What Remains: A London Design Biennale Exhibition

Somali Architecture Sep 16, 2018
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What remains when the war ends? Ruins preserve histories that are often forgotten. In the face of conflict and destruction, ruins are proof that there was something before the wreckage, before the war, and before the painful emotions they now evoke. Not all ruins are the same; some buildings remain standing despite attempts to turn them into rubble. They are manifestations of people’s indestructible hope, resilience, and survival.

Somalia’s exhibition traces the history of Somali architecture before and after the civil war, from its pre-colonial heritage to its unique British and Italian colonial past, through to the post-independence socialist modernism of the late twentieth century. The exhibit will also reflect on the impact of the civil war on this architectural heritage. Visitors will be guided through a timeline and video projection that follow the devastation which not only transformed the physical landscape of the country but also carried with it unimaginable human costs.


The main installation is a 3D model of iconic buildings in Mogadishu (known locally as Hamar) which renders the past, present and the possible future. As the capital city, it is emblematic of both the architectural styles and the political struggles of all of Somalia. Visitors will be immersed in a 360 experience showing how the country has radically changed in the last 30 years. The 3D models capture the eclectic style of the country and suggests how what remains could act as the foundation for future reconstruction.

The historic and current state of the nation's architecture corresponds to many emotional states, from peacefulness to pride, from anger to despair. The country’s contemporary landscape portends an alarming possibility that much will be lost forever. It is with an awareness of this danger that we highlight the urgency of rebuilding without losing sight of Somalia’s heritage. The remains of the past bear witness to people’s hope that Somalia will be the vibrant country it once was. 

The exhibit is Somalia's contribution to the London Design Biennale, currently on show at the Somerset House in London until September 23rd. 

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About the Authors

Somali Architecture

Somali Architecture (SA) is run by Yusuf Shegow, Madina Scacchi and Iman Mohamed. Founded by Yusuf in 2015, SA started as platform where we shared images of pre-war Somalia and evolved into a research project about historical heritage.