Site History and Significance
A New Architectural Language
La Maison du Peuple or the House of the People was commissioned after Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) declared independence from France in 1960 and served for decades as a platform for political debate and the exercise of democratic governance.
When the building was inaugurated in 1965, Africa stood at the threshold of a new era. Across the continent, those subject to colonial powers were gaining independence and establishing new populist governments. This was a time of hope, optimism, and renewal that was reflected in new civic architecture symbolizing independence and democratic ideals. La Maison du Peuple is a prime example of this new architectural language.
A Uniquely Burkinabé Design
La Maison du Peuple was designed by French architect René Faublée, who conceived of a modern, "brutalist" style building with important references to local vernacular architecture. The brutalist moniker references béton brut ("raw concrete") and the architectural movement that privileged imposing, monolithic structures of undressed poured concrete.
Here, however, the building’s concrete facade mimics the rich color, texture, and patterning of the country’s vernacular earthen buildings. The whimsical lanterns on the roof are reminiscent of traditional Mossi architecture and serve as passive ventilation ducts that promote convection to cool the interior while also providing natural light to the main auditorium. Francis Kéré, the eminent architect from Burkina Faso, calls la Maison du Peuple “the finest example of modernist architecture in Burkina Faso and one of the most important examples of modernism in Africa.”
An Advanced State of Decay
La Maison du Peuple, which has withstood political uprisings and military governments, continues to serve the public and is still used for concerts and events despite its advance state of decay. The building suffers from long deferred maintenance and lack of legal protection.
2022 World Monuments Watch
The Maison du Peuple was included on the 2022 World Monuments Watch to raise awareness of this architectural marvel while contributing to its conservation and the development of a sustainable reuse plan to ensure its future.
Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF collaborates with local partners to design and implement targeted conservation programs—including advocacy, planning, education, and physical interventions in the historic built environment—to improve human well-being through cultural heritage preservation.
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