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La Pyramide is one of the best examples of Brutalist architecture in Africa. It is also an example of failed architecture and how bright ideas can sometimes be ahead of their time or just not fit into the urban landscape
La Pyramide is situated in the great city of Abidjan in Ivory Coast. It sits in the bustling Plateau area, one of Abidjan’s commercial hubs. The building is about 300 meters away from Lagune Ebrié, the lagoon on which Abidjan sits and a stone’s throw away from the Palais Présidentiel. The building sits on the corner of Avenue Franchet dÉsperey and Boulevard Botreau Roussel.
The building was designed by Italian architect Rinaldo Olivieri. The building was constructed between 1968 and 1973. Rinaldo Olivieri wanted to create a building that would take the ideas of the African market and set them in an urban setting. The building was designed just after Ivory Coast became independent. Like many other African countries, Ivory Coast began a construction boom just after independence. These buildings were often brutalist buildings, for example, the KICC in Nairobi.
The buildings main construction material is concrete. The building can be dissected into three design parts. The pyramid part is the main retail area where the market stalls are placed, the second is the large closed off pillar with the stairs. This pillar has almost no windows and is the main region where vertical transportation happens via stairs. The last part is a large block at the top of the pyramid. It has more windows that give a view of the bustling city below. One moves through the building in one sweeping motion along the stalls. On the upper levels, there are luxury apartments, the lower floors are reserved for commerce.
The building has a total height of 62 meters with 15 floors above ground and 3 under. The building is one of the most important buildings in Ivory Coast and arguably Africa. Sadly the building has not been a great success. The building was all by deserted in the 1990’s and the design has been criticised for its inefficient ratio between rentable space to circulation. The building has struggled to make a profit and has had relatively high maintenance costs. The building has failed to create an African market in an urban setting but remains an influential building in Africans architectural history.
In 2011 the government set up a plan to renovate the building in a PPP initiative to breath new life into the building and try and right some of the wrongs of the original design. The renovation is estimated to cost 18 billion CFA francs. The aim of the initiative is to make the building a tourist attraction and make it profitable.