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Building on our Ghana theme I’d like to share an excellent paper recently published by a good friend of the TAG blog, Dr. Lukasz Stanek from Manchester University.

 “When seen from Labadi Road, the buildings of  Accra’s International Trade Fair (ITF) appear among abandoned billboards, scarce trees that offer shade to resting taxi drivers, and tables where coconuts, bottled water, sweets, and telephone cards are sold next to the road.

 The buildings neighbor the La settlement, where streets meander between houses, shops, bars, schools, and shrines,  while on the other sidof Labadi Road, at the seashore, luxurious housing estate is under construction next to upscale hotels that overlook Labadi Beach. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s leader after the country achieved independence (1957), initiated the fair as a prestige project, but it was opened on 1 February 1967 by Joseph Arthur Ankrah the chairman of the National Liberation Council, who led the putsch that toppled Nkrumah in 1966. Once conveying a sense of radical moder-nity, the buildings have suffered from underinvestment and insufficient maintenance, but most of them are still in use, rented for exhibitions that take place every few months, for political rallies, and for religious services.
From 1962 to 1967, the Ghana National Construction Corporation (GNCC), the state office charged with design, construction, and maintenance of governmental buildings and infrastructure in Nkrumah’s Ghana, designed and con-structed the ITF. The designers of the fair were two young architects from socialist Poland, Jacek Chyrosz and Stanisław Rymaszewski, who worked with the Ghanaian Victor (Vic)  Adegbite, the chief architect. Chyrosz and Rymaszewski  were employed by the GNCC on a contract with Polservice, the so-called central agency of foreign trade, which mediated the export of labor from socialist Poland.
Ghana copy

“Made in Ghana Pavilion” 1967, International Trade Fair, designed by Jacek Chyrosz, Stanislaw Rymaszewski and Vic Adegbite

 

 At the GNCC, they worked together with Ghanaian architects and foreign professionals, many from socialist countries. This collaboration reflected the alliance of Nkrumah’s government with socialist countries, which was demonstrated at the fair by the exhibitions of Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Hungary, and Poland (Figure 3). At the same time, the Ankrah administration used the fair to facilitate Ghana’s reopening toward the West. Hence, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), two major allies of Nkrumah, were absent.

 By contrast, the two pavilions not to be overlooked were those of Great Britain, Ghana’s former colonial ruler and its main trade partner, and the United States, which granted Ghana loans for its many infrastructural projects in the 1960s, in particular the Akosombo Dam, financed jointly with the United Kingdom and the World Bank. India was represented as a member of the Commonwealth rather than as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, since Nkrumah’s attempt to position Ghana among Egypt, India, and Yugoslavia as one of the leading nations of the movement was abandoned after the change of the regime. Collaboration among African countries was particularly favored, not as a way of carrying on Nkrumah’s vision of pan-African union but with a more modest aim, that of the stimulation of trade among African countries. Displays representing African countries were gathered in the round Africa Pavilion at the end of the ramp through which visitors entered the fair, before they moved on to Pavilion A (the “Made in Ghana” pavilion) and the pavilions rented to other countries and Ghanaian state firms.”

“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

Workshop and Roundtable discussion: 28th November 2013 Liverpool School of Architecture.

This workshop is concerned with the architecture, design and planning proposals developed by architects/planners from Poland during the mid-late twentieth century. In particular it seeks to address how people and ideas have migrated beyond national borders and with what effect. Without the networks of empire and trade that aided so many British and Western European architects to practice around the world in the twentieth century, how and why did so many Polish architects obtain commissions beyond the immediate reach of Eastern Europe?

One answer to the above question was the placing of a Polish School of architecture within the Liverpool school during World War Two. In 1942 the British Council approached the university with the proposal that was part of a broader plan that saw other academic disciplines placed in other UK universities, such as a veterinary school at Edinburgh.

The Polish School of architecture was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Poland and Commander-in-Chief, General Wladyslaw Sikorski in November 1942 – although the school had actually been in operation from June 1941. Staff and students worked on theoretical schemes such as for the rebuilding of a specified Polish village, along with designs for hospitals, blocks of flats, factories, town halls and the like. Professor Budden commenting on the Polish School’s tenure in Liverpool noted that although ‘the work…is in the mainstream of contemporary architectural thought and practice, it is yet distinctively expressive and national in character. The forms employed are in the main familiar, but they are given an unmistakably Polish inflection – and the result is the more interesting and vigorous for that…’

What was this inflection that Budden observed and can we begin to discern a specific Polish approach to twentieth century architecture and planning?

The Polish School is but one of the many networks, vectors and agencies that facilitated the export of Polish architecture and architects. What other modes of migration were pursued? What happened after the Polish School and where did its graduates go on to practice?

These are the most basic questions that we hope to discuss and address, but suggestions, other case studies and individual biographies are very welcome.

Papers and work-in-progress are most welcome. 20 minute papers followed by 20 minutes discussion. For further information or to submit abstracts of 200 words please email Iain Jackson ijackson@liv.ac.uk  or Peter Richmond richdrp@hotmail.co.uk.  Deadline for abstracts is 14th October 2013.