tapping Ghana: Sua na Gro(w) Community Initiative
Lecture delivered by Juliet Sakyi-Ansah as part of the Inclusive Design Network Lecture Series at UWE Architecture Society
Community Revamp project is an outreach project to improve selected community spaces with the users of those spaces. The Architects’ Project started its first revamp project at Dzorwulu Junior High School, Accra. It began with a design workshop involving 36 pupils from the school who volunteered to take part. The workshop was facilitated by recent graduates and final-year architecture students from Central University and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
We aim to take the project to its next stage by collating the workshop output for review and development. We would like to invite those interested in collaborating on this project to run a live project with the school.
In generating solutions to problems what processes do we adopt? Do you sketch, build a model, or go straight to the computer to do both at the same time, using a tool such as SketchUp?
Our Daily Sketch is an on-going project by #tap. It is a collection of the visual thought processes behind the work of practitioners and students in architecture and design.
Representation of the architecture we have in Ghana in contemporary media is limited. Try searching on the internet for images or visual representations of architecture, places, spaces, etc. from Ghana and you might be left feeling disappointed with the search results. Particularly if you are interested in architecture in relation to context like we are. What your search will return to you are pictures from Cape Coast, Elmina, and those of generic African villages – the mud huts. But that is not all we have in Ghana.
We have wide typology of buildings. Some have gone into derelict and others are still habitable though not in their best conditions. We also have some pretty decent new-builds springing up – some still on paper and others yet to be realised. From the use of materials to spatial compositions and advancement in technology, there are places and spaces that have been created in their local context within contemporary situations worth cataloguing. #tap a place or space attempts to do just that: to catalogue our places and spaces on contemporary social media platforms using the hashtag #tapaplaceorspace.
Architects and actors in the building industry have the power to influence a more sustainable urban and rural environment (economic, social and environmental). Does development in Ghana mean sourcing everything from China, Italy or Turkey in order to meet global standards? To the point where we need to source the skills, techniques and materials from abroad? Can we sustain this approach? And what happens to our local resources in this scenario?
The Architects’ Project opened up a dialogue between actors of the built environment, including policy makers (government agencies), practitioners (architects, engineers, contractors, etc) and developers (private and public sector developers), to identify an approach towards sustainable development in the building industry. As a research project, we will gain, exchange and disseminate knowledge through conferences, publications and other formats to make the practical application of local resources more accessible from the very begin of the building process.
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.