A Lesson of Sustainability Given by The Tropical Modernism in Kinshasa: The BCB Headquarters by Maurice Houyoux

  • Alexis Tshiunza School of Architecture and Urban Planning, DR Congo
  • Manlio Michieletto School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Rwanda, Rwanda
  • Olatunde Adedayo School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Rwanda, Rwanda
Keywords: Kinshasa, tropical architecture, tropical modernism, sustainability


The tropical region is often considered as a region where the sun shines intensely and the temperature varies at certain times of the year. In the case of Congo, the average weather condition is considered cool, however, there have been cases where the temperature reached up to 43° C. It is therefore imperative for buildings in this region to take into account the temperature variation while considering the comfort of the users. During the design and construction of the Bank of Belgian Congo, the availability of data to assist the architect Maurice Houyoux in meeting the challenge of the region was unavailable. The architect had to be creative in planning and overcoming the challenges posed by the environment. This paper seeks to examine the issues confronted by Maurice Houyoux and the design solutions he provided to ensure that the building was functional and responded to the tropical challenges. In undertaking this study, a historical approach was adopted through the review of relevant literature on the building and designs within the period of the development of the bank. An observation method was also deployed to verify some of the information found in the literature. The findings are presented using pictures and sketches to explain some of the key issues relevant to the design of the bank. The findings showed that despite the reduced number of published data for designing in such a region, the architect was able to examine the existing buildings and discuss with users of other constructions to obtain relevant data. The findings also showed that the building was able to respond to peculiar requirements to be functional. The paper concludes that the local building materials and traditional builders can be used to achieve a contemporary building that fits into the context towards sustainable architecture.


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