15 of Uganda’s Heritage Buildings

By C. Matua

July 9, 2018

The question of heritage is something, that I think still needs to be defined. Who is to say what building represents the heritage of Ugandans?

The thing is, for a piece of architecture to be celebrated, the architecture must somehow celebrate the way of life of the people in the place. Social aspects like in politics, religion, family aspects almost always are unique to every place. Usually, one can tell a lot of the civilisations of the place by what these buildings look like. It is no wonder that many of the worldwide acclaimed buildings are temples, celebrating a great deitye.g. in Nepal or in India; or a building like the Taj Mahal, which celebrates the love of a man for his deceased wife.

Ugandan history is made up of as much variety as it gets: there’s the history form the various tribes that make up our country, and the history of the foreigners: the colonialists, the traders and the men who built our infrastructure. We acknowledge these differences because these events in our history shaped our cultural landscapes.

The buildings in this list are those with a unique architectural aspect to it that have been built within the last half of a century.


Chapel at the mission hospital in Ngora


This chapel takes its form from the head-dress of the sick. The building envelope is made of rock, a common material in Ngora. Its roof is made of reinforced bitumen sheets while the ceiling is made of timber. The geometry of the roof is configured similarly to that of a tensile structure, which is a clever transformation from hyperboloid or parabolic shapes.


Catholic Church in Gulu

Built in classical style of architecture. This church’s interior is adorned with intricate details on the mouldings of the columns, and on the vaulted ceiling. The skill of the artisans that beautified this chapel is truly remarkable.


The wooden duka, West Nile

Ironically, this particular duka was repurposed from housing household retail items to sale of fuels like petrol, kerosene in small bottles for motorcycles and lighting the homes in Terego. Before the current Indian duka style in trading centres with the mono pitch roof was popularised, these wooden kiosks were the popular point-of-sale for household items. They represent a time where shops could stand in isolation, before shopping became more of a lifestyle than a necessity.  The kiosks were commonly made of wooden panels, with iron sheet roofs, and raised on metal stilts of about 150mm.


St. Noah Mawaggali Shrine, Mityana

Designed by Justus Dahiden. The modern church stands out because of its unique forms and beautiful contrasts from the minimal pallet of redbrick, asphalt slates for roofing and glass.


Uganda National Mosque

Seated atop Old Kampala hill, Uganda National mosque offers breath-taking city wide views, religious artistry, beautiful Islamic embroidery on the inside of the dome and wondrous architectural elements that pay tribute to Allah. The mosque was first commissioned by Idi Amin who ordered Fort Lugard to be demolished for this mosque to be built. Then, under his orders, architect M.A Karim drew up the plans in barely a month.Construction of the then Old Kampala Mosque began in 1972 but came to a halt in 1978 as Amin’s regime came to an end. The project was decommissioned in 2004 as a gift from Libyan president Muammar Gaddaffi hence the name Gaddaffi Mosque. It was named Uganda National Mosque after Gaddaffi passed on. It is the second largest mosque in Africa after King Hassan mosque.


Old Tech Building, Makerere University Kampala

A brutalist concrete building.

This building stands in its own poise. The lustre on its lurking steel bars and bruised concrete all atone to its power. It carries old stories which you will only hear if you wait long enough. Within each detail, each innovation, the shading elements, the grills all spelling out innovation, technological stance. This structure makes a statement on technology in its own unbreakable toughness.” (Kitumba J. M.)

Another interesting aspect of this building is the way it is accessed. A bridge connects the building from the outside to the main entrance. From the new technology building to the rooms within the building, the old technology building is connected by yet another bridge, washed with light filtered through the patterns on the perforated walls. The building has its structural system of columns and beams exposed. Its interiors are an interesting contrast of exposed raw concrete with the facing brick veneered on the internal walls.


Uganda Martyrs Shrine

The shrine is a monument to the Uganda Martyrs that were ordered burned by Kabaka Mwanga when they refused to denounce their faith. The shrine is a structure roofed with iron sheets with externally situated X-bracing. The project recently underwent renovation led by the firm Creations Consult.


Read the second part of this article in our Blog.