When Justus Dahinden went to Uganda

How the Swiss architect's coconut shapes were influenced by Japanese group the Metabolists and organic growth
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Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden
Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden

When it comes to modern architecture, there's a tendency to take a “canonical” attitude, to view its progress in the 20th century as synonymous with the advance of the West. 20th Century World Architecture seeks to correct this misapprehension. Arranged not chronologically but continent by continent, it shows how 20th century architecture flourished across the planet. Drawing on the knowledge of curators, historians, writers and architects from all over the world, it represents the most thorough exploration of the global exchange of architectural ideas over the course of the century.

 

Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden
Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden

Some of the most striking and successful works showcased in this volume are those in which the new forms and ideas of modern architecture are successfully reconciled with local customs and practices. One such instance is the Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine in Uganda, built by the Swiss architect Justus Dahinden in 1988, two decades after Uganda gained independence from the UK. As the accompanying photographs show, it's an arresting spectacle, flanked by coconut-like segments, yet it sits with remarkable serenity in its surrounding landscape.

 

Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden
Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden

Dahinden was influenced by the Metabolists, a 1970s Japanese group whose technological philosophy stressed the idea of organic growth. And so, instead of a conventional bell tower, there is an open drumming platform set in a low tower, more in keeping with local religious community practice. There is no main entrance – services can be accessed from all sides. Mahogany, a plentiful resource in Uganda, is used for the ceiling of the square gathering space, while the walls, altar and seats are made from handmade bricks. All of this makes for a building that is  unconventional yet unimposing, modestly but imaginatively in keeping with the location and the people it serves.  Want to know more? Check out 20th Century World Architecture in our online store now.

 

Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden
Mityana Pilgrims' Centre Shrine - Justus Dahinden

 


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