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  • Writer's pictureNigel Wakeham

Bintumani Hotel and Conference Centre, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Bintumani Hotel and Conference Centre, Freetown, Sierra Leone

One of my first jobs when I arrived in Sierra Leone in 1976 to work for Wright, Willis and Enthoven, Architects was to supervise the completion of the new Bintumani Hotel and Conference Centre at Aberdeen which had been largely designed by Michael Willis. 

At the time there were only three large hotels in Freetown: the Cape Sierra Hotel located at the end of Lumley Beach (designed and constructed by the Israelis in the 1960s); the Paramount Hotel in the centre of Freetown and the Brookfields Hotel and the Bintumani Hotel was supposed to cater for more tourists as well as for conferences.  It was completed in 1977.

The hotel sits on the top of a hill facing onto the Atlantic Ocean and Aberdeen Bay.  The site consisted of a large granite outcrop with a number of very large cotton trees most of which were retained.

The hotel was divided into a number of buildings.  The bedrooms (150 I think) were arranged in a number of independent units around a large central courtyard which was heavily planted.  The accommodation was on four floors, stepping down the hillside with open access verandas on the courtyard side and balconies to all rooms on the side facing the sea.  All rooms therefore had views of the sea.  Access from the entrance and other buildings was by a central covered link at second floor level (which was ground floor level in the entrance building) with staircases linking all floors to the covered link.

There were various other buildings including the entrance building, a large dining room and kitchen, a bar, conference rooms, meeting rooms, etc.  The roofs to these buildings were constructed using the Space Deck modular steel system (very popular at the time) consisting of inverted pyramids (half octahedrons) connected together which supported the profiled steel roof sheets and the ceilings.  These roofs did not require any internal support and were supported by round concrete columns at the corners.  The roofs worked very well but the only problem was how to enclose the deep roof structure at the outside.  As can be seen from the photos, this was done with profiled steel sheets following the sloping sides of the roof structure and was not very satisfactory.

At the rear of the entrance and dining room was a large terrace with views of the sea and a swimming pool and pool bar.  Unfortunately, a few years after the hotel was completed, another wing containing bedrooms was constructed (designed by the chief architect at PWD) which did not follow the original design of the bedroom blocks and which blocked the view of the sea from the terrace.  It was, and still is, a bit of an eyesore!

The hotel was funded by a local Lebanese businessman and constructed by one of the original Lebanese construction firms and all of the buildings were constructed to a very high standard.  Unfortunately the hotel was not well maintained and was eventually bought and renovated by a Chinese company.  This company left the bedroom wings much as they were (although they seem to have covered the balconies with ugly steel roof sheets; originally, they had timber pergolas) but have replanned many of the other buildings (losing the intricately patterned tiled floors that Michael was so proud of).  They also constructed a much large conference centre on an adjacent site.  When we visited the hotel seemed to be largely empty with only a few visitors sitting around the pool (and the pool bar was closed).  The bedroom buildings are however still looking good as is the courtyard around which they are situated.


Architecture in Developing Countries: A Resource

The design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health in rural areas of the developing world.

Nigel Wakeham is an architect who lived for 23 years in Southern and West Africa and the SW Pacific working on education, health and other projects. He has since worked for over 20 years as a consultant for national governments and agencies such as the World Bank, DFID, ADB and AfDB on the implementation of the construction components of education and health projects in many countries in the developing world.​

​The objective of this website will be to provide the benefit of more than 45 years of experience of working in developing countries to architects and other construction professionals involved in the design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health. It will provide reference material from the projects that Nigel has worked on and technical information on the design, construction and maintenance of educational and health facilities and other relevant topics and these will be added to from time to time.

I am happy to be contacted by anyone requiring further information on any of the projects or resources referred to in this website or by anyone wishing to discuss work possibilities.


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