The history of Germany in the 12th and 13th centuries is one of constant expansion. The colonizing movement went across the river borders into the marshlands and forests from Holstein to Silesia. Almost all the German society took part in it. Agricultural conditions in the older German lands seemed to have preferred large-scale emigration. With the rising population, there was a diminishing fund of spare land to be developed in western Germany. Excessive subdivision of holdings broke tenants and did not suit the interests of their nobles. They found a better return for their labour in the colonial east gaining personal freedom, secure and hereditary leasehold tenures at moderate rents, and, in many places resigning from services. They found to open up routes for communications and trade. Older regions of the realm had not only peasants but also men of the knightly class as a standby—soldiers who needed an estate of land and lordships to uphold their rank. They could be gained beyond the Elbe under the leadership of princes. 

Colonial Architecture in Germany - Sheet1
Otto von Bismark_©

For decades Germany consisted of numerous separate states and was united by German politician Otto Van Bismark. He managed to unite these states after the war with Denmark, Austria and France. He was ambitious and laid a foundation for the German colonial empire. Around 1880, the papers wrote about Germany acquiring colonies. The prime aim was that the German culture was to be spread in a world-class dominated by bigger empires. In 1882, Deutscher Colonial Verein, the German colonial society, was established to promote these which later on became popular by the day. Ironically, Bismark himself always claimed that he was not a colonial person, yet switched his opinion and in his argument stated that Germany demeans to running a colony and will be expensive to run yet Bismark changed his opinion due to pragmatic reasons. 

Otto von Bismark would legitimize his rule. Bismarck served as the first chancellor of the German empire until 1890. The Germans laid heavy taxes on the local Arabs and Swahili population and soon had a rebellion and the German government took over. Things for the locals were not approved. African men had to work on the farms most of the year and still had heavy taxes leading to another revolution.

German Colonial architecture

Architecture was recognized by German-speaking immigrants to America largely in the years from about 1680 to 1780. Most of the settlers first built a house of timber as a temporary home until they constructed lavish houses. The common characteristics of their permanent households included symmetry in the facades, gable roofs typically made of clay tiles or wooden shingles, stone walls, small casement windows later replaced by double-hung windows, and porches at the front of their houses. It was called a bank house if they were built on hillsides. Colonial architecture in Germany flourished in other countries such as Namibia, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania and Togo. 

Namibia is a country in Southern Africa that shares its borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east, South Africa to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The country, formerly known as South West Africa, used to be a German colony which later came under South African control in 1915. It gained complete independence recently, in the year 1990. Even though the South African command lasted longer than the German colonization, the offcuts of their occupation are strong in the country. They are visible all around Namibia. Many street names are in German. More than 30% of their population speaks German. 

Colonial Architecture in Germany - Sheet2
Die Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht_State House _©

Colonial architecture from Germany is mostly found in some of the major cities and mainly focuses on German-influenced architecture. Lüderitz, Windhoek and Swakopmund are the cities where German colonial architecture exists. Namibia does not have complex structures and didn’t have materials such as timber and clay study bricks which are used in German colonial architecture. Therefore, the architects had to improvise on the structural designs due to the budget for the projects. Furthermore, the climate was hotter and had less rainfall than in Germany, hence the design and construction of the structures had to be accordingly. This resulted in the creation of architecture influenced by Wilheminian and Rundbogenstil styles. The main features of these styles are verandahs added to the structures and the shelter was cooler. This would protect the sun-dried mud bricks used for the construction of walls and also keep the room cool by providing ventilation. The style was more rustic in Namibia.

German colonial architecture in Cameroon 

European’s hospital, Cameroon_ ©,-Cameroon-,-c.1910.html

They had an interest in preserving architectural heritage as better as reusing space .The enhanced on artistic objects such as paintings and sculptures which were exhibited in museums. Trade agreements made it clear for German colonisation in Cameroon. Initially the Germans did not think of permanent recently settling due to racism. They took under consideration the functionalism rather than aesthetics of the constructions of the buildings. Most of the houses had straw roofs and were rectangular in shape in Cameroon. It had become rather challenging for the Germans due to climatic conditions. The European’s hospital is an example in Douala. It was initiated by Dr.Albert Phlen and was built in 1896. It consisted of 16 rooms and was much admired. The origin architecture of the building is respected. There was not many elements in the building. The architects looked at function over the form of the building and look at the need of having a health centre rather than achieving an aesthetic façade.


  • German colonial architecture (no date) The Free Dictionary. Farlex. Available at: (Accessed: December 17, 2022). 
  • Meanings and significance of colonial architecture in Douala, Cameroon (no date). Available at: (Accessed: December 19, 2022). 
  • Chatterjee, S. (2022) Architectural legacy of German colonialism in Namibia, Yoair Blog. Available at: (Accessed: December 20, 2022). 
  • (2019) YouTube. Available at: (Accessed: December 16, 2022).

Hello, this is Shazia Haris an aspiring architectural writer. Her passion for writing has led her to RTF. She is grateful to have made it here and is eager to kick-start a new path in writing. She looks forward to being a trailblazer.