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makes the Tower a welcome place to retreat from the city’s heat. In the maker’s mind, the Tower thus proposes a strong ecological and sustainable alternative when compared to most of the housing in the rest of the city. It engineers a greener way of life in the polluted environment of Kinshasa. Ideally, it will be powered by solar energy (one day Doctor hopes to cover the Tower’s surface with solar panels), and the protruding cement roofs are designed to ‘absorb’ rain water and ‘breathe’ it back into the city’s smoggy atmosphere. The rooftops themselves may be turned into gardens, where chickens and goats might be kept. In spite of the Tower’s phantasmagoric character and the moralist and religious (messianic and apocalyptic) notions that underpin its, and unhindered by infrastructural obstacles and shortcomings, Doctor’s discourse about the Tower actually reworks many of the propositions made earlier by colonial modernist architects and urban planners. If, on a very general level, the vertical topos of the mountain, as the physical site of domination, control and subjugation, may be considered as colonialism’s basic geographic figure (after all, Stanley’s first trading post was built on top of Leopold Hill – currently Mont Ngaliema), colonial modernist architecture subsequently incorporated and translated this idea of the mountain into vertical statements. These were gradually emerging in the urban landscape of the 1940s and 1950s. For example, the Forescom Tower, located in what is now Kinshasa’s downtown district of Gombe, became one of the early landmarks of Belgian colonial modernist urban architecture. Completed in 1946, and soon to be followed by other, even more impressive high rise buildings of tropical modernist signature (see Lagae 2002), the Forescom Tower was Kinshasa’s first skyscraper and with its ten storeys one of the first of its kind in Central Africa.2 As such, it reportedly was a source of pride for both the colonizers and the colonial subjects alike. For the former, it represented the success of the colonial enterprise, while it allowed the latter to dream of partaking and being inserted into a more global modernity. The building was the tangible proof that Léopoldville was well under way to become the first Poto moindo, the first ‘Black Europe’. Pointing towards the sky, the Forescom Tower also pointed to the future. And because some of its architectural features made the building look like a boat shored along the Congo River, the Tower also seemed to promise to sail Léopoldville to the distant shores of other wider (and whiter) worlds beyond the horizon of the Congo River basin. The Forescom Tower thus gave form to new hopes, prospects and possibilities. It materially translated and emblematically visualized colonialist ideologies of progress and modernity. Simultaneously, it must be added, it also embodied the darker repressive side of colonialism, with its elaborate technologies of domination, control and surveillance. Here as well, the tower was also a watchtower, the built extension of the panoptical colonial Big Brother. As such, the figure of the tower forcefully reminds us of the fact that the colonial urban landscape of Kinshasa largely came about as the result of a very intrusive history of (physical and symbolical) violence and domination, marked by racial segregation, as well as by violent processes of dispossession and relocation. KINSHASA 85 Remainder of pedestrian bridge along the Boulevard Lumumba.   Constructed in the mid-1950s, the site Cielux OCPT (Office Congolais de Poste et Télécommunication), colloquially known as ‘the Building’ (le Bâtiment), is located in Sans Fil (‘Wireless’), a neighbourhood of the populous municipality of Masina. The Cielux site is a branch of Kinshasa’s central post office. A grand modernist L-shaped building, it used to house a section of the national radio, and it functioned as an outgoing relay station for international telephone and telegraph communications (hence the name ‘wireless’ which is now used to refer to the neighbourhood as a whole). Today the building is squatted by some 300 people, mostly unpaid government employees of the Ministry of Telecommunications. Photo: Site Cielux, Municipality of Masina, March 2013 Advertisement for the rehabilitation of the échangeur, one of Kinshasa’s landmark towers constructed during Mobutu’s reign. This rehabilitation was part of President Kabila’s cinq chantiers or ‘five public works’, a vast infrastructural overhaul program that was started in the years prior to the 2011 presidential elections. The billboard reads: ‘Yesterday’s dreams, today’s realities, tomorrow’s better future’. After the elections the 5 chantiers were relabeled as ‘The Revolution of Modernity’. Photo: Echangeur, Municipality of Limete, March 2013


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