ISPADA Israeli Planning, Architecture and Development in Africa
Sierra Leone Parliament Building
Dov Karmi, Zvi Meltzer and Ram Karmi
Courtesy of Dov and Ram Karmi archive
sierra leone | 1961
The parliament building, which was aspired to become the symbol of the new state, was designed by the prominent Israeli architectural firm Karmi- Meltzer- Karmi and bares resemblance to the Israeli Parliament building, the Knesset- the design of which this firm was involved during the same years. Dov Karmi was known as one of the leading 'Bauhaus' architects in Tel Aviv of the 1930s. His son, Ram Karmi, was one of the most gifted and outspoken Brutalist architects during the 1960s and 1970s. Due to disagreements between father and son regarding notions of formal representation and monumentality in the design of the façade of the Knesset, the son was 'exiled' to take charge of the Sierra Leone Parliament Building. The positioning of the building on a hilltop- dominating the landscape and the city of Freetown below like a fortress- mirrors a similar attitude in Jerusalem. In both locations, the accentuated base floors under the assembly hall create a terraced podium which continues the natural topography and alludes to classical shrines. The flat dome which adorns the roof of the Parliament in Sierra Leone also appeared in the initial proposal submitted by the Karmi team in the design competition for the Israeli parliament. The construction of the parliament building was conducted by a joint Israeli-Sierra Leonean government owned construction company. The construction began seven months before the official opening. Some parts of the building were still unfinished by then. After the celebrations of Independence, the government ordered to slow down the construction of the Parliament, and after 1967, work on the building had ceased completely due to the diplomatic rupture of most African countries, including Sierra Leone, with Israel.