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Ghana

Thank you to Prof. Ola Uduku of Manchester School of Architecture for reviewing the ‘Sharing Stories from Jamestown’ exhibition. The exhibition has been extended to run until the end of June 2019. Below I’ve uploaded a 360 degree panoramic view – you can ‘click and drag’ the film to have a look around….

WARUH: West African Rapid Urbanisation and Heritage Conservation Research Network

Iain Jackson’s exhibition co-curated by Allotey Konuah-Bruce and Joe Addo opened to great acclaim on Saturday evening at the Jamestown Café, venue, near Ussher Fort. Curiously the café it was confirmed by local elders who attended the opening is accurately in Usshertown; the exhibition launch providing a great forum for these questions to be aired and for detailed discussions to be had.

Historic photographs and maps of ‘old’
Jamestown buildings have been placed next to those which show their age,
condition and use, in ‘contemporary’ Jamestown have been displayed in the lower
gallery of the Jamestown Café, which itself features in the exhibition as Tarquah
house, the dwelling and warehouse of one of Jamestown’s wealthy local
merchants, who had originally had it built. The exhibition represents a true
joint collaboration between Iain Jackson and Allotey Konuah-Bruce who have
formed a close and productive working relationship as they have spent the…

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You are invited to our Exhibition, ‘Sharing Stories from Jamestown’, opening on the evening of Friday 17th May 2019 at Jamestown Cafe, High Street, Accra. All very Welcome! The exhibition will run until 13th June.

We’ll be exhibiting vintage photographs, plans and drawings from over ten archives and private collections that have been gathered together here for the first time. To accompany the exhibition we’ve also produced a catalogue that attempts to explain and contextualise the images, and to tell the history of Accra’s development, planning and architecture. You can read the digital version below. We’re indebted to Allotey Bruce-Konuah for expertly setting out the catalogue.

Exhibition Catalogue available at issuu: https://issuu.com/transnationalarchitecture/docs/sharingstories_accra_2019_jackson

We will include more photographs and 360 degree footage of the exhibition as soon as it is installed.

Maxwell Fry, the architect and planner of Ibadan University, considered the campus to be the highlight of his career, although he confessed that he found the Kenneth Dike library elevation too ‘lace-like’.

It is an extraordinary structure and we’ve covered it on the TAG blog previously, as well as printing a 3D sectional model of the structure. Taking a more retro step, I’ve now produced a hand-drawn (rotring, ink wash) front elevational drawing of the building (minus the small reading room on the RHS and smaller structure on the LHS, for clarity).

Kenneth Dike Library at Ibadan University, Nigeria

The drawing stretches over 2 x A1 sheets and has been scanned, pieced together, and the blue ‘sky’ added in Photoshop. I’m going to follow drawing with some additional studies into various libraries in Ghana – especially the Children’s Library in Accra (Nickson and Borys); Sekondi Regional Library (James Cubitt); Koforidua Library (also by Cubitt); KNUST Library (?) and the iconic Bolgatanga library by Max Bond.

Junior Staff Quarters Plan View
Junior Staff Quarters, near Christianborg Castle, Accra


New Buildings in the Commonwealth edited by Jim M. Richards in 1961 pulled together many articles from earlier editions of the Architectural Review. It formed an important set of essays, photographs and illustrations with each geographically themed chapter written by an architect familiar with that part of the world. Maxwell Fry wrote the West Africa section and he selected some of the best buildings from the proceeding decade to feature in his piece, including some lesser known works from relatively unknown architects.

Junior Staff Quarters, Accra
Junior Staff Quarters, Accra

The opening project for the Ghana section was a housing scheme from Accra designed by the Public Works Department Chief Architect, G. Halstead with architects-in-charge D. A. Barratt and W. J. Clarke. Very little is known about these architects, apart from Halstead worked with S. Bailey (townplanner) on the new layout of Tamale in 1953..[1]

The Accra housing project is a very carefully designed set of 24 apartments arranged across three blocks. Each dwelling faces into the courtyard space and are one room deep to maximise cross ventilation. Each house also has its own private balcony/court for sleeping outside and cooking.

The formal arrangement and sloping roofs are all carefully arranged and the quality of the build is exceptional. I’ve wanted to see these houses for some time now and it was a special moment to see them come into view as I made my way from the 17th Century Danish ‘Christianborg Castle’. The houses were constructed as ‘Junior Staff Quarters’ for people working at the Castle (which was then used as the Prime Minister’s Residence) during the early years of Ghana’s independence.

The houses remain largely unaltered from the original design, albeit lacking some basic maintenance. I spoke to a number of the current residents and they very much enjoy living here. The sense of community is strongly felt, and overlooked internal courtyard adds security. Parts of Community 1 at Tema have a similar feel but don’t quite achieve the ‘walled city in miniature’ qualities of this project.  It marks a significant shift from the compound and ‘village-housing’ projects built elsewhere at the time, and continues to offer many clues for how we might design inexpensive housing in Ghana today.

Junior Staff Quarters, 2019

[1]Tamale Town Planning [1948-54], British Library, EAP541/1/1/333, https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP541-1-1-333

Sharing Stories from James Town and the Creation of Mercantile Accra
Forthcoming Exhibition at James Town Cafe, 17th May 2019

I’ve been working in Jamestown, Accra to start planning an exhibition on the colonial and mercantile architecture of the district. Using archival and historical images and maps the exhibition will celebrate and explore Accra’s rich architectural heritage and urban history. The exhibition will focus on the warehouses, stores, factories and offices of James Town and examine how the city rapidly developed into a vast commercial enterprise.

The images for the exhibition have been generously provided by Unilever, Barclays, UK National Archives, The British Museum and private collections. Most of these images have not been exhibited before and we’re delighted that they will be shown in Accra, and in very close proximity to where they were originally taken.

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Exhibition Promotional Banner outside James Town Cafe with Iain Jackson [L], Joe Osae-Addo [C] and Allotey Bruce-Konuah [R]

There will be a printed/PDF catalogue to accompany the exhibition showing both archival and modern photographs of the buildings, along with historical maps, and we will hang large photographic banners of the archival images directly onto the historic buildings in James Town.

The main exhibition (co-designed with architect Joe Osae-Addo and designer Allotey Bruce-Konuah) will be hosted by ArchiAfrika at the James Town Café, from 17th May 2019. We’re also hoping that it will go on tour to University of Ghana (details to be announced). In June there will be an additional exhibition hosted at the James Town Café  curated by Lukasz Stanek and Ola Uduku of Manchester School of Architecture – and we’ll include more on both exhibitions here.

We’ve also started a new project to produce 360 degree panoramic photographs (and films) of some of the key sites and streets in James Town (and its environs). The images have been captured with a Ricoh Theta camera and we’ve taken over 200 photographs/ short films to date. The clips will be pieced together as a series of films and overdubbed with a commentary on the history and significance of the buildings in view. The films may be viewed with a VR headset for a more immersive experience. Allotey Bruce-Konuah already gives tours of James Town, and these films will enable his expertise to reach a wider audience, as well as encouraging new visitors to make the trip to this unique and highly important portion of Accra.

 

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

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