Website Category: European Colonial Influences
Area: approx 1.1 km2
Criteria: (iii) cultural traditions (iv) icon of an era
Location and Values: Grand Bassam was the French colonial capital of Cote d’Ivoire, established at the mouth of the Comoe River estuary on the Gulf of Guinea. It was an important trading post and port, as well as being an administrative and judicial centre.
The world heritage site covers the historic colonial part of town and an adjacent African fishing village lying on a sandy peninsula separating a coastal lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean. The colonial settlement was established between the 1880s and 1950s and its buildings reflect typical French colonial architecture of that era. It is a relatively small area, but its layout reflects the planning concepts of the time, with discrete areas for administration and commerce, and separate residential areas for Europeans and Africans.
Most of the prominent colonial-era public buildings were constructed between 1894 and 1920, during the town’s short-lived ‘golden era’. The town’s prominence soon waned after the French built a new wharf at Abidjan in 1931, and the new commercial capital grew in importance. Grand Bassam became a sleepy backwater, and in the years since independence many of its colonial public buildings have been occupied by squatters and allowed to decay. A handful of these buildings (notably the Post Office and Town Hall) have been restored, but ‘the architectural integrity of the buildings is under threat in many cases because of abandonment and lack of maintenance’ (as the UNESCO website records!)
Slideshow of the historic town of Grand-Bassam: The slideshow focuses on a selection of the French colonial buildings, sadly dilapidated in many cases, occupied by squatters and sometimes enveloped in exuberant vegetation. The pictures show some of the typical architectural features of these public, commercial and residential buildings including their colonnaded porticoes, shuttered windows, wide verandas and balconies. The sandy beach on the Atlantic seaboard, the main attraction for contemporary visitors to the town, is also shown. Various photographers contributed material through flickr.com, each photo being individually attributed by way of a watermark.
Slideshow of Historic Town Of Grand-Bassam:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the historic town of Grand Bassam on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing. The window opens onto the French colonial administrative part of the town, centred on the overgrown ruins of the Palais de Justice (Law Courts). The images are a little hazy, but by panning to the east, the fishing village of N’Zima can be located at the end of the peninsula, and across the lagoon to the north, the bulk of the modern township.
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details