Bharmal Building
Zanzibar, Tanzania
The Bharmal Building is located in the Malindi Quarter of Stone Town, originally standing on the edge of the creek that divided Stone Town from Ng'ambo. Today, the building stands on Creek Road, after the creek was gradually reclaimed between 1915 and 1960. It was originally built as the residence of a wealthy Indian merchant, Mohamedbhai Sheikh Hoosenbhai, then housed offices of the British administration, and today serves as the offices of the Zanzibar Municipal Council (ZMC).

Construction on the J.H. Sinclair-designed building began in 1922 and was completed in 1923, with the 1922 foundation date included in 2 windows. Though accounts vary, records show that the building was occupied by members of the owner's family soon after completion, but was rented to the British Colonial Administration Officers by the later part of the decade. The building, like many of those in Stone Town owned by wealthy Indian merchants, is of an Indian style with Arab and European influences, including Romanesque and Gothic elements. It is generally considered one of J.H. Sinclair's less-significant works and is possibly his first residential construction.

The two-story building is constructed of massive stone rubble walls, and was one of the few buildings in Stone Town originally roofed with clay tiles. It is whitewashed, likely its original color. The plan is a roughly symmetrical W-shape, with two wings coming off of a central entry. Nearly all of the decoration is concentrated on the front facade, including stucco ornament on the ground and first levels, with only windows for ornament on the other faces. There is a pavilion at the top center of the front facade, giving the building a palatial appearance, and matching gables on both ends of the building. The entrance door is an Indian-style Zanzibar door, with a Quranic inscription on the lintel above.

Before the building was partitioned for municipal use, the ground floor had 11 rooms, the largest of which now houses the municipal meeting chamber. The first floor is accessible via a wooden staircase that leads to a verandah overlooking a courtyard. The intricate, curved balustrades of the verandah, with Romanesque elements, are one of the notable architectural elements of the building. The first floor is also of interest for its locally-made mosaic tiles, made from broken chinaware and shaped into floral patterns and butterfly decorations.

Sources:

Amour, Khalfan. Assessment Report: Consultancy for renovation of Zanzibar Municipal Council Building & Saateni Workshop. Zanzibar: Millennium Engineering and Construction Contractors Inc.: 2012. http://meccltd.com/Reports/Assessment_Report_Final.pdf [accessed October 20, 2014]

Sinclair, Dean. "Field Note: "Memorials More Enduring than Bronze": J. H. Sinclair and the Making of Zanzibar Stone Town." African Geographical Review 28, (March 2009): 71-97.
Location
Zanzibar, Tanzania
Images & Videos
Associated Names
Events
1922-1923/1340-1341 AH
Dimensions
area: 450m² when originally built
Variant Names
Bharmal Building
Zanzibar Municipal Council Building
Building Usages
municipal building
government
private residence
residential
Materials/Techniques
rubble
stone