Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa

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Princeton Architectural Press, 2004 - Architecture - 216 pages
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Many think that sub-Saharan African architecture is little more than mud huts. Mud, yes--but certainly not huts. Instead, these adobe buildings, many of them enormous, show sublime sculptural beauty, variety, ingenuity, and originality. In the Sahal region of western Africa--Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana, and Burkina Faso--people have been constructing earthen buildings for centuries. But they remain unknown to most of the Western world. Their plastic forms--from simple stairways, to ornamented domes, to complex arches--are highlighted by subtle painting and intricate grillwork.
James Morris spent four months photographing these hidden jewels, from the great mosque at Djenne--the largest mud building in the world--to small houses in remote animist communities. Butabu shows these works as both aesthetic treasures and as architecture with contemporary relevance. These are no museum pieces, but rather buildings that continue to be maintained and built, even as they are threatened by the uncertainties of weather and the encroachment of Western technology.
Text by Suzanne Preston Blier covers the history of earthen architecture, the technology that creates it, and the symbolism of its form.

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Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa

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This volume offers a sampling of West African earthen architecture, photographed by Morris (See-Through Houses) and covering Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo. Together ... Read full review

Selected pages


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8

References to this book

About the author (2004)

Suzanne Preston Blier is Professor of African Art and Architecture, Harvard University.

James Morris is an architectural photographer who founded Axiom Photographic Agency in London.

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