community. The build features a mixture of various forms, including two domed structures and a scattering of hut-like forms that resemble flowers blooming and defy traditional architectural arrangement.

Another significant work is the Sumida Culture Factory in Tokyo, a project that underscores her commitment to functional and engaging public spaces. Built in 1994, the complex acts as another example of Hasegawa’s creation of a landscape. The factory features various interconnected design elements, including a grand dome and two defining catenary roofs.

Sumida Culture Factory
The Sumida Culture Factory, Tokyo, Itsuko Hasegawa Atelier, 1994, Photo from Google Maps

Her contribution to architecture has been recognized with several awards, including the Architectural Institute of Japan’s Design Prize for the Brizan Hall, the Japan Cultural Design Award, the Japan Art Academy Award and the prestigious Royal Academy of Art’s Architecture Prize.

Hasegawa’s influence extends beyond her architectural projects. Her roles as a professor and lecturer in various international institutions have allowed her to impact the next generation of architects, advocating for greater diversity and creativity in the field.

Itsuko Hasegawa’s journey is not just about building structures; it’s about building dreams and inspiring change. Hasegawa’s legacy is a powerful reminder of how architecture can transcend mere buildings to become a medium for cultural expression and community engagement.

A Brief History of the Streamline Moderne Movement

At Optima, we have a deep appreciation for architectural movements that have shaped our surroundings. Today, we’re taking a closer look at Streamline Moderne, an influential style born from the Art Deco movement, celebrated for its embodiment of speed, efficiency, and the modern era.

Origins of Streamline Moderne

Emerging in the 1930s, Streamline Moderne was a testament to the rapidly evolving technological landscape of the time. Influenced by aerodynamic design and born from the advancements in transportation and manufacturing, the movement represented a shift from the ornamental flourishes of Art Deco to a sleeker, more functional aesthetic. It mirrored the streamlined shapes of airplanes, ships, and automobiles, encapsulating the era’s romance with speed and progress.

Los Angeles’ Pan-Pacific Auditorium, Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket, 1935, Photo from Floyd B. Bariscale
Los Angeles’ Pan-Pacific Auditorium, Plummer, Wurdeman and Becket, 1935, Photo from Floyd B. Bariscale

Architects and designers, inspired by the sleek, aerodynamic lines of the modern machine age, began incorporating these elements into buildings, household appliances, and even consumer products. This shift marked a distinct move towards simplicity and efficiency, a response to the economic constraints of the Great Depression.

Streamline Moderne in Architecture

The Streamline Moderne movement left a profound impact with several notable examples still celebrated today. Among these, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles stands out with its sweeping, streamlined façade and stylized pylons, epitomizing the movement’s love for fluidity and motion.

The slew of Streamline Moderne hotels living on Miami’s Ocean Drive, Photo from State Archives of Florida

Another classic example is the Coca-Cola Building in Los Angeles. Its curved corners, elongated horizontal lines, and nautical elements like porthole windows perfectly illustrate Streamline Moderne’s aesthetic principles. These structures not only embodied the technological advancement of the era but also represented a desire for a design that was both functional and visually appealing.

In Miami, the Streamline Moderne movement found particularly fertile ground, with Ocean Drive hotels showcasing the style’s quintessential features. The smooth curves, chrome accents, and pastel colors of these buildings have become synonymous with Miami’s diverse architectural identity, drawing visitors and architecture enthusiasts from around the world.

Today, these structures stand as elegant reminders of an era captivated by the future. In Streamline Moderne, we find a celebration of simplicity, functionality, and beauty – principles that resonate with our approach at Optima. Streamline Moderne is a testament to design’s power in shaping not just buildings, but the character of entire cities and the imagination of generations to come.

John Lautner’s Journey Through Space and Form

At Optima®, we are always delighted to showcase the works of Modernist architects who have made waves in the field. One such architect, whose innovative designs and extraordinary imagination have left a lasting impression, is John Lautner. Today, we’ll explore the unique characteristics of Lautner’s architectural style, highlighting his inspirations and the significance of his contributions to the field.

John Lautner (1911-1994), born in Marquette, MI, had a distinctive style that was shaped by his early apprenticeship under the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as by his own profound interest in engineering, organic architecture, and the natural world. Lautner’s designs are characterized by their seamless integration with the environment, imaginative use of materials, and bold, sculptural forms.

One of the fundamental aspects of Lautner’s architectural style was his ability to harmoniously blend his structures with their surrounding landscape. Drawing inspiration from Wright’s organic architecture principles, Lautner believed that buildings should not only respect their natural environment but also enhance it. His designs often feature extensive use of glass, allowing for unobstructed views and creating a synchronicity between the interior and exterior spaces.

His fascination with engineering and materiality allowed him to push the boundaries of conventional architectural design. He frequently employed innovative construction techniques, such as the use of cantilevers, to create seemingly gravity-defying spaces. Additionally, Lautner’s designs often incorporated a diverse range of materials, including concrete, steel, and timber, as well as experimental materials like sprayed-on concrete (gunite).

Chemosphere, John Lautner. Photo: Julius Schulman © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute

One of Lautner’s most notable projects showcasing his innovative use of materials is the Chemosphere (1960), a futuristic octagonal house perched atop a single concrete column in the Hollywood Hills. The house appears to float above the landscape, demonstrating Lautner’s ability to create a sense of weightlessness and otherworldly charm.

Lautner’s architectural style is characterized by a sense of spatial fluidity, as he sought to create open, flowing interiors that defied conventional notions of rooms and boundaries. His designs often feature sweeping curves and dramatic angles, resulting in dynamic, visually captivating spaces.

The Elrod House (1968) in Palm Springs, for example, demonstrates Lautner’s mastery of spatial fluidity. With its iconic conical roof and open-plan living spaces, the house appears to grow organically from the rocky landscape. This seamless connection between interior and exterior spaces is further emphasized by the use of retractable glass walls, which allow the residents to fully experience the surrounding desert environment. Also, did we mention that the Elrod House was featured in the 1971 James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever?

Elrod House, John Lautner. Photo : Nelson-Moe Group

While Lautner’s architectural style was undoubtedly influenced by his time spent working under Wright, his experiences working with other luminary architects like Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler helped him shape a unique vision and dedication to experimentation.

We take immense pleasure in celebrating the contributions of Modernist architects like John Lautner, whose groundbreaking designs continue to inspire and captivate. His iconic structures stand as testaments to the power of imagination and the importance of embracing the ever-evolving landscape of design.

Edward Dart: A Bullseye Through The Heart of Architecture

At Optima®, we revel in highlighting the remarkable work of Modernist architects who have significantly influenced our urban environments. Today, we direct our focus to Edward Dart, an architect whose distinctive vision and commitment to modern design have left an enduring imprint on the architectural landscape of Chicago. 

The Life of Edward Dart

Edward Dart was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1922. He received his architectural education at the prestigious Yale School of Architecture, studying with luminaries including Richard Neutra, Louis Kahn, and Eero Saarinen. Dart moved to Chicago in 1949, where he joined the firm of Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett. Dart’s immense talent was quickly acknowledged, and he became a partner in the firm in 1959. His unique architectural approach merged the principles of Modernism with an attentiveness to the natural environment, resulting in the creation of striking structures that harmoniously blended with their surroundings.

Throughout his career, Dart concentrated on designing buildings that were both functional and aesthetically pleasing, seamlessly integrating them into the natural landscape. His residential designs frequently featured expansive windows, open floor plans, and the use of natural materials such as stone and wood. This design philosophy allowed Dart’s structures to be both visually stunning and environmentally sensitive.

St. Procopius Abbey (1967) in Lisle, IL., Photo by Jason Haskins

Notable Works and Achievements

Dart died suddenly at the age of 53 in 1975. Over his short career he was enormously productive and prolific, having completed over 100 projects. He was listed in Who’s Who in America, and won 18 awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), including two (a Distinguished Building Award in 1971 and a National Honor Award in 1973). He was made a Fellow of the AIA, the highest honors that the organization can bestow, at the age of 44. 

Some of his most significant works include: St. Procopius Abbey (1967) in Lisle, IL, a striking Modernist structure featuring an elegant combination of exposed concrete and brick, reflecting Dart’s penchant for using natural materials in his designs. Another notable work is the St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church (1958) in Gary, IN. With its soaring, angular roofline and floor-to-ceiling windows, the church is a prime example of Dart’s ability to create awe-inspiring spaces that remain harmonious with their environment. Each of these buildings reflects his unique interpretation of Modernism and his singular ability to create spaces that resonate with their surroundings.

St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Gary, IN. Photo: National Register of Historic Places

Beyond Dart’s expertise in churches, Dart designed the “House of the Fifties” for Good Housekeeping Magazine, a model house for Popular Mechanics, and won the National Association of Homebuilders competition in 1951. One of his largest projects, Water Tower Place in Chicago, was completed after his death, and went on to become one of Chicago’s landmark buildings and one of the most-loved and most successful mixed-use retail, business, and residential centers in America.

Local Wilmette Landmarks: Frank J. Baker House

Have you ever stumbled upon a remarkable architectural gem that leaves you captivated by its design and history? The Frank J. Baker House, located at 711 Lake Avenue in Wilmette, is one such marvel that deserves a spotlight for its unique charm and intriguing background, along with its significance as a National Registered Landmark. It’s such a pleasure to be able to showcase this modernist architectural wonder that’s just a stone’s throw from Optima Verdana®.

Historical Background

Constructed in 1909, the Frank J. Baker House is a prime example of the Prairie School architectural style, which flourished between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style was characterized by horizontal lines, overhanging eaves, and an emphasis on integrating the building with its natural surroundings. 

The house was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and commissioned by Frank J. Baker, a successful businessman with a passion for art and architecture. Throughout its history, the Baker House has undergone several renovations and restorations, all aimed at preserving its architectural integrity and adapting it to the needs of modern living. Today, the house remains a private residence, treasured by its owners, Amy and Eric Bauer. 

Connection to Wilmette Landmarks

The Frank J. Baker House is also an integral part of the rich architectural tapestry of Wilmette’s collection of landmark structures, including the Robert and Suzanne Drucker House, and Oak Circle Historic District. Together they exemplify timeless modernist architecture at its best and offer an engaging and educational experience for all design enthusiasts.

Interior of Frank J. Baker House. Photo: @Properties

Architectural Features

One of the most striking features of the Baker House is its harmonious integration with the landscape. The house boasts a low-pitched roof, wide eaves, and extensive use of natural materials, allowing it to blend seamlessly with its surroundings. This unity of architecture and nature is a cornerstone of the Prairie School design philosophy.

Inside the Baker House, you’ll find a spacious, open floor plan that allows for an easy flow between rooms. The generous use of windows and natural light creates an airy, inviting atmosphere, while the built-in furniture and custom woodwork showcase the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into designing and constructing the home.

Impact on Modern Architecture

It’s a rare pleasure to see such a pristine example of Wright’s genius and the influence of the Prairie School on modern architecture — with its clean lines, simplicity, and connection to nature — up close. At Optima®, as we continue to design living spaces that blend form and function, we draw inspiration from architectural masterpieces like this every day.

A Brief History of the Attached Garage

For those tireless fans of Frank Lloyd Wright — unarguably one of the greatest architects of the 20th century — we are delighted to shine a light on one of his innovations that rarely attracts attention. It’s the attached garage.

In a brilliant process of cultural sleuthing, conceptual artist Olivia Erlanger and architect Luis Ortega Govela embarked on a project that culminated in the 2018 publication of Garage by MIT Press. With elegance, wit and panache, the authors tell this tale of Robie House, completed in 1910:

“In the quiet darkness of South Woodlawn Avenue, Frank Lloyd Wright molded and adapted the American home for the automobile. The small rectangular windows of Wright’s Robie House cast rectilinear shadows across the sidewalk. In the moonlight, the red hydrangeas lining the second-floor balcony appeared black, to be identified only by their smell. With no “front” or “back,” the building looms, imperious and totemic. To the pedestrian it looks like a Japanese woodblock puzzle: the riddle of how to enter, or exit, persists until one encounters an oversized gate leading to a three-car garage. The Robie House is known by many as the cornerstone of modernism, but its status as the first home with an attached garage seems to have been forgotten. The garage struck architectural academics as so banal that it became nothing more than a footnote in Wright’s illustrious history.

The garage was invented to domesticate the car. At the end of the nineteenth century, the car made its entrance into the stage of history to replace the horse. Initially it was a temperamental machine, and people were reluctant to incorporate it into their daily lives. The machine had yet to develop the technology necessary to be used regularly, so it was mostly kept in the stable, next to the other animals. Yet at the same time the car needed so much upkeep that mostly they were stored in communal parking lots where the first auto mechanics would constantly be preparing cars for the type of local roads that existed at the time.

Following the completion of Robie House, Wright was commissioned by Emma Martin to design an attached garage for her Oak Park home in his characteristic Prairie style

If the human entrance to the house was secretive, the one designed for the machine was not. Inside the yard, the garage doors dominate the space. It is here that the garage claims its rightful position on the front of the plot with a direct and easy connection to the street. If we go by Wright’s poetic hand, in 1910 the garage was symbolically integrated into the familial structure. This relationship between home and garage, family and car, would not reappear in architecture until the early 1920s, making the Robie House a premonition of the future.”

For a deeper dive into the history of the garage as a space of creativity (think tech start-ups and musicians), grab a copy of Garage and make time to visit Robie House. Enjoy!

The Ennis House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Most Documented Work

From Taliesin and Taliesin West to his home and studio in Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic architectural contributions continue to remain beloved treasures of modernism. And while many of the buildings attract tourists from across the world, one home, in particular, separates itself as his most documented property, and whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen it yourself. 

Built in 1924, the Ennis House was only the second home Wright built in California. Situated in the Los Feliz neighborhood, Wright embraced the Mayan Revival style of the time and area, utilizing 27,000 concrete molds in a block construction to create the famous house. Along with the custom textile block design, Ennis House features a tall loggia spine and grand pool on its northern terrace, one of the house’s most glamorous features. 

The Ennis House pool and loggia

Although the house was built as a residence for Charles and Mabel Ennis, its exotic design immediately attracted the eyes of Hollywood filmmakers. In 1933 it was used as a shooting location for the first time, but it wasn’t until 1959 that it acquired unnatural recognition for the time as the exterior facade for the B movie House on Haunted Hill. The home remained a popular destination for films for decades, showcasing its impressive interior for the 1975 film, The Day of the Locust

Ennis House’s custom designed textile blocks used in Blade Runner (1982)

However, in 1982 the home reached new levels of fame after appearing in Blade Runner. While it was only actually filmed for one exterior scene, the director was so entranced by the textile blocks that casts of them were created for sets elsewhere in the movie. The tall ceilings from the cathedral-like dining room and fireplaces were also popularly used in films thanks to their haunting nature. 

The modernist interior of Ennis House filmed for The Day of The Locust, 1975

Since 1933, features from the iconic house have made appearances in more than 80 films, alongside various commercials, magazine covers and music videos. The Ennis House is designated a city, state and national landmark and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It remains privately owned today, but thanks to its inspiring and timeless architectural design, it remains a desired location for anyone looking to capture the perfect shot.

Women in Architecture: Natalie de Blois

As part of our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we’re spotlighting a designer who generously contributed to the refined elegance of American modernism, Natalie de Blois. As an early advocate for women in architecture, de Blois became well-known in feminist architecture circles around the world. Learn more about her incredible life and career below: 

The Life of Natalie Griffin de Blois

De Blois was born on April 2, 1921, in Paterson, New Jersey. Following three generations of engineers in her family, she knew by the age of 10 that she wanted to become an architect. Supported by her father, de Blois’ interests in art and architecture flourished; thanks to him, she enrolled in a mechanical drawing course in school, which was typically limited to male students at the time. 

The class not only helped de Blois evolve her drawing skills for what would become her passion, but it also introduced her to the bias she would experience throughout her career. In 1939, she visited the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, further expanding her understanding and vision for modern architecture.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Natalie de Blois, a postcard of the Terrace Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1940

De Blois enrolled at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio but soon transferred to Columbia University after they changed their architecture school’s admission policy. While at Columbia, de Blois worked for various firms drafting various presentations and projects

Notable Works and Achievements 

Following her graduation in 1944, de Blois immediately received her first position at Ketchum, Gina and Sharpe, a firm she admired for their dedication to modern design. However, she left due to gender bias less than a year after starting. But, while one door closed, another opened at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), where de Blois’ talents were finally celebrated. 

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Natalie de Blois, Pepsi-Cola Headquarters, 1960

At SOM, de Blois contributed to seminal design proposals including the United Nations Headquarters and Lincoln Center, but it wasn’t until 1948 that she led her first project, Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati. The hotel immediately received praise for its modern, luxurious look and high-tech amenities for the time. She also contributed designs to many of the firm’s other significant projects, including Manhattan’s Lever House, completed in 1952 and the Pepsi-Cola Headquarters, finished in 1960, perhaps the most complete example of her most modernist design aesthetic.

In 1961, de Blois relocated to work for SOM’s Chicago office, where she was promoted to Associate Partner. In Chicago, she prioritized advocating for women in her field and was a founding member of Chicago Women in Architecture and was appointed to the AIA Chicago Taskforce on Women in Architecture in 1974. However, de Blois left the firm the same year and moved to Texas, where she completed her career in architecture, later becoming a professor at the University of Texas School of Architecture. 

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Natalie de Blois, Equitable Building, Chicago, Illinois, 1965

Alongside her revolutionary work, de Blois has received various design awards and achievements, including: 

  • Fellow, American Institute of Architects, 1974
  • Edward J. Romieniec, FAIA, Award for Outstanding Educational Contributions, Texas Society of Architects, 1998
  • Tallest woman-designed building in the world, 270 Park Avenue, from 1960 until 2009  

Throughout her illustrious career, de Blois’ proved to be a force to be reckoned with. And, in her lifelong pursuit of gender equality, she proved that women could compete at the highest levels of the architecture profession, empowering the careers of countless women who followed her.

Modern Interpretations of Le Corbusier’s Celebrated Designs

Celebrated as the pioneer of modernist architecture, Le Corbusier’s contributions to architecture and design remain as significant as ever. And although much of his work is nearly a century old, designers continue to draw inspiration from his inventive principles. Take a look at how designers are still responding to Le Corbusier’s theories of modernism today. 

This year, the international contemporary art gallery, Galerie Philia, displayed Héritages. Found at Cité Radieuse, a Le Corbusier housing complex built in 1952, the exhibit featured works by eight international designs referencing the functionality and minimalist design elements Le Corbusier famously employed through his work. 

And although the exhibition featured work from multiple designers, each piece united through a visual response or reinterpretation of Le Corbusier’s theories. While some artists showcased work heavily influenced by Le Corbusier in the exhibition’s “resonance” area, others provided pieces opposing his theories in the “dissonance” area. 

Arno Declerq’s steel daybed in the “resonance” room, Photo by Maison Mounton Noir

Belgian designer Arno Declercq contributed a sculptural daybed for the “resonance” room, inspired by both Le Corbusier’s famous furniture designs and his architectural contributions. The minimalist design features a structure of steel, a material Le Corbusier often used throughout his architecture. Paired with the daybed, architect and designer Pietro Franceschini contributed a chunky brutalist chair upholstered with vibrant yellow velvet, deeply inspired by Le Corbusier’s bold yet functional armchair designs. 

In the exhibit’s “dissancane” room, American visual artist Jojo Corväiá explores imbalance with his standout ceramic table. Using volcanic clay, Corväiá designed the table with the intent of displaying its cracks and irregularities, a practice from which Le Corbusier strayed. Designer Roxane Lahidji also contributed to the room, adding a sculpted chair of marbled salts. The stretched seat and arched base make reference to the fragility of organic designs. 

Jojo Corväiá’s volcanic clay table in the “dissonance” room, Photo by Maison Mounton Noir

In addition to the furniture, artist Flora Temnouche created three oil paintings for the space. The paintings touch on the inertia of nature, partially inspired by the sparse relationship to nature Le Corbusier’s approach to design and architecture employed.

Considered one of the most influential figures in contemporary design, Le Corbusier’s work continues to create inspiration across the world today. And, thanks to Galerie Philia’s Héritages exhibition, artists and designers continue to honor and reflect the transformative work, bringing it new meaning and life. Explore the rest of the exhibition’s bold work here!

Modernism and African Architecture

Modernist design not only inspires our work at Optima but, for decades, has also inspired the work of countless other architects and movements across the world. It’s always a delight to explore how Modernist design translates through the influences of other cultures. Today, we’re delving into the rich connections between Modernism and African architecture. 

The History

Beginning in the early 20th century, the Modernist Movement traversed the world, leaving its mark on various cultures and countries. Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier became pioneers of the movement, and numerous other architects quickly became inspired by their unique perspectives. However, even with its momentum, the movement’s journey to African architecture was prolonged. 

From 1957 to 1966, many African nations declared independence from the European colonizers that ruled them for nearly one hundred years. With this newfound independence, many African countries became inspired by the freedom that came with Modernist design. As elected governments started forming, architecture quickly became an asset to them, and hundreds of Modernist wonders flourished, frequently overlooked by the rest of the world. 

Even though Africa’s countries had vast differences in their culture and economics, they all shared aspirations for modernity – specifically through architecture – and each created an identity of their own. And by the mid-20th century, everything from educational to ceremonial builds filled with rich cultural significance and symbolism sprouted across the continent. 

Notable Builds

One of the first builds of modern architecture in Africa belongs to Burkina Faso’s La Maison du Peuple or House of the People. After the country declared independence from France in 1960, René Faublée sought to build a brutalist structure inspired by the country’s native culture for their newly-formed government to meet. After opening in 1965, La Maison du Peuple served as a popular location for political debates and other democratic exercises. 

La Maison du Peuple, 1965, Burkina Faso

The concrete structure features vibrant colors mimicking the textures and patterns of the earth that surround it. The magnificent lanterns on its roof reflect architecture traditional to Mossi, the nation’s native people, and they also provide natural light to its 2,500-seat auditorium while serving as passive ventilation ducts. 

Found in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, La Pyramide is another example of the visionary Modernist designs that sprang up across Africa in the 1960s. Built from 1968 to 1973, it is one of the most famous Modernist buildings in Abidjan, known for being one of the first high-rise buildings in the country. Architect, Rinaldo Olivieri, aimed to capture the bustle of an African market in an urban setting through his design. 

The iconic building exhibits a traditional cascading pyramid shape. Olivieri designed the building to house residences for the country’s elite on its top and shops and boutiques at its base. The building has faced some deterioration over its 60-year lifespan, but the Ivorian Government has plans to update its architecture and make it a tourist attraction in the coming years. 

Independence Arch is another significant example of the power independence had on Modernist architecture in Africa. The concrete arch was funded and built by Accra’s Public Works Department after Ghana’s independence in 1957. Construction finished in 1961 at Accra, Ghana’s Independence Square – the second largest city square in the world – where the beloved arch shares a home with various other monuments symbolizing freedom.

Independence Arch, 1961, Accra, Ghana

The monument is made of three towering concrete arches that hold two other structures meant for government use in between their peaks. Underneath, the Eternal Flame of African Liberation, lit by Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, still burns. 

For decades, African countries brought their perspective and culture to the movement, building some of the world’s most distinctive yet forgotten works of Modernism. Through noticing and appreciating where these styles journey, we gain a greater knowledge and understanding of the world of architecture and architecture throughout the world.

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