You’ve seen the most excellent structures in Africa, and the tallest ones, however have you seen the most irregular or unusual ones? We’ve sought high and low to discover the most strange and exceptional structures all through the continent of Africa. Here are our top picks.
10. The Shoe, Ohrigstad, South Africa
The Shoe is sometimes called the “shoe house”. But it is actually a small museum displaying the wood carvings of artist Ron Van Zyl, who constructed it for his wife in 1990. The complex also includes a guest house, restaurant, pool, bar, and campsite.
9. The Big Pineapple, Bathurst, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Another bizarre structure built in the shape of a recognizable object is the Big Pineapple, which you can find in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The giant fruit stands 16.7 meters tall, and is a tribute to the important role that the pineapple fruit plays in the region’s agricultural economy.
“Wait, isn’t this in Australia?” you might ask. If the pineapple looks familiar, that is because there is another one that looks pretty much identical on the Sunshine Coast in South East Queensland. The structure in South Africa is a deliberate copy. Inside there is an auditorium where you can watch a film about the local pineapple industry. There’s also an observation floor presenting beautiful views of the surroundings.
8. Kagga Kamma, Cederberg, South Africa
This is a nature reserve you will find in the Cederberg Mountains. The hotel is quite iconic, featuring rooms built to blend in with the natural environment, melding seamlessly into the rock face. The views are outstanding, and the structure leaves you feeling totally immersed in nature. Note that these are not actual cave rooms, but they do provide a lovely illusion.
7. 15 Alice Lane Towers, Johannesburg, South Africa
Constructed by Paragon Architects, these whimsical skyscrapers feature unusual curved sides and neon outlines. The glass and aluminium façade is futuristic, but has a fanciful look and feel. The two towers are connected by a narrow atrium.
6. Nahemba Tower, Brazzaville, Congo
Here is another towering edifice which is quite unusual. Also referred to as the “Elf Tower,” this office skyscraper has a base which is narrower than the rest of the structure. This gives it a precarious look, like it could topple at any moment.
5. St. Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
This Roman Catholic cathedral was designed by Aldo Spirito, and features an unusual modern sculpture out front which soars dramatically in front of the building itself. The stained glass windows are also noteworthy, featuring lovely images reflecting the natural beauty and culture of the locale.
4. Centre International des Civilisations Bantu (CICIBA), Libreville, Gabon
This cultural organization dates back to 1983, and studies the Bantu peoples. Its centre was quite an unusual and intriguing structure, which sadly fell into disrepair and was abandoned in 1988 because there was not enough funding to maintain it. A few years ago, plans were announced to work on reviving it.
3. Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire
This massive church makes this list because of its colossal size. The architecture itself is not particularly unusual, but the sheer scale of it boggles the mind. People seen walking its courtyard appear unnaturally tiny. In fact, the basilica is listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest church in the world, displacing the record previously held by St. Peter’s Basilica. The total area is 30,000 square metres, while the total height is 158 metres.
Despite this fact, it can only hold 18,000 worshippers—contrast that with the 60,000 capacity of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is because the area of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace also incorporates a villa and rectory.
Ironically, the Christian population of Côte d’Ivoire is not that large, so only a few hundred worshippers regularly attend the services. That’s a lot of empty space—so this is a great place for tourists to stop in and not get overwhelmed by crowds.
2. Great Mosque of Djenné, Djenné, Mopti, Mali
One more fascinating structures in Africa with an unusual design is the Great Mosque of Djenné. Located on the flood plain of the Bani River, the mosque features adobe construction in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. While there was previously a mosque on the site constructed back in the 13th century, this one traces its origin to 1907.
The structure is actually made out of a large number of earthen bricks, but it is coated with plaster, which is why the walls look smooth. The sticks decorating the building are bundles of rodier palm, and are referred to as “toron.” They serve a functional purpose as well, functioning as scaffolding for the yearly repairs that are required for the mosque’s upkeep. This annual maintenance is actually a festival, complete with food and entertainment.
1. BCEAO Tower, Bamako, Mali
One more beautiful and imposing building in Mali is the famous BCEAO Tower. At 20 stories, it is the tallest structure in the country and sits on the Niger River. While the Great Mosque of Djenné was an example of traditional Sudano-Sahelian architecture, the BCEAO Tower is a stunning example of neo-Sudanic architecture, incorporating traditional elements with a modern flair. It serves as the Malian headquarters for the Central Bank of West African States.
Now you are familiar with some of the most unusual buildings throughout Africa, and you have also learned some more about the different styles of architecture you can see if you get a chance to visit. Be sure to check out the other articles on our site to discover even more beautiful structures!