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British High Commission (2006)

in '1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die'

Mark Irving, General Editor

Report by Giles Omezi
Photograph by Adrian Hobbs

Cassell Illustrated publishers, 2007

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Architects Cullum and Nightingale
Location Kampala, Uganda
Style Contemporary
Materials Concrete, brick, terra cotta

'The red brick buildings of the British High Commission in Kampala rise up as if fused with Uganda's red earth. With a backdrop of lush trees and vegetation, the High Commission clearly stakes claims of permanence and belonging. The inspiration of the local brick palette is obvious in the cluster of buildings. By applying this palette liberally to roof, ground and walls, Cullum and Nightingale could have created a monolith, but the articulation of the surfaces averts the potential for monotony. The complex is split into two realms, the main administrative building and a consular visa section, the different operational requirements forcing separate entrances from different roads. Interestingly, this hierarchy of public front and back entrances is a feature of some African dwellings. The intense tropical sun is shaded from the windows by terra-cotta louvers mounted on galvanised mild steel rod supports. There is almost polite referencing of the modern African market, the African village school, and the austere materiality of the broader context. The sophistication emerges in the banana-leaf concrete shuttering on tapered concrete columns, the careful and practical exposed metalwork, and the reflected light admitted via a clerestory above. Overall, the High Commission marks an interesting point in global cultural consumption, with Cullum and Nightingale confident in referencing critically the Ugandan and African context for what is essentially a patch of Britain. GO'

"...neither a monument to the British empire nor to the architect but...a simple place to work..."

Tom Sanya, Architects' Journal, 2006