Historic Old Kampala
Located in metropolitan Kampala District at 0019’N, 32035’E and 1,219m above sea level, Old Kampala, is the most historic urban quarter and cradle of Kampala City, the capital of Uganda.
Evolution of Old Kampala is attributed to Fort Lugard, named after its builder Capt. F.D. Lugard. Captain Lugard, the vanguard of British colonial administration who arrived in Uganda in 1890 and pitched camp on a hill near Mengo that had been a grazing ground for the Kabaka’s herd of ‘Uganda Kob’ a type of antelope (Aepyceros Melampus) locally called ‘Impala’. Thus, the hill gained the name ‘Kampala’, the “hill of Impalas”. Mengo is where the pre-colonial ‘Kibuga’ or capital of Buganda had been stationed upon Lugard’s arrival therein gaining permanence and abandoning the previous practice of shifting from one hill to another whenever one king died and a successor ascended to power.
Because of this historicism, Old Kampala now, contains several of these structures, rich in history and multiple values – artistic, aesthetic, stylistic, harmony, spiritual, social, symbolic, educational, religious, political, economic, commercial, and technical architectural achievement. Collectively, most of Old Kampala’s buildings represent a significant and distinguishable entity as reflected in the 1972 UNESCO Convention, which would otherwise lack individual distinction. They continue to impose substantial historic and/or architectural interest and possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. A number of them are recognized as national monuments by the Department of Antiquities and Museums. Their typology remains a fruitful idiom of the ‘Triple Heritage’, i.e. European, African, and Asian, which now make Old Kampala an arena of timeless architectural heritage.
For background, whereas Old Kampala’s shared colonial architecture is a product of co-mingling of foreign and local African design values and building crafts, the initial predominance of Anglo-Asiatic values and plans remains strong because of design philosophies that were mostly responsive to European and Asiatic commercial and cultural peculiarities. Corresponding architectural symbols and underlying meta-narratives were infused in the buildings that came up. However, the African design elements as well penetrated the resulting built heritage by means of African building craftsmen. From this ‘triple heritage’, and deliberate planning and value infusion, Old Kampala emerged as the vanguard of the consequent shared colonial architectural heritage. The combined Anglo-Asiatic and African values/attributes animated and shaped its contemporary image. The attributes were at the core of prosperity. The built heritage is functional, decorative, ornamental and monumental and rich in certain colonial architectural and decorative elements namely:
Old Kampala’s short and long-term influences to the rest of Kampala and the entire country are wide-ranging – architectural typologies, economic, social and cultural. To date, Old Kampala has continued to influence assemblage of new urban neighbourhoods. The gallery of photos below are representative of this architectural heritage.
The shortfall associated with this replica is that conservationist expertise to enable systematic dismantling and reassembling of brickwork of the original Fort was never given a chance. Hence completely different materials birthed this replica. Consequently, structural, dimensional, colour scheme and other details differ from the original, eroding it of genuine heritage values and authenticity.
Back of Aldina Mosque and its main gate with scroll Islamic decoration.
Plot No. 6, Martini Rd., 1938. Cycle King Plaque (1938) between the twin structures above.
Plot No. 7/8, Martini Rd.
Plot No. 9, Martini Rd. 1939. Plot No, 7, Berkeley Rd. 1939.
Some of the historic structures in Kampala’s City Centre
Kampala Club has its history in a socialization and sports fraternity from 1912 of the then exclusively white nucleus of colonial administrators, most of whom resided on Nakasero Hill. Africans made entry into the Club from mid 1940s. After Uganda gained independence and subsequent emigration of the whites, the premises hosted a one Standard Hotel for about seven years. When Idi Amin took power, he allocated to Ministry of Internal Affairs under which it performed as Senior Police Officer’s Mess.
This building is Uganda’s Railways Headquarters along Station Road. Under auspices of the defunct Kenya and Uganda Railways & Harbours, it was designed in 1938 and thereafter its construction together with other attached infrastructure commenced in Phases. It received some internal alteration in 1958. In 1961, finishes to its footbridge-stairways and canopy and drainage were completed. In 1962, its platforms underwent some extensions and its guardrails were also remodeled.
Uganda Museum has its beginnings in a directive of 1908 from the then Entebbe-based Colonial government of Uganda to open a museum that would collect, conserve and display valuable artifacts of the Protectorate. After the colonial administration moved from Old Kampala to Nakasero Hill in 1920s, the abandoned structure of Ford Lugard housed Uganda Museum for some time. The Museum then moved to the present painting and Graphics Studios of Makerere University’s School of Industrial & Fine Arts, a period before the purpose-built building of its present location was completed in 1954. By means of a Ford Foundation Grant of 1963 an extension to house the natural history section was completed in 1964. This also enabled the Museum to accommodate the Uganda Society founded in 1923 in its Education Wing. Technical storage space was added to the building in 1972. The Museum contains priceless relics of natural history, archaeology, science and industry, and a library of Uganda Society.
Under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the National Theatre is administered by Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) a semi autonomous body established by an act of Parliament of 1959 and amended in 1965. The other component of UNCC is Nommo Gallery (below) located on Plot No. No. 4 Victoria Avenue. The historic significance of the Uganda National Theatre is rooted in events of 1952, when the then Governor of Uganda Sir Andrew Cohen was persuaded by some theatre enthusiasts to build a centre for annual festivals for the performing arts so as to arouse and sustain the growth of Ugandan native drama and the preservation of traditional songs and dance. After a rigorous impetus mobilizing resources coupled with the political will of the colonial administration the building was raised and it was then officially opened on 2nd December, 1959. Contemporarily, The National Theatre and its cohort Nommo Gallery constitute the apex of Uganda’s cultural heartbeat.
Uganda Parliament Building is located at Plot 16 – 18 Parliamentary Avenue. Containing 350 rooms, it was designed by Messrs Peatfield & Bodgener. The foundation stone for the Building was laid on 18th December 1956, by the then Governor of Uganda. Sir Andrew Cohen and its construction commenced in 1958. It was completed shortly before independence in October 1962.
The historic and architectural importance of this building can be reflected in its original design brief: a building that would be an icon of national identity and national unity for a new African state lead by Africans with full political control. The brief also included portrayal of progress and international recognition. against a background of diverse ethnicity. Its solidity, monolithic and monumental splendor meant to be impressive of the strength of government and post independence democracy, aspirations and ideals of new administration. The site for Parliament was selected on grounds of proximity to other politically and administratively significant buildings in the vicinity. In this regard, the site was within the neighbourhood of Kampala City Council Offices, Radio Uganda to the North-East, the National Theatre to the East and Nakasero Hill to the North which housed key residences of top officials of in government. Structures such as Lugard’s Nakasero Old Fort, Old Nakasero Hospital (now Radio Uganda), Old European Hospital, (former Uganda Television) Kampala Club on Sezibwa Road, and Old Uganda Club at Nakasero still re-echo this factor for locating the Parliament where in now stands.
The Coat of Arms contains politically sacred symbols of the State of Uganda. The Uganda Kob and the Crested Crane on either sides of the national shield are symbolic of the profuse of Uganda’s wildlife heritage. On the centrally placed shield is the sun representing the beauty akin to Uganda’s tropical location and climate. Meanwhile the river and lake signify River Nile, Lake Victoria, and other water resources of the country. The drum is symbolic of the rich culture of Uganda.
The Independence Arch was added as a memorial to Uganda’s Independence on 9th October 1962 to further reinforce a political statement of unity by means of architectural semiotics.
Queen’s Clock Tower on Entebbe Road built in memory of Queen Elizabeth II following her first visit to Uganda in 1950s.