Notes from Kumasi
Leaving Accra we departed for Kumasi– there was a change of pace in this dusty Ashanti city. Flying in, the low-rise collection of housing and settlements spreads across the horizon. The city has a hotter, inland climate, but the KNUST campus has this relieved somewhat by its lush mature vegetation. A visit to the recently restored KNUST Staff Club and walk around the campus to the ‘central area’, gave a good feel, and introduction to KNUST.
The following day united us with more visiting staff from University of Edinburgh and we set off on an extended excursion to various buildings in Kumasi city. Fry and Drew’s Prempeh College and Opoku Ware schools, are visited first and present us with a first hand view of this couples’ best exemplars of institutional tropical modernism. Visits followed to Nickson’s Anglican Cathedral, a towering structure, with less external architectural sophistication than F+D’s educational oeuvres, but provided interiors that successfully captured the spirit of high Anglicanism in its light-filled interior.
A dusk-tinted view of the campus concluded the day’s visitations, its welcome calm was a good antidote to the ‘busy-ness’ of the town. The buildings at the ‘Tech’, as it is colloquially called, sat sedately in their lush tropical setting, showing off Scott and Cubitt’s earliest university campus in Africa.
The historic ‘central’ administrative area of Kumasi formed the focus of the next day. The post office and Ghana electricity building suggest they are examples of late ‘PWD’ post war architecture, whilst the historic memorial to the West Africa Frontier Force, soldiers who fell in WW1 in Abbysinia (Ethiopia) and Burma (Myamaar) give us pause for remembrance. Walking up towards the military museum we find that although it is closed, we can still pay officially for a visit and take the chance. More than an hour later, we are overwhelmed with the sheer military-related history this deceptively small former garrison fort contained. As a colleague commented, “this gave [me] the context” to this city.
Visits to the Asawasi and Fanti Town districts, the latter adjoining the Cathedral area, gave good examples of early housing layouts in Kumasi designs by known planners in some cases. At Fanti Town we inadvertently came across the’ coffin district’, and attempted a stop at the Bantana district of the town to photograph circular hut housing we had identified the day before. The military museum guide had confirmed that these historic huts still provided accommodation for the army. As the garrison was still camped at the site we could not investigate this much further.