Escape to Lomé: Weekend in Togo

This (unfortunately, very short) adventure into this Francophone country was a beautiful experience, if only to consider the melange of urban design influencs from a Francophone African perspective.

State-of-the-art architecture in central Lomé.

In terms of urban design, the city of Lomé is so interesting in the ways it combines (or fails to combine) the traditional aspects of African architecture and urban design, the colonial-period French influences with the more modern perspectives on the African city. At the same time, the tension between these influences (particularly in the areas where these influences are ill-combined) has left much of the city to develop in a disjointed fashion – instead of a smooth, integrated combination of the old and the new (with an ongoing appreciation for the historic), some old spaces are left alone while newer architectural and urban developments are created alongside.

So this very short trip to this beautiful Togolese capital was an opportunity to relax, repose and practice my French, but it was also an opportunity to examine the city’s development from urban design and development perspective.

My first impression of Togo was created by the view of the beautiful public beach (see below), with a view that rivals the French ones I’ve been able to visit (in particular, I’m thinking of the Côte d’Azur, specifically Nice, France and Monaco). Lomé is situated on the coast of the country near the Ghana-Togo border, and the well-maintained beach provides a stunning view. The urban development in this part of the city is very similar to that of Nice, France. In both cities, coastal development is a key aspect of urban development: A long, wide boulevard separates the extensive spread of beach from the city’s bustling commercial area (including the Grand Marché). In both areas, the beach is a key area for recreation and arts and culture activities. In Nice, the beach is the site for evening soirees and parties and music events; similarly upon my arrival in Togo, a music concert was taking place with a growing audience at sunset.

Nice, France: The boulevard (names Palais des Anglais) separates bustling city activity from the public beaches in this coastal city in the south of France.
Lomé: First stop: The beach. No swimming though, since a nearby sewer empties directly into it. The beach is physically separated from the cityby a long, wide boulevard. On the other side of the boulevard is the bustling parts of the city,
including the huge market known as Grand Marché.
Traffic in Lomé is a mix of private cars, motorcycles (which are incredibly common) and taxis and buses.

During my trip, I kept an eye out for vestiges of French architecture. In general, much of it was a bit worn down, but some have been creatively adaptively reused for new purposes, in keeping with the city’s changing face of development. Below, a former house has been converted into a restaurant, now closed.

This remnant of the French colonial period has found a way to blend in with the local scenery that has developed around it.
The immigration of Chinese has lead to the emergence of Chinese-owned and operated
restaurants and shops like the one shown here.

Art is a central theme that I encountered in Lomé. The city’s museum, although small, is packed with artifacts and figures that pay homage to the country’s culture and art innovations.

The city’s museum is located in the convention center known as the Rally for the People (see photo below). Built just a decade ago, the convention center can hold more than 30,000. If you look closely, you can see how paintings dot the windows of the building’s main floor. When you look for it, art is everywhere, including at the side of the building, engraved on its walls.

The city museum is inside the convention center, known as Rally of the People.
When you look for it, art is everywhere. Outside of the Rally for the People building.

Beautiful historic art at the city’s museum. This figure dates back more than 200 years.

Across from the convention center, the 50th anniversary monument includes an inspirational
quote and sculpture of a woman.

The city also boasts a visually stunning 50th anniversary monument at the Place d’Independance (see photo above). Engraved in the side is the phrase (translated from French): “Proclamation of Togo’s independence, April 27, 1960. Work, Freedom, Patriotism.”