Throughout history, architecture has been used as a powerful form of expression. Monumental architecture has been used around the world by dominant and influential people as a symbol of their power (Bonta, 1979). During colonial times, architecture was used not only by colonial governments to show dominance in buildings as simple as dwellings, but also by the natives especially toward their independence, as a statement directed towards the colonialists. This paper explores the architecture of one such building, the Bulange, constructed by the Baganda to illustrate their dominance whilst under British rule. It explores the events prior to and after the construction of the building, in addition to whether or not the building is still relevant in today’s context.
The Buganda administrative building, also known as the ‘Bulange’ is located on Namirembe hill, in Kampala city, the capital of Uganda. It houses the ‘Lukiko’ (parliament hall), the administrative seat of the Kabaka of Buganda (the King), the seat of the ‘Nabagereka’ (the Queen), CBS radio station (the mouth piece of the kingdom), majestic brands (the kingdom’s events company), and the offices of ministers of the Buganda government. The building was designed by British architect, Roger Freeman, a partner at the British firm Cobb, Powell and Freeman, and was subsequently constructed in 1956. The construction of the building was overseen by resident architect Mark Andrew (Fitzalan, 2011).
FACTORS LEADING TO CONSTRUCTION
Before the building was constructed, there was wide spread conflict between the Baganda and the colonial government, more so between 1945 to 1950 when the British government proposed the idea of uniting British East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania) into a federation. The Buganda government feared that they would lose the limited self-rule they enjoyed under the British colonial government that had colonised Uganda. The Kabaka at that time (Kabaka Mutesa II) together with the members of his parliament, opposed the proposal and demanded that Buganda be separated from the rest of the Uganda protectorate. This led to the exile of Kabaka Mutesa II to London in 1953. Opposition from his subjects forced the British to return him in 1955, awarding Buganda a new constitutional monarch and an elected parliament, but still within Uganda (Fitzalan, 2011).
The Bulange bears striking resemblance to the Stormont building in Belfast, Wales, where the Kabaka was for most of his exile.
The Stormont building, completed in 1932, is located at the end of the 1.6 km (1 mile) long Prince of Wales Avenue of the Stormont estate in Belfast. It was designed by Sir Arnold Thornely of Liverpool, England (Riding, 2012). In front of the building lies a statue of Lord Edward Carson, an Irish Unionist politician and judge, who held numerous positions in the cabinet of Great Britain. The Stormont building is a four storied symmetrical rectilinear building. At the top of the building lies the statue of Britannia, who is the female personification of Great Britain (Riding, 2012). These are some of the ideas incorporated by the architects in the design of the Bulange building design. Like the Stormont building, the Bulange is a four storeyed building that relies heavily on symmetry in the interior and exterior and whose main building form is rectilinear.
THE BULANGE VS THE UGANDA LEGISLATIVE BUILDING
Given the significance of hills in Buganda (and in the geography of Kampala), one begins to wonder why the Uganda Parliament was not located on a hill crest? (like the Buganda Parliament atop Rubaga Hill).
Was it a deliberate ploy by the colonial administration to lessen the status of the Uganda parliament and therefore the Uganda Government, or was it truly the case that a more suitable site was unavailable? (Given that the Nakasero and Naguru hills were both available and owned by the government).
It is evident that the designers of the Uganda Parliament building (Peatfield and Bodgener) were faced with a rather unique challenge. “The building was being commissioned by the colonial administration for Uganda’s impending independence. This is in contrast to Legislative buildings in most other colonies and former colonies which were usually built either for the colonial administration as miniature versions of Westminster, as was the case with the Kenya Legislative building designed by Amyas Connell and completed in 1952, or by the newly independent states themselves as a symbol of triumph over the colonial administration, as was the case with Cecil Hogan’s design for the new National Parliament building in Papua New Guinea opened in 1984, a decade after the country’s independence form Australia.” (Olweny 1998).