Uganda’s architectural history is as old and varied as its 56 tribes. According to Uganda Museum archives, Africans had their own architectural designs, although these were never documented until after the arrival of the colonialists.
Most popular were huts, which were often roofed with thatch, stemmed with trees and mud or clay.
Modern documented designs were ushered in by Whites and a few Ugandans who got a chance to travel and attained architectural education in countries such as Russia.
Thatched houses were designed by natives. The styles varied according to regions and tribes. In the west, people from Toro subregion designed huts with thatch covering the entire structure from the roof to the ground.
Bunyoro, Kigezi and Hima had similar designs. In Ankole, the hut designs had thatch hanging in the middle of the walls, where the wall stem could easily be seen.
In the eastern region, in Busoga, Bugisu, among the Jopadhola and Iteso, thatched houses had poles around them to support the roof, while in the north, among the Acholi, Alur, Madi and others, the thatched houses were a bit taller than those in other regions, but without thatch covering any part of the stem.
In the central region, Buruuli and Buganda, the huts were quite wide, but shorter than those in the other regions, with beautifi ed entrances and verandahs.
All the houses had well-designed doorways, depending on the interests of owners, plus partitioned rooms inside.
Some of the huts had windows and ventilation systems, and most had their fl oors smoothened with cow dung. Illustrations can be found at the Uganda Museum.
Thatch in modern times Thatch structures have evolved with modern design and treated materials and roofi ng styles have been mainly adopted by proprietors of entertainment venues.
Some of them are constructed as gazebos — open structures used as resting shelters, with their walls half-built and concrete or poles holding up the roof.
Others have thatched roofs with step designs, as modernism apparently ushered in the use of bricks as opposed to the ancient style of mud and reeds. Iron sheets of all types are also applied while roofing.
The modified designs are, however, expensive both to construct and to maintain because the materials used are no longer easily available and the architects with those specifi c skills are expensive to hire.
Studies have been done and some people have acquired doctorates (PhDs) in the science of grass thatched houses, especially at Makerere University, under the history of traditional architecture in Uganda. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS STORY