Thus, the healing of body and soul, situated at the bottom and the top of the Tower, respectively, bracket the whole idea of the structure itself. Between ground floor and spire, the Tower offers a continuum between corporeal and mental matter. Architecturally, these two levels are connected by means of what the doctor refers to as an “ergonomic” flight of stairs, dangerously spiraling upward. The main function of the Tower is, thus, to turn the urban residents into better, more fully integrated human subjects. According to the doctor’s vision, therefore, the Tower will also function as a tourist destination, a place to visit, to retreat to, where people will be able to recover themselves before plunging back into the chaos of the surrounding city.
The Tower does many other things besides; in the doctor’s own words, his tower is an attempt to “illuminate the hole,” to transcend the bare life, the mere level of survival that the city imposes upon its inhabitants, and to turn it into something else. It is, for example, a perfect structure for the visual observation and control of life played out at ground level. The Tower is also a watchtower. It is a perfect vantage point to observe suspect movements and warn of imminent terrorist attacks in the city. Besides, thanks to an intricate antennae system that has not yet been installed, the Tower ‒ in its maker’s mind at least ‒ will also operate as an air-traffic control tower: if for some reason the infrastructure of Kinshasa’s international airport should fail, airplanes will be able to use the Tower as a beacon to make a safe landing. The Tower is also a solid safe haven, a Noah’s ark for Kinshasa’s inhabitants in case of a flood, for example, or the more unlikely event of a tsunami In fact, the Tower functions as an overall protective device against all forces of nature. In this way, it also “splits” the winds and storms during the rainy season and protects neighboring homes. The fresh breeze that constantly blows through the Tower’s many rooms also makes it a welcome retreat from the city’s heat. In the maker’s mind, therefore, the Tower proposes a strong ecological and sustainable alternative when compared to most of the other commercial and domestic buildings of the city. It engineers a greener way of life in the polluted environment of Kinshasa; ideally, the building will be powered by solar energy (one day the doctor hopes to cover the whole outside of the Tower and parts of the roof with solar panels). The protruding cement roofs of the structure are designed to “absorb” rainwater and “breathe” it back into the city’s smoggy atmosphere; parts of the rooftops themselves may be turned into gardens, where chickens and goats can graze.
In spite of the Tower’s phantasmagoric character and the moralist and religious (messianic and apocalyptic) notions that underpin it, and unhindered by infrastructural obstacles and shortcomings, the doctor’s discourse about his structure actually reworks many of the propositions made earlier by colonial modernist architects and urban planners. If, on a general level, the vertical topos of the mountain ‒ as the physical site of domination, control, and subjugation ‒ may be considered as colonialism’s basic geographic form (after all, Stanley Spencer’s first trading post was built on top of Leopold Hill ‒ currently Mont Ngaliema), colonial modernist architecture subsequently incorporated and translated this idea of the mountain into vertical statements. These gradually emerged in the urban landscape of the 1940s and 1950s; for example, the Forescom Tower, located in what is now Kinshasa’s downtown district of Gombe, became one of the early landmarks of Belgian colonial modernist urban architecture. Completed in 1946, other, ever more impressive high-rises with the tropical modernist signature followed but the Forescom Tower was Kinshasa’s first ten-story skyscraper and virtually the first of its kind in Central Africa As such, reportedly, it was a source of pride for colonizers and colonial subjects alike. For the former, it represented the success of the colonial enterprise, while for the latter it allowed them to dream of partaking in and integrating into a more global modernity. The building was the tangible proof that Léopoldville was well underway to become the first Poto moindo, the first “Black Europe.” The Forescom Tower pointing towards the sky signaled that it also pointed to the future; and because some of its features made it appear like a boat moored along the Congo River, it also seemed to promise to sail Léopoldville to the distant shores of other wider (and whiter) worlds beyond the horizon of the Congo River basin. The Forescom Tower, thus, gave form to new hopes, prospects, and possibilities. Materially it translated, and emblematically visualized colonialist ideologies of progress and modernity. Simultaneously, it should also be noted that the Forescom embodied the darker repressive side of colonialism, with its elaborate technologies of domination, control, and surveillance. Here as well, then, a towering building that is also a watchtower, the built extension of panoptical colonial Big Brother. As such, the figure of the tower ought also to forcefully remind us of the fact that the colonial urban landscape of Kinshasa largely came about as the result of an extremely intrusive history of (both physical and symbolic) violence and domination, marked by racial segregation, as well as by the processes of dispossession and relocation.