Last month, the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, unveiled the design for a national cathedral that the government will build in Accra.
This is a huge deal.
It signals that the country is poised to consolidate the gains of decades of democracy. And the new interdenominational Christian cathedral will inspire ambitious civic architecture projects across the continent that harness the talents of Africa’s emerging artists.
Not everyone is cheering, though. Some West Africans have complained that the mixing of church and state is ill advised. They argue that it’s a worrisome case of official partisanship in a part of the world rived by religious conflicts.
Others say the money for the project should have instead been invested in schools, hospitals and infrastructure — stuff that, according to them, Africa really needs. They are right to point to these endemic problems; but they are wrong to connect them with the cathedral.
The cathedral is the first major project in Africa by the Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye, who was knighted last year for his services to his field. He is perhaps the most exciting architect in the world.
His reputation is built on his stunning designs for Rivington Place in London, the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, and, most spectacularly, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.
This Accra commission is not just a recognition by his homeland of Mr. Adjaye’s acclaim. It also signifies that Africa can build a major work by a leading architect at the top of his game.
This is a remarkable thing: Ghana will get to brag about a globally recognized architectural landmark.