Inside mid-century Tropical Modernist architecture

Developed by British architects in the 1940s, Tropical Modernism is a unique style of mid-century architecture which fused the clean lines of European Modernism with the hot, humid conditions of West Africa. This film traces the style's colonialist beginnings to its adoption by Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister of newly-independent Ghana, to become a symbol of freedom, modernity and progressiveness. Featuring interviews with architects John Owusu Addo and Henry Wellington, as well as Nkrumah's daughter, Samia Nkrumah, and a narration by Ola Uduku, Head of the School of Architecture at Liverpool University, the film questions the legacy of Tropical Modernism, and its lessons for a climate-conscious future.

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This is an extract from the full 30-minute film, originally presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023, and part of an ongoing research project between the V&A, Architectural Association and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Watch the full film displayed across three screens inside the exhibition, Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Independence at V&A South Kensington from 2 March – 22 September 2024.

Header image:

Unity Hall, KNUST, film still from 'Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Independence'. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London