Kinshasa, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa is a tourist destination marked by its cutting-edge lifestyle, nightlife, and beautiful scenic locations. Now, best described as an upcoming “African New York”, Kinshasa was once a part of Belgian Congo in the 20th century.
Along with being Africa’s third-largest urban area, Kinshasa is also the world’s largest French-speaking urban area with French being the official language in most fields and having a larger population than Paris.
Still, a developing city, Kinshasa offers architects insight into the role of architecture in a city’s progress – namely, how context plays a role in designing and raising nationalism in the residents.
1. Palais du Peuple, Kinshasa
Palais du Peuple, French for Palace of the People, is the seat of the National Assembly and Senate in Kinshasa. The structure inspired by the Great Hall of the People designed by Zhang Bo in Beijing was completed in 1979.
Although not open to the public, the Palace has witnessed important events in Kinshasa’s history – like, famed African rumba musician Tabu Ley Rochereau and former President Laurent Kabila laid in state here.
2. Académie des Beaux-Arts
The Académie des Beaux-Arts (formerly, École Saint-Luc à Gombe Matadi) is an art school, established by Belgian catholic missionary Marc Wallend, in 1943.
The school is integrated into the national technical university system and offers programs in metalworking, interior decorating, visual communications, sculpture, and painting. Visitors are witness to professors and students in action, and can also buy artworks.
3. Stade Des Martyrs, Kinshasa
The national stadium of the country and the third-largest stadium of Africa, Stade Des Martyrs has a capacity of 80,000. The stadium mainly hosts football matches and was renovated in 2008 to meet international standards.
The stadium was renamed Stade des Martyrs de la Pentecote, to honor the rebels who were hanged on the stadium background for defying the Mobutu Government.
4. Cathédrale Notre-Dame Du Congo
Cathédrale Notre-Dame Du Congo, French for The Our Lady of the Congo Cathedral is a Catholic church.
It was built when the country was still under the colonial rule of Belgium in 1947. The church follows the Roman or Latin rite and functions as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kinshasa.
5. Tour de l’échangeur (Limete Interchange tower)
Located at the entrance of the city, and often called the Eiffel Tower of Congo, the construction of the tower began under the reign of Mobutu in 1970 and was completed in 2011 under the presidential reign of Joseph Kabila.
Composed of four reinforced concrete columns that rise to 210 meters in height, the tower is placed on a sculptural base that opens on one side onto a 300-meter long viaduct which leads to the platform. At the base, there is a museum which is open every day in the morning.
6. Palais de la Nation (Palace of the Nation)
The Palais de la Nation is located on the banks of the Congo River, serving as the official residence of the Belgian governor-general, since being built and designed by Marcel Lambrichs in 1956.
After independence, it briefly served as the seat of the Congolese parliament which is now based in the Palais du Peuple. Currently, it acts as the official residence of the President.
7. Musée National de la République Démocratique du Congo (The National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo)
It is a museum of the cultural history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was opened to the public in 2019.
The building has been built in cooperation between DR Congo and the Republic of Korea and represents the largest cultural policy investment of South Korea in Central Africa.
8. Place De La Gare Centrale / The Boulevard du 30 Juin
Place De La Gare Centrale is a plaza located in the heart of the city, surrounded by various government offices. It is a perfect place to observe and analyze the city’s growth – since its independence.
The Boulevard du 30 Juin is the city’s main transport artery. It connects the southern area of La Gombe (Kinshasa’s political and business district) to the west.
9. Palais De Marbre, Kinshasa (The Marble Palace)
Designed by architect Fernand Tala-Ngai in the 1970s, it was initially intended to be a residence for the Director of the National Bank, only to be later usurped by Mobutu. On January 16, 2001, Laurent- Désiré Kabila, residing there, was assassinated.
Open to the public only on the 16th and 17th of January, the palace offers one of the best views of the city and is located in a park that has the shape of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
10. Kinshasa University
Kinshasa University is one of the major universities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was originally established by the Belgian colonists as Lovanium University, in response to the public grievances regarding the poor education system.
The university is located about 25 kilometers (16 mi) south of central Kinshasa.
11. Texaf Bilembo, Kinshasa
Texaf Bilembo is a non-government sponsored cultural center. It sports changing exhibits in its gallery, shows films, and hosts various cultural events. The organization aims at the proper propagation of the culture of the nation and promoting the agenda of progress.
It also has a gift shop and cafeteria.
12. Laurent Kabila’s Tomb, Kinshasa
Laurent Kabila was the third President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was assassinated in 2001. The tomb is constructed in his remembrance.
The tomb is a structure being held by four wrists that are in chains. Nearby, a North Korean make statue of Kabila stands. Many locals believe that the body is strikingly similar to that of Kim Jong II!
13. Symphonie des Arts
The Symphony of the Arts is a tropical garden, home to a few peacocks, flowers, small waterfalls, and works of art that make it a perfect strolling spot. For over 40 years, it has been a renowned gallery dedicated to Congolese artists whose works are available for sale in a permanent exhibition setting.
Its unique blend of art and nature, make it a must-visit spot.
14. Marché Central
The best part about visiting countries that are still developing is that architects get to observe and analyze vernacular spaces that help in enhancing a designer’s problem-solving skills. Visiting such settings aids in acquiring deep-rooted knowledge of comparisons and contrasts between various cultures.
Although it is the third-largest market in Central Africa, one must keep an eye on the notorious pickpockets!
15. Cimetiere de la Gombe, Kinshasa
One of the most important aspects of understanding a place’s culture is to understand its burial or cremation tradition.
The Cimetiere de la Gombe is one such cemetery that will provide a far broader scope of understanding about the life of the people in Kinshasa.
Unkempt and broken tombs in the cemetery are not symbolic of the nation’s developing state, but it’s evidence of the low frequency of family visits.