15 of Uganda’s Heritage Buildings

15 of Uganda’s Heritage Buildings

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.

15 of Uganda’s Heritage Buildings (Part 2)

15 of Uganda’s Heritage Buildings (Part 2)

Bahai Temple

The Bahai temple is an interesting piece of architecture. Seated atop a hill, the temple is a reflection of the peaceful virtues of the Bahai faith. The interior detailing of this structure is exquisite.


Also, interesting is the administration building that is adjacent to the structure. Its mushrooming concrete roof is note-worthy.


Worker’s House

A landmark for Kampala City, this modern 20storey building sits gracefully in the skyline with the glass curtain walling detailing creating arches that are easily recognisable.


Mulago Catholic Church

The beauty of the interiors of this church are something that can hardly be described in words. The wooden ceiling accentuated with drop down wooden beams spiralling to the centre to meet the skylight that pours light into the chapel over the altar is a nice touch. I think the best quality of this chapel is the natural light that washes through it: the windows are high slits round the building envelope and portions of the wall are of Pompeii grills. The airiness in this one is refreshing.


Barclays Buildings

The Barclays buildings in many towns have an interesting historical aesthetic to them. I’ve always thought that if one wants to experience interesting architecture about a town, they should look for 4 things: the market, the places of prayer, the municipal buildings and the Barclays Bank buildings.


Mapeera House

In my opinion, this building is a preview into the next phase of Ugandan Architecture: deconstructivist. Designed by Ssentogo & Partners, this building’s form attempts to be daring in more ways than one: its stark contrast with the surrounding on Kampala-Jinja Road, the use of glass curtain walling and aluminium tiles cladding, and that face that juts out into the street. A little bit more, and we would have a real show-stopper on our hands.


Kasubi tombs

Currently being reconstructed after being destroyed by a fire, the Kasubi tombs are undoubtedly one of the most important heritage sites in Uganda. This building is the one where the previous kings were buried. It tells of a history in construction with ancestral material technology and has cultural meaning to the Buganda monarchy permanently etched in this space.


Architectural Expression Of The Bulange Vs The Uganda Parliament

Architectural Expression Of The Bulange Vs The Uganda Parliament


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).


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.


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).