Archive

Fry & Drew

An Update from Takoradi, Ghana Part 2

The docks and rail infrastructure of Takoradi was the impetus behind its rapid expansion from a small village to a major town. Construction commenced after WW1, but before this took place, it was neighbouring Sekondi that dominated the area with its grand houses, trading offices and the plush Metropole Hotel. The Dutch established Fort Orange there from 1670 and the natural harbour provided a suitable place for light vessels to shelter whilst the surf boats manned by the Kru people brought goods and people ashore.

evernote-snapshot-20160720-121210-copy

The Metropole Hotel, Sekondi

There is some rich architectural heritage in this town, and clear evidence of a once prospering settlement full of traders and merchants. Those days are clearly gone.

We started with two schools, the first called Fijai, captured here by the UK National Archives Africa through a lens. Then onto St. John’s, again the vintage photo below shows the clean lines of the school, when constructed c. 1955.

 

dsc_0383

St. John’s School, Sekondi

There have been further additions to the school including the striking church, donated by a Wisconsin family , with its large A-line structural frame,  finely detailed concrete casting, wooden ceiling and pre-cast screening. Next to St. John’s is Adiembra housing estate. There were revisions proposed for Adiembra in the 1944 Town Planning report made by Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, but it is difficult to ascertain what impact this report made on the area, if any. However, we did spot some standpipes and washing stations that resemble those proposed by Fry and Drew in their manual, Village Housing in the Tropics, so perhaps this is evidence of their involvement.

dsc_0376

The Church at St. John’s School

We went onto the main street of Sekondi where the Post Office is located. We discussed this building in our chapter in Bremner’s Architecture and Urbanism in the British Empire, but were now shocked to see how the exquisite timber counter had been painted in bright blue gloss – destroying the previous display of tropical hardwoods. The rest of the street has only gotten worse since our last visit, with many of the former colonial buildings on the brink of collapse. Absent landlords coupled with a shrinking economy has left these structures vulnerable and economically unviable. Further sad news must be reported, as the modernist Sekondi Regional Library has recently been demolished and replaced with a new library.

Our final visit in Sekondi was to the coastal-road village of Ekuasie, laid out in 1912. This was an early attempt at providing worker housing and adopts the familiar grid iron street format, although far more loosely imposed than similar schemes elsewhere (such as Korle Gono). There are some later and grander additions to this village, including a set of houses from the mid 1950s.

img_0663

Ekuasie Housing Estate

We returned to Takoradi and explored the workers’ estate, mentioned in the PRAAD archives as the ‘labourers housing and school’ at the Zongo area. This is still a thriving area, Hausa was heard being spoken and the tiny streets eventually lead to a playground-cum-village square, overlooked by the Islamic school and Mosque.

cimg5294

Takoradi Zongo School

An Update from Takoradi, Ghana

We started at the Takoradi Train Station, completed by 1928 as part of the coastal rail and docklands development. The train lines were initially constructed to transport cash crops, minerals and metals from the northern agricultural and mining districts to the awaiting ships, sheltered in the newly constructed breakwater and deep water harbour. When we visited in 2012 the train station was completely derelict and not in use. Today we found it carefully restored and new tracks laid. The plan is to reuse it for a local transport network. We walked up the hill to the small commercial district made up of international banks and a post and telegrams office. The mishmash of styles reveals the incremental development, as well as the fierce competition between the banks eager to differentiate themselves from the competition.

The former European hospital clock tower up on the hill overlooks the banks and docklands, as well as benefiting from the cooling sea breeze.

We drove to the 1920s part of Takoradi, a major new town extension that was built to accompany the docks development of that time. This portion of the town was primarily for the African population, although it also contains the Lasdun designed Bank of Ghana [built 1957]. Lasdun was also the architect of the National Museum in Accra. The bank was vacant when we visited in 2012, but now it stands in a state of complete dereliction, its fine materials and fixings being stripped from the building. This is a real tragedy. It was once an outstanding building, recorded in the Architecture journals of the day and surely one of Lasdun’s greatest works from this period.

img_0633

Somewhat downbeat, we bid farewell to the bank, and made our way to the rond-point in the middle of the town. The map was deceiving, as this was built as a major market place – our driver told us it was one of the largest markets in West Africa. It had the feel of Kariakoo market  in Dar es Salaam, and also contains a delightful little PWD post office with its signage graphics still intact.

Adjacent to the market is Amanful Village. Laid out in 1922-3 it is a mixed use area of housing and commercial properties. The basic PWD-type houses and layout remained in place, but more wealthy owners had transformed much of the upper part of the estate to suburban housing.

We then went to the Takoradi Technical Institute, shown above (Left, b+w) in the Africa Through a Lens Collection at the UK National Archives. There is a forcefulness to this scheme that takes the familiar two storey gallery access format, and emboldens into more ‘clunky’ yet determined architectural-structural forms.

dsc_0363

Nearby is the Effiekuma housing and the Effia Nkwanta hospital. The hospital has evolved overtime from a European hospital-cum-sanatorium in the colonial period, to a major health provider today. The careful layering and response to the site contours offers delightful views as well as a most welcome breeze to all the small structures that each have a view of the docks. At the top of the hill is a large brutalist extension that dates from c. late 1960s early 1970s. But who designed it?

The Architecture of Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew:

We’re delighted to announce that our Fry and Drew book is to be published in paperback format in a few days time. This should make it a little more affordable and hopefully accessible to a broader audience in West Africa and India…

9781409451983

https://www.routledge.com/The-Architecture-of-Edwin-Maxwell-Fry-and-Jane-Drew-Twentieth-Century/Jackson-Holland/p/book/9781409451983

 

Notes from Kumasi Part 3

At the KNUST campus the library and Great Hall complex work very well within their elevated landscape setting. The Gerlach and Gillies-Reyburn’s muscular grey abstract ‘kente’ cloth brutalist hall and library extension is arranged in a ‘quad’. The complex overlooks the campus, facing a formal axis that leads to the administrative and teaching blocks. The composition is completed on its south flank by an architectural gem, which we discovered is the original KNUST library block. Is this James Cubitt’s riposte to Fry and Drew’s Ibadan Library?

DSC_0246

DSC_0276

The Old Library Block

The ‘old’ KNUST library presents an essay in tropical architectural design. Still sitting on its cast, fluted piloti this four storey structure employs screen walling, operable louver windows, and shading devices to both demonstrate and celebrate the possibilities of creating a successful architectural resolution to the needs of passive design. Its forlorn main entrance, clad in travertine, and superseded by the Gerlach and Gillies-Reyburn entrance to the East, shows the quality of materials employed in specific areas of its design.

 

DSC_0101

Administration Offices and Meeting Room

Inside, much of the Library building seems frozen in time. Reading carrels lie empty whilst the daylight filled reading spaces, with custom built, empty journal shelves have few readers, and ageing academic book collections. The e-resource room however has been kitted out with desktop computers and seems to be the most used student space in the building. A second “IT” floor was being planned, and the new desktop computers were just being commissioned, in spaces flooded with artificial light, closed to the exterior with floor to ceiling fabric curtains – only this space in the building needed fans for cooling. Meanwhile the offices at the top floor with their no longer used spiral staircase took one to another world of naturally cross ventilated office space, and custom designed insect screens – demonstrating that climate responsive design in the tropics still works. One hopes its on-going transformation doesn’t forget this idea.

Notes from Accra

Iain Jackson and Ola Uduku have spent the last two days in Accra catching up with 20th century architecture, and meeting with contacts as part of the British Academy funded ‘From Colonial Gold Coast to Tropical Ghana’ architecture project. Tuesday 23rd February was spent visiting the Ghana National Museum complex, the gem in the crown being Denys Lasdun’s prefabricated dome shaped museum, currently closed for refurbishment. The imagination and vision of the building were still clearly there in our viewing of the stripped down structure ready for conservation.

DSC_0820.jpg

Our next stop took us to Nickson and Borys’ Children’s library building nearer to Central Accra. This had been sympathetically restored, and again was a great demonstration exemplar of ‘West African Modern’ and the developmental vision of the departing colonial government to establish libraries that were open to all citizens. The upper area remained devoid of activity but had potential to be a great multipurpose programme space.

DSC_0801.jpg

Children’s Library

The final visit of the day was to Joe Osae-Addo’s Archi-Africa – TuDelft Berlage Architecture school studio, in Accra’s Jamestown neighbourhood, on the urban fabric of everyday life in Accra. The impromptu crit we were invited to take part in was an enjoyable experience and the schemes were full of promise.

DSC_0832.jpg

TU Delft and Archi-Africa in the newly converted Jamestown Studio

Day two involved visits to Jamestown – as a walking visit this time to take in early 20th century colonial PWD, and also warehouse architecture in the neighbourhood. A visit to Adabraka also yielded a few examples of early PWD worker housing, which was followed by an afternoon visit to Achimota School, which conveyed the height of the colonial education project with architectural symbolism and style. A few later additions to the campus by Nickson and Borys and other’s also fitted well into the College’s narrative of colonial imperialism and privilege. The final visit for the day was to Scott House, which lived up to its deified tropical modernism status, whilst the Western Tessano neighbourhood had transformed into an upper class gated area, that unexpectedly gave us a glimpse of an earlier [likely Cubitt?] designed semi detached housing unit, currently undergoing a further 21st century upgrade..

DSC_0863.jpg

One of the few surviving examples of its type in Adabraka

We will be moving onto Kumasi on Friday and will update from there early next week.

3D Printed Model of Kenneth Dike Library

We’ve been playing with a couple of 3D printers [Makerbot and Ultimaker] and testing how they might be used to create a small collection of models to supplement our History of Architecture lectures.

image

In the age of ‘Stream Capture’ and recorded lectures including a small exhibition of key case study models in the lecture theatre will hopefully entice the students to attend the live event and will also form an opportunity to further explore light, scale and the qualities of buildings that are not as easily expressed through photographs and orthographic drawings.

image

Our first test case used a computer model of the Kenneth Dike Library, Ibadan [designed by Fry and Drew] expertly produced by Jacopo Galli and generously shared with us. The model doesn’t show the entire buiding but a key section enabing the interior to be viewed. The ambition is a for an online library of models that can be downloaded and then printed as and when they are required by faculty and students.

 

image

Call for Papers: Revisiting African Modernism at docomomo 14th International Conference 

6-9 Sep 2016,  Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,  Lisboa,  Portugal

docomomo International is now accepting abstracts for the 14th International docomomo Conference that will take place in Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal, September 6–9, 2016. Please submit abstracts no later than October 18, 2015 (12 pm GMT), for one of the 29 thematic sessions listed here.

One session that will be of specific interest to TAG followers is the ‘Revisiting African Modernism’ session…

“Africa’s history of architectural modernism and modernist landscapes is no longer unknown or obscure.  This session seeks to build on that established foundation by asking contributors to explore the potential contribution of the buildings and infrastructure of this era (c. 1945 – 1970s) to our understanding and engagement with Africa today. Does their original programme make them adaptable for 21st century contemporary urbanism? Are there specific case studies or examples of buildings and landscapes that demonstrate positively (or negatively) adaptive re-use possibilities or experience?

Past docomomo sessions on Africa have (arguably rightly) been occupied with debating Africa’s involvement in docomomo, as both a subject and a participatory region. This session recognizes the increasing inclusion of African nations; South Africa, Egypt, Ghana (proposed) into the docomomo “family”. It also acknowledges contributions from African and Africa-focused researchers in a number of past docomomo publications.

This panel session seeks to expand these contributions into a contemporary discourse, devoted to the investigation of the methods, and means, by which Africa’s modernist past can contribute more than just historical research to the Africans and Africa-focused researchers of the 21st century. We are particularly interested in contributions that consider built “ensembles” within urbanist contexts in African communities or cities, such as university campuses, housing masterplans, and industrial complexes/towns. “

Session Chairs: Ola Uduku, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; Miles Glendinning, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The 20th Century Urbanism and Landscape in Africa conference recently held at the Edinburgh School of Landscape Architecture (ESALA), University of Edinburgh. It took place from 7 to 8 October, and focused on the subtheme of ‘Research Challenges and opportunities’.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to presentations by the four Key Note speakers, who were Dr Rexford Oppong of KNUST Ghana, Prof Luc Verpoest of KU Leuven, Prof Johan Lagae of Ghent University and Dr Iain Jackson of University of Liverpool. Although their presentations all brought the conference’s key theme of ‘Research Challenges and Opportunities’ to the fore, their various approaches and contexts had provided more divergent and interesting perspectives to the discussion.

The areas of interest covered by the four speakers ranged from Dr Oppong’s  “Challenges and Opportunities of Conservation Research and Documentation on the Urbanist and landscape heritage of KNUST”, to Prof Verpoest “Mind the gap: from historiography to [urban] preservation. The African case” and Dr Jackson’s “Research Challenges and opportunities in West Africa”. Prof Johan Lagae also presented a talk on the challenges of his on-going research on urbanism in Congo.

Picture2

Cover picture for Dr Jackson’s “Research Challenges and Opportunities in West Africa”

In Dr Oppong’s talk, he presents the KNUST as a campus set, and much preserved in the Modernist architectural theme of the 1950s. However, the current state of its architectural drawings archives as highlighted in his presentation, need urgent conservation and documenting for posterity. He therefore gives insights into his current research in this regard, and the challenges of the project. One main challenge he sights is in getting the current University and secondary school students (who also played a part in the survey) to recognise the input of indigenous Ghanaian Architects in the building designs.

vc lodge

The Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge, KNUST Ghana

The challenges of conservation and documentation raised by Dr Oppong, was a theme which ran through the other presentations. However, in Prof Verpoest’s talk, he suggests that further strands of investigations are needed to be explored on the subject. Rather than being limited to buildings and famous architectural pieces he argues, researching conservation, preservation and documentation should look at the wider picture of processes, institutions, mechanisms and historical context. In essence, it should go beyond the built object as an individual subject of analysis. He therefore discusses this in the light of recent projects by Docomomo, where research is being done to go beyond individual building conservation to urban building conservation. He also explains how the organization is seeking to have regional linkages in selected African countries.

Picture2

An image of Africa’s changing society as illustrated in Prof Verpoest’s presentation

Prof Verpoest’s  suggestion of research into urban, rather then individual building conservation, preservation and documentation in Africa and globally, is also seen to form the crux of work done by the third key note speaker – Prof Johan Lagae. In his current research in Congo, Prof Lagae looks at various types of infrastructure – Missionary, Railroad and Hospitals, but all within the wider urban form context and everyday living. He also looked at the Post Belgian period in Congo around 1965, and raises the issue of building production and technology – but again questions “where were the Congolese in all these?” On the challenge faced in his research, he stated practical issues of language, electricity, relating with local chiefs etc. He also notes the fantastic data and drawings present in the archives, but which unfortunately lacks infrastructure.

Picture5

Picture of King Leopold II of Belgium in an archival administrative document on the Congo

Prof Lagae’s question on the contribution of natives, and poor archival infrastructure are two issues which Dr Jackson’s also raises in his presentation on Research Challenges in West Africa. With regard to the native contribution, he suggest that urgent work is required on the works of native architects in particular. While supporting the need for improved archival infrastructure in West Africa, however, Dr Jackson also makes a case for more fieldwork participation – arguing that “We have to get our hands dirty and explore…to create new photographs and records of the buildings”. He also suggest that further to such fieldwork exercises, the adoption of new technologies, like Drones and GPS need be encouraged to produce astonishing results. As seen in Professors Verpoest and Lagae talk, Dr Jackson was also of the Opinion that Architectural history needs to move beyond the conservation and preservation of important buildings. He argues rather, that research in this area become more inclusive of the intangible and the ephemeral, and sample user experiences and opinions. His talk raises several other questions on research challenges in West- Africa, including the theoretical base, further studies into Village plans and the PWD, art works and murals, architectural teaching etc. A most significant point he however raises, is on the need for collaborative research, rather than the lone-wolf and fear of plagiarism approach.

photo (1)

Delegates at the 20 Century Urbanism and Landscape in Africa Conference on 8 Oct 2015; Left to right are Meshack, Dr Alex Brymer, Dr Ola Uduku, Dr Rexford Oppong, Dr Iain Jackson (on Skype), Professor Verpoest, Yemi Salami, Dr Ruxandra

Scheduled for the second day of the conference were two presentations to be given by Yemi Salami and Anthony Folkers. Anthony Folkers was not in attendance at the conference but had his paper presented by Dr Uduku The paper was titled “The Spirit of George Lippsmeier and His Institute for tropical Building”. Yemi, had only recently submitted her PhD and is awaiting her viva to take place. She gave a talk on the challenges of undertaking a doctoral research in Nigeria, and her paper was titled: “Challenges of Conducting a Doctoral Research in Nigeria: Reflections from my PhD work on “the Architecture of the Public Works Department in Nigeria, c1900-1960”. Here she discussed challenges ranging from very slow bureaucratic processes, to ill equipped archives and security and insurgency issues, as some of the hindrances she faced during her research. The symposium then held at the end of Yemi’s presentation, with Dr Jackson joining the debate via Skype.

 

 

West African Modernism & Urbanism Research Conference and Workshop, 13-14 July 2015, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana

You are invited to a workshop and conference which will focus on developing the conservation of modernist buildings and urban landscapes in West Africa.

This development strategy will be tackled at two levels. Firstly, at urban and edifice level, through the development of the KNUST Architecture Department as a Centre for public engagement with, and professional expertise in, contemporary urban conservation training and research; in West Africa, this discipline is currently not taught at institutional level, despite the existence of a network of architecture and planning schools, and architectural institutes for whom this would be beneficial.

Secondly, with support from DOCOMOMO International’s African group and Urbanism-landscape specialist committee, the workshop will develop a physical archive of modernist buildings in West Africa, using digital technology to scan and record building photographs and plans of the postwar modernist era. The data will be made available both to researchers linked to the proposed urban conservation training project, and, equally importantly, to the local public, as a visual resource of contemporary West African Modernist history.

The workshop will feature outreach presentations from junior secondary school pupils and talks from the eminent keynote speakers and research associates involved in the workshop and archive programme.

Keynote Speakers: Prof. Miles Glendinning [University of Edinburgh] and Prof. H. N. A. Wellington [Emeritus and Former Head of KNUST].

Kumasi_Conference_poster

We acknowledge the support of this event by the Universities of Edinburgh, and of Liverpool, and by the Royal Africa Society.

For more details on the event please contact Dr. Rexford Assasie Oppong [assasie2003@yahoo.co.uk] / Dr. Ola Uduku [o.uduku@ed.ac.uk] for more details.