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Oblique Histories: Nigerian Indigenous Architecture With and Against Zbigniew Dmochowski

April 11 at 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

The impulse to decolonize architectural history often leads to a double bind. The critique of colonial epistemologies is accompanied by a revalorization of the colonial archives, methods, and experiences as indispensable sources for the understanding of architectural modernities. This symposium proposes a different approach. It traces the oblique trajectories of actors moving between what usually counts as the “peripheries” of the West. It focuses on the comprehensive study of Indigenous (“traditional”) architecture in Nigeria, carried out between the 1950s and the 1970s by a Nigerian-Polish team led by Zbigniew Dmochowski (1903-82): architect, historian, and the first director of the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture at Jos, Nigeria.

Dmochowski’s surveys were based on research methods which he developed in the context of the interwar “internal colonization” of the Eastern European borderlands. Symposium participants will question his argument about the applicability of these methods for the decolonization of architecture in Nigeria. Speakers will debate how Nigerian educators, architects, and scholars have appropriated Dmochowski’s work against the paradigms of modernist architecture and nation-building that he advocated. In this way, the seminar will foreground differing perspectives on colonialism while undermining the epistemic authority of the former colonial metropoles.

This symposium is supported by the African Heritage and Humanities Initiative (AHHI) Collaborative Faculty Seed Grant from the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Copernicus Center for Polish Studies, and the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia at the University of Michigan.


  • 2:00-2:05 pm: Welcome
  • 2:05-2:15 pm: Introduction: Oblique Histories, Łukasz Stanek, University of Michigan
  • 2:15-2:35 pm: Civilization, Colonialism, and the Built Environment in Interwar Poland’s Eastern Borderlands, Kathryn Ciancia, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 2:35-2:55 pm: The Unsaid: Performative Architectural History & the Limits of Certain Methods, Adedoyin Teriba, Dartmouth College
  • 2:55-3:15 pm: Demystifying Dmochowski: Found Knowledge and Indigenous Research Strategies, Warebi Brisibe, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
  • 3:15-4:00 pm: Discussion


Adedoyin Teriba is an Assistant Professor of modern and contemporary architecture & urbanism at Dartmouth College, specializing in modern and contemporary architecture & urbanism, especially of West Africa and its diasporas. His teaching explores the uncanny nature of architecture, and how it embodies place, and identities. His most significant publications are “Architecture,” in The Interwar World (London: Routledge, 2024) and “Style, Race and Architecture of a Mosque of the Òyìnbó Dúdú (White Black) in Lagos Colony, 1894,” in Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).

Kathryn Ciancia is Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of On Civilization’s Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World (Oxford University Press, 2020). She has also published articles in the Journal of Modern History and Slavic Review and in several edited volumes. She is currently working on a second book, Sites of Sovereignty: Law, Citizenship, and Lives on the Margins in Poland’s Long World War II, which traces how the Polish government-in-exile used legal mechanisms to maintain the perception of sovereignty in the absence of a territorial state.

Warebi Gabriel Brisibe is a registered Architect, a Researcher and a Professor at the Rivers State University, School of Architecture. He obtained a PhD in Architecture from Newcastle University, United Kingdom in 2011, where he focused on the Dynamics of Change in the vernacular architecture of migrant fishing tribes in Nigeria and Cameroon. His research interests are in African vernacular and heritage buildings, colonial and post-colonial studies and archival studies in architecture. He received grants from the Canadian Centre for Architecture  and the Gerda Henkel Stiftung.

Łukasz Stanek is Professor of Architectural History at A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. Stanek authored Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory (Minnesota, 2011) and Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War (Princeton, 2020). Stanek taught at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the University of Manchester (UK), and held guest professorships at Harvard University (USA) and the University of Ghana (Ghana).



April 11
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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A. Alfred Taubman Wing Commons
2000 Bonisteel Blvd
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 United States
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