From the Balcony: New Perspectives for the Old Power Games


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By , Whitehall largely consisted of a series of classical government buildings. Through an empire-wide study of ecclesiastical architecture, Bremner 18 explores how the Gothic was used within the expansion of the Anglican Church, paying close attention to the local circumstances which governed the eventual form of individual churches within a global religious network.

These intra-imperial communities did not just consist of European administrators, soldiers and sailors, but also indentured labourers, merchants, convicts and settlers. They too brought associations from elsewhere, and in the case of convicts and labourers, might well have actually constructed the buildings.

As was clear in India, however, other styles and forms circulated. The convergence of the classical and other architectural styles in Zanzibar in the early twentieth century demonstrates how far local circumstances and networks determined the choice of style for other examples in the informal empire.

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Previously he had trained to be an architect, first in a practice near his home on the Isle of Wight, and then in the offices of John Loughborough Pearson, a revered late-nineteenth century London-based architect. According to his memoirs, Sinclair enjoyed his work as a trainee architect, and recorded his interest in the work of Richard Norman Shaw, an architect renowned for his eclectic style of design. By , eclecticism, in spite of its critics, was a widely recognised style which fused elements from different forms and styles. The skill of Shaw and others adopting this approach lay in cohering these elements in an accomplished and elegant manner, as opposed to creating an architectural jumble.

He designed various plain buildings for the new law courts but more influential in the development of his eclectic architectural style was his involvement in the design for Mombasa Cathedral. He blended a Christian cathedral with a large dome into the cityscape through ornamentation, crenellations—visible on the many Arab palaces in Mombasa—and details such as polylobed arches.

This was the first occasion on which Sinclair was given the freedom to develop his own architectural style. Its function is critical to its design. A new era of government therefore began. In a society led by an Arab ruling minority, an elite which included Europeans and South Asians, and a majority Swahili population, there were a range of potential influences and audiences. But alas!

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One looks in vain for the domes and minarets and clustered pinnacles which an eastern city should possess. Courtesy of Terrence Royer, www. From the evidence accessible for this article, it is perhaps significant that Rogers had served on the East African coast at Lamu where he inhabited a former Arab palace. Photographs reveal he had a large collection of local furniture, including several viti vya enzi Swahili chairs of power and Indian blackwood furniture. While features were drawn from various traditions, the symmetry and proportions of this frontage are classical.

This created a formal and convenient reception area using the more elegant of the orders, but one which does not compete with the more ornamental first floor.


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The whole is surmounted by crenellations typical of Swahili and Arab architecture along the East African coast. Windows across the side wings have no decorative treatment.

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A Tuscan colonnade supports a first floor verandah, which in its central treatment has a classical balustrade and an Indian-style canopied pergola. Throughout, therefore, these stylistic features were entirely blended—employing classical forms for structural reasons.

Verandahs were practical for creating spaces with breeze and airflow, which had become a norm in the colonial tropics worldwide. One of the criticisms levelled by proponents of the Gothic revival was that classicism had stifled the development of architecture and created a monotonous sequence of porticoed structures. Figure 3. As noted earlier, there was a tradition in Britain for municipal buildings to be constructed in the classical style. The Post Office was to be built in the heart of Zanzibar town, on a pre-existing, awkward, sloping corner site nestled amongst Arab and Indian palaces.

Sinclair chose to use classical features for this building but further demonstrated his freedom to experiment and incorporate structures more suitable for the environment, such as verandahs. Once again he created an idiosyncratic version that did not conform to general rules. In the centre, a curved Ionic colonnade and a first-floor balcony flank a central feature with plainer wings on either side. On each wing, Ionic half columns and pilasters separate a series of arched windows at ground level. The first floor of each wing has an arched window with two rectangular ones on either side, all with shutters.

In the central archway, Sinclair rejected the conventional hierarchy of the orders, by placing plain Tuscan pilasters above double Ionic columns. The verandah itself has a pitched roof with very slender wooden Ionic square piers. Although Sinclair employed classical features more consistently on this building, he applied them in such a way as to diverge wildly from the established conventions of classical architecture.

Although the opinions expressed in the Gazette are partial and subjective, Spurrier was an influential and respected figure. His lack of interest in the Post Office building perhaps reflected wider opinions. His design for the National Bank of India again incorporated a classical balustrade, on the back wall. Not all shared his vision, however. The designs of P.

It is notable that in India museums were regarded as exceptionally suited to an Indo-Saracenic architectural style. The collapse and redesign, reducing its height significantly, reminds us of the compromises involved in such projects. The global history which the museum would display—that of an Indian Ocean archipelago with historic links to South Asia, Arabia and Africa—was reflected within this design, in spite of the alterations imposed by the building process. The differences were vast. Nairobi was a city rapidly developed from a camp set up to build the Uganda Railway to a colonial capital within less than three decades.

Responding to the demands of building the railway, infrastructure quickly grew up. Although space seemed apparently limitless in this area of the East African highlands, the marshy and undulating land imposed limitations. A fire in the s led to the rebuilding of much of the growing town.

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He became a significant landowner and member of Kenyan society, and was elected in to join the first Legislative Council. After his death in , Lady McMillan offered to build a library in his memory. Lady McMillan agreed to pay for all costs except for the ongoing salary of a librarian and repairs to the building.

Councillor De Souza objected to this use of municipal funding as only one part of the community would be permitted to use the building, while all sections contributed to these funds. In spite of explaining that he would have objected similarly had this been an Indian library, De Souza was accused of inciting racial tensions and his objections were defeated. He records that whilst on his second hunting safari early in his career in , his party pitched tents on Ol Donyo Sabuk, a mountain in Thika, in central Kenya.

The McMillans are both buried on the side of this mountain near their former home, known as McMillan Castle, built c. Later in his memoirs, Sinclair described his activities on his return to England in after resigning as British Resident of Zanzibar. In his oration, Delamere credited the architects Messrs. Sinclair, C. It is possible, therefore, that he was influential in the early stages but that the Nairobi firm took over the construction and finished the project. During a visit in , friends there tried to persuade him to buy land in the growing town.

In the early twentieth century, Baker was one of the most influential architects of empire, with major public buildings in South Africa and India. In the early s, Sinclair worked alongside Henry Vaughan Lanchester, then in Zanzibar to create a new town plan for the city. It was constructed of Nairobi bluestone according to architect Musau Kimeu, an excellent local building material. The name of the building is carved into the frieze and the whole is surmounted by a balustrade.

Like that building in London, the corners have banded rustication up to roof level.


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  8. Another unusual inclusion is the balcony above the entrance within the portico, which perhaps provides some airflow to the first floor. It was from its inception a global city—home to Kenyans, European settlers and Indian indentured labourers. From the typically haphazard buildings of its early years, the classical came to dominate, and buildings in this style benefited from heightened architectural expertise through the influence of Baker and Hoogterp. The McMillan library was therefore part of this movement of refinement, rationalisation and ordering of the city.

    This magnificent building disrupts the grid structure of the city and demonstrates the range of global influences which impinge upon the cityscape.

    Sinclair took the pre-existing architecture into account as well as the limitations imposed by the complex, labyrinthine city-plan and the climate. In this historically multicultural city, Sinclair used the classical rarely but freely, reflecting his authority—in spite of his limited training—over the British architectural vision with the liberty to experiment, as he did with the Post Office. I have used the extant buildings of a single administrator-architect to illuminate forms of architectural engagement by the British in East Africa—in particular in their response to the pre-existing hybrid landscape in Zanzibar, upon which Sinclair made the first significant British marks.

    Amutabi, Maurice N. Farnham Surrey : Ashgate, Berg, Maxine ed. Bissell, William. London: Routledge, Bissell, William C. If we hold fast to him, we will have life, and be protected from the threats of death and violence that may assail us in life. Every other solution will prove inadequate and temporary. It may be helpful for a time, but once again we will find ourselves exposed and abandoned before the storms of life.

    With Jesus, on the other hand, our hearts experience a security that is firmly rooted and enduring. If in your heart you can learn to appreciate the beauty of this message, if you are willing to encounter the Lord, if you are willing to let him love you and save you, if you can make friends with him and start to talk to him, the living Christ, about the realities of your life, then you will have a profound experience capable of sustaining your entire Christian life.

    You will also be able to share that experience with other young people. Wherever the Father and the Son are, there too is the Holy Spirit. He is the one who quietly opens hearts to receive that message.


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    He keeps alive our hope of salvation, and he will help you grow in joy if you are open to his working.

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    From the Balcony: New Perspectives for the Old Power Games From the Balcony: New Perspectives for the Old Power Games
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    From the Balcony: New Perspectives for the Old Power Games From the Balcony: New Perspectives for the Old Power Games

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