Preface
This is a story told largely through four buildings as they existed in early 2012.
Each was a landmark in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. When the long de-
cade of fighting ended in this part of West Africa in 2003, all four lay in ruins.
The oldest, the E. J. Roye Building, was for many years the most prominent
built form in the city. From the early 1960s it was the headquarters of the True
Whig Party, a high modernist testament to Liberia’s history of one- party rule.
During the 2003 siege of Monrovia, the forces of then president Charles Tay-
lor posted gunmen throughout the building’s eight floors. From there they
sought to prevent rebel forces from crossing the bridge into the city center.
Two of the buildings were brutalist constructions, massive concrete edi-
fices intended to house government ministries and services. The Ministry of
Defense and the Liberia Broadcasting System were both commissioned in
the 1980s by Samuel Doe, the young military commander whose presidency
ended 133 years of rule by the nation’s Americo- Liberian minority. During
and after the war both buildings were home to hundreds of refugees, inter-
nally displaced people, and ex- combatants from the various fighting factions.
The final structure is a five- star hotel, the Hotel Africa. Its remains sit on
a beach at the outskirts of the city. Liberian elites, expatriate relief and devel-
opment workers, and a cosmopolitan class of financiers and traffickers once
swam in the hotel’s Africa- shaped pool and gambled in its large casino. As
rebel forces advanced on the capital in the final clashes of the Mano River war,
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