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Conserving West African Modernism Workshop and Conference Report

KNUST Kumasi, 2 – 18th July 2015

From the 2nd to 18th July 2015 Ola Uduku spent time at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi Ghana, working with Dr Rexford Assasie Oppong, to set up and run the inaugural “Conserving West African Modernism” workshop culminating in an international conference held from the 13th – 14th July at KNUST.

There were a number of objectives for the project; firstly the visit provided an initial attempt to explore the possibilities of Edinburgh University’s Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, (SCCS) and Architecture School becoming involved in research collaboration activities centred on the Modernist heritage of the KNUST campus both in terms of architectural history and also international- tropical conservation practice. Also included in this collaboration was the Liverpool University School of Architecture, (LSA) which has research expertise and archival material on the work of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew who were involved in the development of Kumasi and Ghana’s post-WW2 architectural heritage.

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Second, the project sought to make an initial assessment of the modernist heritage site and buildings at KNUST with a view to using these as a basis for documentation, to support the application for Ghana to become a member of the international modernism conservation organisation Docomomo International. This also included a public outreach element in which the project engaged with local university school children in a campus buildings tour and questionnaire session to raise awareness and interest in the buildings on the KNUST campus.

Third, the project sought to explore the possibilities of having the SCCS at Edinburgh University support the development of an MSc. Course in conservation and also contributions to architectural history teaching, initially via online courses, using available media technology at both institutions. In connection with this, linkages to architectural history teaching at the Liverpool School of Architecture and its future research-links with Ghana were also examined.

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Also at public and international outreach level, work was undertaken with Junior high school students to raise awareness about the modernist architectural legacy on the Kumasi campus, via a series of tours, discussions and ‘snap-voting’ on buildings judged ‘best’ by the pupils. At the international level the project enlisted PG architecture students to work on listing key campus buildings, using the Docomomo, (the international organisation for conserving modernist buildings and landscapes), fiche listing template. This is with a view to working with KNUST staff and students towards compiling material required to apply for Ghana’s membership of Docomomo in the next biennial conference in 2016.

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The project culminated with a well-attended two-day conference at KNUST, where keynote speeches were given by; KNUST Professor emeritus H. Wellington, and Professor Miles Glendinning, Director SCCS, University of Edinburgh. Teams of Junior High School and KNUST Architecture PG students also gave presentations, showing the work they had done during the preceding week’s ‘KNUST Modernism’ workshops.

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Providently the conference also heard the views and reminiscences of Profs Wellington, Owuso Addo, and Arc. J Larbi, all eminent Ghanaian architects and educators, who had been historically involved with the development of the campus, since its inception in the mid 1950s to the 1990s, who attended the workshop. Representatives from the Ghana Institute of Architects, the Lands and Survey office at KNUST, associated faculty staff from the College of Architecture, Arts, and Planning, and from the ArchiAfrika organisation, were also in attendance.

The various workshops and final conference was made possible by funding and in–kind support received from a number of bodies including: The African Studies Association UK, ArchiAfrika, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Liverpool and KNUST.

The Communique below was issued at the conclusion of the conference:

Conserving West African Modernism and Urbanism Research Workshop and Conference Communiqué

 At the inaugural workshop / conference, ‘Conserving West African Modernism and Urbanism’, held at KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana on 13-14 July 2015 – an event which involved staff and student participants from the KNUST Junior High School, KNUST Architecture postgraduates, and which was attended by a range of national and international invitees including the Ghanaian architectural luminaries Prof. J. Owusu-Addo, Prof. H. N. A. Wellington, and Arc. S. O. Larbi, along with Prof. Miles Glendinning from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland – it was agreed to pursue the following specific objectives:

  • To continue with the primary objective of the project in supporting and developing an appreciation and culture of conservation in West Africa, in collaboration with DOCOMOMO International – commencing with the task of researching and conserving the heritage modernist movement campus layout and buildings at KNUST, Kumasi, and pursuing the establishment of a Ghanaian national chapter of DOCOMOMO;
  • To work to develop collaborative research links related to KNUST’s building history, with the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (University of Edinburgh) and the Liverpool School of Architecture (University of Liverpool), with expected joint academic research outputs.
  • To explore the possibilities of developing a Department of Architecture -KNUST Masters programme in history/ conservation studies with support and collaboration from the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies (SCCS) at the University of Edinburgh, and the Liverpool School of Architecture (LSA);
  • To seek funding to develop a West African Modernism Archival Project, (WAMAP) which would have the Department of Architecture, KNUST as its centre. Its objective will be to create a digital archive of KNUST’s extant material records of its historical development, comprising plans, models, and oral histories contributed by surviving actors involved in the founding and development of the campus. This project would aim ultimately to evolve into an international centre and nexus for modernist building research in West Africa.

In this communiqué we also acknowledge the desirability of developing full links with cognate research and academic bodies within Ghana, including the Institute of African Studies and the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, at the University of Ghana, Legon, together with other associated educational and professional institutions, including the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, the Ghana National Archives, the Ghana Institute of Architects, and ArchiAfrika.

  15th July 2015
Dr Rexford Assasie Oppong Dr Ola Uduku
Department of Architecture,

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture,

University of Edinburgh, Scotland

*** Further news, Iain Jackson, Rexford Assasie Oppong and Ola Uduku will be collaborating on a British Academy Funded International Partnership and Mobility Grant “Architecture and planning in the Tropics; from Imperial Gold Coast to Tropical Ghana“,  starting in November 2015. ***

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“Zbigniew Dmochowski and the politics of architectural drawing in post-independence Nigeria” by Dr Łukasz Stanek

Dr Dr Łukasz Stanek from Manchester Architecture Research Centre will be presenting an illustrated lecture at the Goethe-Institut in Lagos on Saturday July 25 at 3PM. Dmochowski conducted some extraordinary studies into the architecture of Nigeria, expressing his findings through drawings and scale models.

TAG looks forward to hearing more about this research – updates to follow.

Łukasz-Stanek-PolandUK