Conference Report: Colonial and Postcolonial Landscapes: Architecture Cities Infrastructure 16th– 18thJanuary, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon

Text and Photographs by Ola Uduku, Manchester School of Architecture.

This conference took place at the Gulbenkian institute from Wednesday 16th– Friday 18thJanuary. Its central focus was on having its audience explore research findings and aspects of post-colonial architecture and landscapes specifically from an infrastructure perspective in Africa with a primary focus on the Lusaphone African countries of Mozambique and Angola. Sessions however covered a wide range of topics such as the Chinese involvement in building projects in Africa and how to engage in transnational projects from a postcolonial perspective.

The Gulbenkian Institute, Lisbon

The Gulbenkian Institute, Lisbon

The Gulbenkian Institute was a good setting for the event as Lisbon in winter was best encountered from the urban oasis of the institute in its urban landscape setting. The plenary session on the Wednesday afternoon introduced delegates to the themes of the conference and ended with a lecture given by Helder Pereira, a young Angolan architect who was able to give his perspective on Angolan architectural history and the challenges of architectural practice in contemporary Luanda. He felt particularly exercised with the building industry and landscape in Angola today, but was clear that he was happy to work and contribute his skills to the new Angola in his capacity as a private individual with his own practice.

Helder Pereira at plenary session

Helder Pereira at plenary session

On the first full conference day the opening keynote session was given by Johan Lagae,  (University of Ghent)  who emphasised the need to join up and contextualise the research being done into the PWD archives of Angola, Mozambique and a few other former Portuguese possessions or territories. He focused on the non-completed railway network that would have connected Luanda with Lorenco Marques (now Maputo) and the evolution and execution – successfully or otherwise of other communication projects, and the need to collaboratively examine the histories. A honorary award was also given to the architect Fernao Simoes de Carvalho who had been instrumental to designing a number of buildings and plans in Maputo and across Mozambique.

The parallel sessions which followed covered a number of themes. The author contributed to the session titled “The Transnational Live Project: Critical Reflections on the ethics, politics and pedagogies of collaboration between the global North and the global South”, with Baerbel Muller, (University of Vienna)  the Architects Sans Frontiers representative for Portugal, and one other contributor.

The panel was chaired by John Bennett and Peter Russell, and we concluded that it was possible but difficult to challenge the stereotypical student and institutional engagement and view of the Live project, and that this was an area which needed further exploration but that a radical change to the site project was required. The titles of other parallel sessions in the 1400 – 1600 time slot on day 1 included; Colonial Spatiality in African Sahara Regions, chaired by Samia Henni, and DeConstructing the Right to the City: focusing on Portuguese speaking countries.

In the second parallel session, themes included, Interrupted Utopia: Landscapes of Modern Collective Housing in former European (Socialist) Countries, Spaces in America Current efforts towards a non-Eurocentric theory, projecting Power and further sessions on Planned Violence and Deconstructing the Right to the City. The collective Housing session involved papers describing housing in Yugoslavia and how some of the precast design systems were adapted and designed for socialist countries including Angola due to the cold war connection with the post-colonial political party UNITA, the ensuing independence war meant that only two of these projects were built although countries such as Cuba had more connections to these systems.

We then were taken that to view the colonial archives and an exhibition of the infrastructure in the Belem district of the city, titled “Colonizing Africa”, were we had a drinks reception. Amongst the exhibited PWD photographs of bridges and public housing projects were also busts of Portugal’s unreconstructed neo colonial past.

Paul Jenkins Presentation

The second full day of the conference began with a plenary session, where Paul Jenkins, (Wits University) gave an illuminating lecture on hard and soft infrastructure development focusing in Mozambique. He was able to trace the development of hard infrastructure projects from power supply to railway lines and then focused on road networks. He posited that the hard physical infrastructure need a soft (maintenance, services and planning) infrastructure approach to be successful. By taking a contemporary viewpoint he was able to demonstrate that new development partners, in this case the Chinese, and post revolutionary governments are yet to address the problem of having soft infrastructure packages in pace, to the detriment of current infrastructure being built in postcolonial cities like Maputo, with the Matende bridge and new ring road being case studies to support this theory. Paul pointed out that these projects as in the colonial times benefit investors and middle classes and rarely the masses who often have to ‘pay’ for development.

Tribute Lecture and award made to architect Jose Forjaz

Tribute Lecture and award made to architect Jose Forjaz

The session ended with further summaries of research projects being carried out using the newly catalogued archive sources, and then an honorary citation and award was given to the architect Jose Forjaz for the work he had done for Mozambique from the early revolutionary period to the present day.

The final parallel sessions in the afternoon focused again on a range of themes, including Single and collective housing in a modern laboratory in colonial territories, Infrastructural development in European Portuguese territories in the late colonial period, peripheral infrastructure in late colonial cities, and materiality and mobility in colonial landscapes. I attended the China in African, Latin American and Caribbean territories: examining spatial transformations around diplomacy and economic aid panel. Two papers gave illuminating accounts of the history of Chinese building aid in Africa from the 1960s to the present day. They both concluded that this involvement has now been historic, and despite having its tensions they are set to continue as China’s political relations and economic influence on the continent continues.

The last parallel session had a second panel on materiality and mobility, urban legacies, globalised regionalism, population spatialisation and control, and the panel I attended titled Beyond Colonialism: Afro-Modernist Agents and Tectonics as an expression Cultural Independence. The panel was set up to have younger conference delegates discuss their encounters with post-modern architectural images and landscapes in Europe (Belgium) and in Africa (Mozambique) and how todays tensions of identity and race are encountered by the public. The panel paper givers consensus was that this was still a problem in many European cities, whilst in Africa, the post-colonial city has not changed or adequately dealt with post colonial monuments of the past. Unfortunately there was no time to have the proposed debate about this.

The final panel session was in Portuguese and was unfortunately not translated so only a few of the conference delegates were able to participate in the session. We were told by those who were Portuguese-speaking, that some divisive views were aired relating to whether colonialization in Lusaphone Africa was a success. We did have a successful dinner to conclude the conference.

The conference was very focused, as was to be expected on issues related to Lusaphone Africa, but it did attract a wide range of delegates from as far afield as Brazil, China and Serbia. Its pre-occupation with discussing the material now available from its African colonial archives was welcome although most delegates, as international contributors to panel discussions encouraged the organisers to engage more with universities and researchers in Lusaphone Africa to “make sense” of the archival material now available and also to set up collaborative research projects in the same vein.

The exhibition Lisbon-Baghdad, co-curated by Ricardo Agarez, a conference delegate was also on show at the Gulbenkian Art Gallery during the conference. This showed the Gulbenkian links with modernist architecture and planning in Iraq from the late 1950s to 1960s.

 

 

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Conference Report: A World History of Architecture

The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

November 2-4, 2018

Eliana Abu-Hamdi Murchie: emurchie@mit.edu

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A World History of Architecture, a small but mighty conference organized by Murray Fraser took place at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, November 2-4, 2018. Over two days, and only eight sessions, Fraser was able to curate a cumulative and rigorous series of presentations that tousled with all facets of teaching global architectural history to the undergraduate and graduate audience. The conference focused on the term “global” in two ways. The first was as a geographic lens, a method that leaned towards the increased inclusion of previously ill-studied parts of the world into the architectural survey. The second was an intellectual engagement with the instruction of global architectural history, and an analysis of its growing interdisciplinarity with neighboring fields of study. The aim of these methods of engagement was explicitly to study and inform on the future direction of global architectural history in universities.

The morning session on day one, The Expanded Field, had Mark Jarzombek tangling with the concept of tradition, a theme that can be in one sense totalizing of all that is non-modern, but in another, a useful/clever label used to project value and meaning onto art and architectural objects. The presentation intended to make clear a much needed separation between the term traditional – so often a synonym for the vernacular – and the meaning of global history.

 Subsequent sessions were based on the themes of:

Global Domesticity

Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Beyond

Architectural History and Design Research

Informalities, Identities and Subjectivities

Culture and Architectural History

Architectural History as Pedagogy

 

Evening sessions focused on a discussion of the architectural object on the first day, and closed with an ambitious debate of the future of architectural education on the second. Throughout, the group of global scholars shared the pedagogical challenges of teaching in architectural history in their home institutions, in hope that together, they could begin to envision a way for the discipline to transcend beyond its seemingly fixed limits. David Leatherbarrow, in his presentation on Architectural History as Pedagogy transformed architectural survey into a study of architectural details, with intense focus on the various elements that compose the architectural object, rather than a rote evaluation of the whole. In this way architectural education takes pause, ensures that the students absorb and evaluate, not just commit the basic facts of architectural history to memory. Students thus are able to engage emotionally with their object of study, connect with the built environment around them, and, most importantly, hone their critical analysis skills.

 

 

 

A World of Architectural History is the 4th annual conference of the Architectural Research in Europe Network Association (ARENA).

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The conference aims to critique and celebrate the latest global advances within architectural history over the last few decades, by focusing upon the word ‘global’ in two senses: 

  • Geographically – referring to the increasing inclusion of all parts of the world in more complex and multiple discourses of architectural history
  • Intellectually – the ongoing expansion of architectural history into other academic subjects, plus the reception of ideas/themes from those subjects

Recognition will be given to a more inclusive approach to architectural history that seeks to incorporate the histories of all countries/regions, and to the significant contributions now being made through interdisciplinary links with other subjects. As such, the conference will represent the forefront of the field internationally and discuss where architectural history ought to head in the future.

Conference presenters will include those from a wide range of subject areas within The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and leading figures in architectural history across the world. Both invited speakers and those selected via an open call will contribute their papers.

Conference themes

Eight thematic areas will be presented over the two days of the conference, with these themes also framing the call for papers:

  • Culture and Architectural History
  • Architectural History and Design Research
  • The Expanded Field
  • Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Beyond
  • History, Environment and Technology
  • Architectural History as Pedagogy
  • Global Domesticity
  • Informalities, Identities and Subjectivities

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/events/2018/nov/world-architectural-history-conference

 

 

 

Escaping Nazi persecution, Otto Koenigsberger moved to India, where he set up the Hindustan Housing Factory, before it all went wrong.

This article first appeared on Scroll.in

The German architect who led independent India’s first attempt at prefabricated housing

Jawaharlal Nehru, Otto Koenigsberger, Amrit Kaur and unknown others visit the Housing Factory, 1950. | Courtesy: Koenigsberger family

The refugee crisis that followed the division of India and Pakistan in August 1947 intensified the already dire housing situation in Indian cities. In Delhi, where the population had almost doubled over the previous decade, causing a severe housing shortage, some 500,000 refugees sought shelter. As well as camps outside the city, Delhi’s verandahs, gardens and pavements were filled with displaced people while communal violence raged in the streets.

The “noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell” that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned building in his Independence Day speech must have seemed a pipedream to Delhi’s homeless. Nonetheless, the central government committed to developing housing solutions that would provide dignified, sustainable, low-cost shelter to help counter the refugee crisis.

Responsible for leading this project was Otto Koenigsberger, Director of Housing in the Ministry of Health. Koenigsberger, who was born in 1908 in Berlin, Germany, had been working in exile in India since 1939. Unable to continue his work as an architect in Berlin due to Nazi persecution, Koenigsberger – who was of Jewish background – had migrated to Bangalore, where he held the position of Government Architect and Town Planner in the erstwhile princely state of Mysore for nine years.

Otto Koenigsberger at his desk in Delhi, 1950.
Otto Koenigsberger at his desk in Delhi, 1950.

In addition to his extensive government work in Mysore, he built up a private practice, working on large-scale urban planning projects such as the Jamshedpur Development Plan for Tata & Sons, or the master plan for Bhubaneswar, the new capital of Orissa. Koenigsberger was also a founding editor of MARG magazine. Before being called to Delhi to work with the central government, Koenigsberger had become a prominent figure in India’s evolving architectural landscape and had established a reputation as a town planner.

Throughout his time in India, he had also displayed enthusiasm and ambition for developing low-cost, prefabricated housing. Arguing that mass production was particularly suited to India because of the “simpler” housing needs of the Indian worker’s family, Koenigsberger designed the Tata House for Jamshedpur.

Built on a light steel framework, with walls of precast aerated concrete blocks and a barrel-vault roof of the same material, the component parts could be transported by lorry and assembled on site. In Mysore, too, Koenigsberger was involved in the development of a mass-manufacture housing scheme initiated by Bangalore industrialists and a British engineering firm to meet the severe housing lack in urban areas. Like many other prefab schemes that were initiated in the 1940s, however, these projects remained on the drawing board.

Good idea on paper

It is not surprising that when Koenigsberger was invited to advise the government of India on the chronic housing shortage, he recommended prefabricated housing as a viable solution. From October 1948, as Director of Housing, he began setting up the Hindustan Housing Factory in Delhi, which was to serve the capital city, supplementing rather than replacing the traditional construction of houses and targeting refugee housing needs.

It was a pilot project, initiated with the aim of replication across India’s urban centres. The simple single-storey housing units produced by the factory offered two rooms, rear and front verandahs, a kitchen and a separate bathroom and lavatory accessed via a small rear courtyard. While they could be added to incrementally or combined to make larger units, the real innovation of the houses was the use of large load-bearing aerated-concrete wall panels that were quickly cured by the relatively new process of autoclaving.

Delhi prefab, 1950.
Delhi prefab, 1950.

The aerated-concrete panels offered excellent thermal properties and could be produced using local materials. Doors and windows were to be fitted to the panels in the factory so that site work could be reduced to building simple masonry foundations and assembling the ready-made panels.

Government Housing Factory with aerated concrete panels in the foreground, 1950.
Government Housing Factory with aerated concrete panels in the foreground, 1950.

Series of crises

What could possibly go wrong? Well, pretty much everything, as it turned out.

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To begin with, the delivery of prototypes of the houses, which were needed for testing in local conditions and finalising design details, was delayed. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health took over six months to establish the factory’s management and administration structure, define its constitution, select its committee and hire skilled staff, which postponed the commencement of actual building work.

Apart from that, a dock fire in Liverpool, the sinking of a ship loaded with vital supplies in the Red Sea, the overcrowding of Bombay’s harbour in the summer of 1949 and shortages of special wagons for the transport of heavy machinery from Bombay and Calcutta to Delhi, all hampered progress. It was not until the summer of 1950 that the factory started producing houses, after a backlash in the press and Parliament had already begun.

Departure amidst scandals

To make matters worse, a worrying number of the aerated-concrete panels started breaking during autoclaving, while others developed cracks after erection. The houses were falling apart. Unable to solve the problem, production stopped in December 1950. The scandal that ensued ended Koenigsberger’s career in India. Politicians who had been against the scheme launched an aggressive attack in Parliament, which was intensified in the media and supported by groups that had hoped the project would fail, including the PWD and elements of the construction industry.

Headlines such as “The Full Dope on GOI’s Pre-Fab Racket,” and “Prefab Housing Project A Criminal Waste” coursed through the press. Health Minister Rajkumari Amrit Kaur dismissed Koenigsberger as manager of the housing factory in April 1951 and he subsequently retired from his government duties, returning to Europe bitterly disappointed.

Press clippings on the scandal, 1951.
Press clippings on the scandal, 1951.

Koenigsberger, a naturalised Indian citizen, settled in London, where most of his family was living. He continued his work on low-cost housing and urban development in rapidly growing cities but as director of the Department of Tropical Studies at the Architectural Association, Professor of Development Planning at University College London and in his advisory roles for the United Nations, World Bank and various nation states. His book Manual of Tropical Housing and Building, co-authored with TG Ingersoll, Alan Mayhew and SV Szokolay and published in 1974, became ubiquitous in architecture school libraries in South Asia and other “tropical” geographies. He died in London at the age of 90.

Ironically, production of the panels resumed shortly before Koenigsberger’s departure from India. The autoclaving had brought out peculiarities in the local cement that were “nursed” by adding more lime. The Hindustan Housing Factory still exists, albeit under another name: Hindustan Prefab. According to their website, their premises include a Technology Park, where parts of the failed refugee housing are displayed.

British Academy – ASAUK Funded Ghana Architecture Writing Workshop 6–8 July

Apologies for the short notice – but if you’re in Accra this weekend and want an opportunity to improve your writing skills, there are some free places to join an excellent Architectural Writing Workshop.

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Water tower at Korle Bu, Accra.

Please do get in touch with Prof. Ola Uduku on o.uduku@mmu.ac.uk for more details and see: British Academy – ASAUK Funded Ghana Architecture Writing Workshop  6–8 July

Architecture in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Glasgow School of Art and its Future

Like many people, I was again saddened, shocked, and frankly annoyed to see Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, engulfed in smoke and flame for the second time in just four years. It was a radical piece of architecture that helped to shape the development of early 20thC Modernist architecture, and unlike a lot of contemporary and experimental work it was much loved and held a popular appeal.
The charred remains have yet to cool, but a fierce debate has erupted on the future of the building. On the one hand there is an impassioned plea to demolish and rebuild a new structure that would be something of ‘our time’; with any attempts to refabricate the ‘original’ resulting in a ‘replica’, that is, a fake.

Glasgow school of Art

Glasgow School of Art, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

This faction argues that a rebuilt school would be rendered a ‘museum piece’, and that a new school would somehow respond better to the needs of today’s students.  For sure, it is a compelling argument and after the shock of the tragic event it shows a fighting spirit and an optimism that all architects possess to create a better future. If an architect were to design a new building today that mimicked, or somehow parodied the ‘Mackintosh style’, then for sure, that would not be the way forward for architecture. But this is not a newly commissioned project, rather it should be a restoration of a dilapidated shell.

“The handle has been replaced several times, and the blade was changed once, but this knife has been in our family for centuries”

Unlike other works of art, such as painting or sculpture, there is a utilitarian, designerly approach in building, and buildings are made of many components, materials and finishes. They can all be replaced or remade. Certain parts of a building inevitably wear-out and have to be replaced; lead flashing is carefully reinserted, roofs are precisely re-laid, window frames rot, and sometimes windows are smashed and replaced. We accept this continual, sensitive remaking and in the case of buildings like the GSA undertake this process with extreme diligence. This is all part of a building’s ability to endure time and survive, and whilst a fire rapidly accelerates this process, it need not be the end. Buildings are never complete, they are always unfinished and being continually remade through the acts of everyday use. They develop patina, tarnishes, stains, and are weathered, changing all buildings for better or for worse. This aging cannot be replicated of course, but it demonstrates that a building is not a pristine artefact, there is a spectrum of aging and renewal.

The surviving GSA structure could be retained and kept in its ruinous state as a kind of memorial to what we once had. Some of the ‘original’ fabric would be retained and fixed to commemorate Mackintosh’s genius. It could become a shrine with a steady pilgrimage of architects’ eager to touch the stone relics with their direct link back to the hand of the Mackintosh. This would surely be the worst type of preservation – for whilst we would have the vestiges of the School there would be no joy, no use, just a sad lament. The surviving stones might enable a façade to be retained, or possibly form a similar condition to that deployed by Basil Spence at Coventry Cathedral, in the aftermath of World War Two. Whilst this might preserve the outer shell, or image, it wouldn’t suffice because the interiors at GSA were so rich and possibly even more important than the building’s skin.

We should not be afraid to remake architecture, because architecture as a concept is detached from its manifestation as a building. There is the idea and its representation often in the form of drawings and physical models, and then there is the physical construct. The physical entity is of course very important, but it is an outworking of an idea. Unlike painting, where the hand of the artist is important (but not essential) architecture is always remote from the act of construction. Architects make drawings that are then interpreted and fabricated by teams of artisans, technicians and craftspeople into the built object. Inevitably there are gaps between the artist’s intentions and the drawings they produce, and then of course there are numerous clefts between the drawings and the constructed piece. Decisions are made ‘on site’ and changes made on the hoof – this is all part of the construction process. In many buildings there is even a devolution of some parts of the design to the craftspeople on site, especially in decorative pieces, or commissioned artworks and sculptures. The core idea remains and is entirely the responsibility (and gift) of the designer, but it is important not to overly fetishize the object as a fixed, pristine artefact.

A burned out Jaguar E-Type can be fully restored, and even enhanced to suit modern environmental standards as the ‘Concept Zero’ illustrates. In no way does this detract from the ‘original’ duplicated model, nor the enjoyment of driving the vehicle. Indeed, there is pleasure and pride to be had from such a restoration. There is certainly room to manoeuvre here in construction and many buildings are sensitively restored and enhanced for modern living and reduced energy use. The drawings produced by Mackintosh (and his wife Margaret) survive and the recent scans and computer models of the building produced in response to Fire no.1 will enable a faithful rebuilding of the GSA. There is no technical reason why this school could not be rebuilt. Other art forms revel in this ability to be remade and enjoyed; music is recorded, plays are performed, artists issue facsimile casts and photographers offer limited edition prints. Walter Benjamin foresaw this in his seminal writing, ‘Art in the age of mechanical reproduction’. I’m not suggesting that multiple GSAs are licensed, but rather the single edition we had is carefully remade in honour of Mackintosh and the city which this building has helped to define and create.

India Buildings by Herbert Rowse

India Buildings by Herbert Rowse

There are claims that a rebuilt School would not be ‘of our time’. Some, like eminent architect Alan Dunlop have claimed that Mackintosh’s would indeed want ‘to see a new school of art fit for the 21stcentury’ – but we can never truly know the wishes of the deceased. Surely the GSA is an excellent didactic tool for today’s students, and in any case it is not very old – it’s a mere blink of an eye in the broader scheme of things. To remake it now would not be a disservice to ‘our time’ but would be a measure of how we value and cherish such works of art. So many buildings have been regrettably erased following fire – to the detriment of our built environment. Gavin Stamp’s publication, Britain’sLost Citiesis a roll call of this approach, whereas when the decision to rebuild has been made the results are rarely questioned. We do not hear claims of, ‘we should have pulled this down and replaced it with something else’. Herbert Rowse’s India Buildings in Liverpool was carefully rebuilt after the effects of incendiary bombs – its authenticity is not questioned because of this; it simply becomes part of the building’s story. Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion was also famously remade and it continues to bring pleasure and delight to all who see it. It is far better to experience this wonderful design than to imagine it’s ‘spirit’ or look at the old photographs.  Plus, we live in an age when this is possible – it is ‘of our time’ to replicate and reproduce components and objects that are better than the ‘originals’.

 

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I’ve been spending some time working in and around Accra, and in particular at the Public Records and Archives Department. This archive has undergone major changes in the last five years and is a great place to undertake research with helpful staff and quick responses to queries. Located in a distinctive building with bold concrete brise soleil and a brave concertinaed roof over the entrance space, its interiors rely exclusively on passive ventilation. I was looking mainly at the late colonial records including those of the Public Works Department, sanitation, land, and town planning.

Experimental Swishcrete blocks at Kibi
Experimental Swishcrete blocks at Kibi from 1945
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Experimental Swishcrete housing at Kibi from 1945. Note the arches above the windows and doors

There were many discoveries and lots to celebrate (and eventually publish), but one particularly interesting find related to a folder called ‘Experimental housing at Kibi’. This gave lots of details on an attempt to build a couple of dwellings in swishcrete (i.e. laterite and concrete mix) blocks in the gold mining town of Kibi, with a view to saving on cement costs and also creating an aesthetic that was more in keeping with the vernacular. It was a particularly exciting find, as we had stumbled across these houses earlier this year, and were taken by their unique construction. The archives revealed that Jane Drew was involved in their design and that she visited the site in early April 1945. It must have formed part of her work on village housing. Although modified and extended the houses still stand and clearly demonstrate the strength of this construction method having survived over 70 years.

Outside of the archives, I managed to finally track down Denys Lasdun’s Paterson Simon’s Office in Accra, 1962 (thanks to the help of their current Managing Director John Traynor). It was formerly a supermarket and toyshop called Farisco.

I was hoping to see the Optimist Club in Sekondi, but as suspected, I was too late and the influential African club has been demolished and now replaced with a large youth centre. Fortunately, Nate Plageman did manage to visit the club before it was demolished and you can see his photos here. Despite this loss, it was good to use copies of the early plans of Sekondi from 1900-1920, housed in the UK National Archives, to further explore the town. I was particularly taken by the Venice Cinema located at the edge of the settlement by the lagoon (was this how the cinema got its name?) and the wonderful merchant villas and stores that can still be found in dilapidated abundance throughout the town.

Venice Cinema, Sekondi
Venice Cinema, Sekondi

Accra continues to seduce with its array of late colonial structures and modernist set pieces. At Korle Bu just west over the lagoon from Jamestown the hospital dominates the landscape. The hospital forms part of the trilogy of projects developed by Gordon Guggisberg in the 1920s (along with Achimota Schooland Takoradi town and docks). The old hospital structures remain, looking almost like they did when built (and similar to the harbour board buildings in Takoradi) – as captured on Africa Through a Lens. The later brutalist addition to the hospital was by Kenneth Scott, looking more restrained and orderly than the edgier and abrupt Effia Nkwanta hospital in Takoradi by Gerlach and Gillies-Reyburn. If you visit Korle Bu hospital continue to walk through the grounds and head out to the staff housing, tennis courts and garden sanctums that lie secretly beyond – it is a hidden, gentile world of privilege that still manages to exist just a couple of miles from the excitement and paucity of Jamestown.

 

Korle Bu Hospital, Accra
Korle Bu Hospital, Accra photographed shortly after completion, 1928