Archibots: Solarbot


Solarbot is one of five main sketch design outcomes from the three-way collaborative workshop between Agbogbloshie Makersapce Platform, MESH and The Architects’ Project. ARCHIBOTS: Remaking Agbogbloshie workshop was about prototyping architecture robots for Agbogbloshie, rehabilitating the environment, terraform the electronic landscape and exploring the e-waste ecosystem as a future site for advanced digital fabrication.

From the collaboration, the workshop was set in the contexts below:

Agbogbloshie – every year, tons of electronic waste arrives on the shores of Ghana. A huge proportion of this deluge of e-waste flows through Agbogbloshie, where a vibrant community of e-waste workers and makers reuse, recycle and upcycle end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment. However, some of the crude methods used for dismantling e-waste and processing scrap (such as burning wires and cords to recover the copper) are highly polluting: they negatively impact the health of e-waste workers and have led to Agbogbloshie’s notorious position as “the most polluted place on Earth” for 2013, according to Green Cross Switzerland and the nonprofit Blacksmith Institute (USA).

Architecture – usually when most people think about (the practice of) “architecture”, they think about high-end residences or large-scale projects. In Africa, these are typically the only kind of construction projects (along with smaller interventions by the government and NGOs) that have large enough budgets to pay the professional service fees of architects. This leaves the majority of workers and construction works on the continent, which occur in what social scientists call the “informal sector”, outside the design domain of architects, or the scope of formal architecture. The point of departure for this workshop is to propose that this default strategy for Africa’s built environment misses the point. If to date architecture has had limited success in re-configuring the African terrain, perhaps it is time to invert the approach: try to introduce innovation at the bottom, and let it spread.

The Architects’ Project aims to develop the concept of Solarbot as a design project under the tap:Reach programme. The design will be carried out through a participatory process with a design team from the #tap network. The refined design will be used in fund-sourcing initiatives with the goal to build a prototype to be tested in the Agbogbloshie.