House designs

What changes in house design are saying about communities

To understand a particular company, sometimes it is enough to look at house designs, construction materials, and preferred finishes. These are generally the expression of the current socio-economic, cultural and even political state of mind of that society. If you go further and dig through the archives of this company, perhaps looking at photos of its old designs and styles of buildings, you will find models that tell the story of this company.

A quick glance at the design of the houses can easily pinpoint issues such as generational differences, security status, economic prosperity, and to some extent, people’s political affiliations.

For example, one could argue that the rapidly growing apartments in parts of Uganda indicate economic growth, prosperity and stability for a given part of the population. On the other hand, the preference of modern and state-of-the-art architectural house designs over the older designs that were introduced in colonial times by most people today might testify to generational differences of tastes or exposure to other styles of the world. This is of course not defined, but it is an interesting way to understand a given society.

Ugandan evolution
A house built in the 1960s and a house built today are completely different in design, and in many cases even the building materials used vary.
Dr Assumpta Nagenda-Musana, professional architect at Technology Consults Limited and professor of architecture at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology at Makerere University, says the political, social and economic state of the nation is clearly described by the type of buildings. that existed then.

“Before the colonialists arrived in Uganda, most Ugandans and Africans in general had their own house plans. Most, at the time, built houses with conical shapes using grass and mud. These houses were round. They reflected our culture and our way of life in general as Ugandans or rather Africans, ”she says.

“Just looking at the houses that were built back then (pre-colonial times),” adds Dr Nagenda-Musana, “You could also clearly tell the type of political environment in our Ugandan society at the time. The one that was dominated by monarchs and mini-monarchs.


Some publications such as the Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa by Frederick Lugard and Townsmen in the Making: Kampala and its Suburbs, published in 1922 and 1957 respectively, illustrate a change from the house designs commonly used by Africans / Ugandans (conical houses) before the colonialists set foot on the African continent, what they call Western house designs. This, Dr Nagenda-Musana points out, is the result of the fact that most Ugandans have been exposed to Western designs such as designing French-style houses with large windows.

“Most Ugandans ended up adopting the Western building style after the colonialists set foot in Uganda. Having a house like a bungalow, in most cases, was a show of status. The new designs of the houses were also safer and could accommodate many people, ”she says.

Tastes and preferences
Mr. Anatoli Kamugisha, a real estate developer with Akright Uganda, a real estate development agency, says the change in the design of houses is the result of tastes and preferences which inevitably vary from generation to generation.

“The kind of design that people preferred in the ’60s may not be appealing to the current generation by any means,” he says.
Mr. Kamugisha said that preferences are also sometimes dictated by the cultural dynamics of different ethnic groups.

“People who belong to a certain ethnic group where it is taboo to be near the in-laws, especially the mother-in-law, prefer house designs that allow them to live apart from their in-laws.” , he said. On the other hand, the change in taste, adds Kamugisha, is also a result of people being exposed to designs of houses from foreign countries.

“Most people think the designs they see in foreign countries are extremely beautiful, so they end up copying them regardless of their country’s environmental realities,” he says.

Some of the trends he says that have been copied by Ugandans are open plan kitchen spaces and extremely large living rooms, among others.
According to another school of thought, the availability of more disposable income could explain the continuous change in tastes and preferences.

Ms. Azeda Katende, real estate agent and member of the Association of Real Estate Agents Uganda, subscribes to this school of thought adding that this income has enabled many Ugandans to travel and gain exposure.

Today, the cost of building a basic residential house, according to Mr. Ananias Atuhumuriza, architect at Excite Construction Limited, is dictated by a number of factors, including the size and type / amount of materials to be used. use. It can extend to Shs100,000 million and more.

“In the past it was cheaper to build a house than it is today because there was less labor and building materials to use. The approximate cost was Shs 50 million in the 1990s, ”Mr. Atuhumuriza said.

Modern architecture
According to Urban Sprawl and its Smart Management by Mani Dhingra, modernization in Uganda took shape in 1967 when the Israelites undertook large housing projects like the construction of Bugolobi, Wandegaya and Bukoto apartments in Kampala.

This house was built in 1896 by famous masons, Miller and Stanley, for Zakaria Kizito Kisingiri, one of the three regents of King Daudi Chwa. Photo taken from: “Sprawl and the City” written by Dr Assumpta Naggenda — Musana.

The adaptation of modern architecture, according to Dr Naggenda — Musana, was part of a larger cultural transformation encompassing both the creative arts and Western culture.

She says architects of the modern movement, such as Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, drew strong analogies between architecture and the machine age. It involved the use of new industrial materials such as concrete, glass and steel. Mechanical services such as air conditioning and running water were also introduced.

In his book, Lugard also writes that in colonial and pre-colonial times information was limited among Ugandan architects. This, he says, was the result of a lack of adequate architectural training programs. He notes that limited technology has hampered information sharing.

Ms. Susan Atai, architect at Symbion Uganda limited agrees.
She says: “It was difficult and time consuming to create beautiful designs because there were no computers to make the job easier. You had to draw a structure, indicate where everything would be placed, do all the mathematical and artistic designs, indicate the size and type of material like bricks and nails, among others.

She notes that a drawing that would take a year in the 1950s can now be drawn in a day using a computer. People feared to be creative in coming up with beautiful but sophisticated designs, because making them was also sophisticated.

“Modern rectangular designs were mainly used for official and administrative buildings such as Bulange in Mengo,” Atai adds.
The literature available on the history of house design indicates that earlier versions of modern structures were predominantly rectangular with repeating patterned windows and doors. Examples of such buildings, according to some academic work in architecture, include Mulago Hospital, the Parliament building, and the Town Hall.

Large buildings with sophisticated designs are also popular in Uganda today. Such buildings are becoming commonplace in all the growing cities of the country. Dr Naggenda – Musana argues, however, that tall buildings are not favorable to a tropical climate, which Mr Kamugisha does not approve of, saying they minimize space.

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