The first capital of Côte d’Ivoire, the Historic Town of Grand-Bassam, is an example of a late 19th- and early 20th-century colonial town planned with quarters specializing in commerce, administration, housing for Europeans and for Africans. The site includes the N’zima African fishing village alongside colonial architecture marked by functional houses with galleries, verandas and gardens. Grand-Bassam was the most important port, economic and judicial centre of Côte d’Ivoire. It bears witness to the complex social relations between Europeans and Africans, and to the subsequent independence movement. As a vibrant centre of the territory of French trading posts in the Gulf of Guinea, which preceded modern Côte d’Ivoire, it attracted populations from all parts of Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean Levant.
Historic town of Grand-Bassam
© Ministère de la Culture et de la Francophonie du Côte d'Ivoire
Outstanding Universal Value
The historic town of Grand-Bassam is an example of a colonial town built at the end of the 19th century and during the early 20th century. It follows a planning concept based on the specialisation of quarters for commerce, administration, housing for Europeans and housing for Africans. It embodies, on the one hand, colonial architecture and town planning, based on the principles of functionalism and hygiene of the time, and adapted to climatic conditions, and, on the other hand, an village N’zima which demonstrates the permanency of indigenous cultures. Grand-Bassam was the first colonial capital, and the most important port, economic centre and legal centre of Côte d’Ivoire; it bears witness to the complex social relations between Europeans and Africans, and then to the popular movement in favour of independence.
Criterion (iii): Grand-Bassam bears witness, through its well preserved urban organisation, to an important cultural tradition linked to its role as a colonial capital, an administrative centre for the former AOF (Afrique occidentale française) and a regional commercial hub. From the 1880s to the 1950s, the town brought together various African, European and Middle Eastern populations. Cohabitation between them was harmonious but at the same time conflictual.
Criterion (iv): Grand-Bassam constitutes an outstanding example of rational colonial town planning, with its specialised quarters in an overall urban network in which vegetation has an important role. The colonial architecture is characterised by a sober and functional style, using principles of hygiene adapted to a tropical location. The organisation of the vernacular house in the N'zima village echoes this approach, expressing the permanency of indigenous values.
The integrity of the urban fabric is generally good. The property includes sufficiently large ensembles of characteristic built structures to enable them to be well understood. However, the architectural integrity of the buildings is under threat in many cases, because of abandonment and lack of maintenance. The integrity of the urban landscape might be under threat from the pressure for property linked to beach tourism.
The authenticity of the urban fabric has been generally conserved, enabling satisfactory expression of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. While some buildings, which are generally the public ones, have been acceptably restored and reused, the architectural integrity of a large number of buildings is often mediocre or poor, and their authenticity has in some cases been adversely affected by alterations which are not in keeping with the original design.
Protection and management requirements
Protection of the property and its management system are appropriate and their implementation is under way, including through the establishment of the Cultural Heritage Centre and through the overarching Building Permits Commission. However, it is essential to confirm the suspensive effect of decisions of the latter and strengthen the human and financial resources dedicated to the conservation of the property. The boundaries of the unified buffer zone should be extended around the Petit Paris embankment and the lighthouse as in the original nomination dossier.