In the laboratory and in the field: hybrid housing design for the African city in late-colonial and decolonising Ghana (1945–57)
This paper considers the case of late-colonial and ‘transitional’ Ghana (1945–57) to qualify the way in which ‘native’ dwelling practices were harnessed for housing design. Theories about the ‘colonial modern’ have underpinned the ambivalence of residential schemes and urbanisation strategies developed during decolonisation by modernist architects. Most documented among these is work in North Africa, with projects from Casablanca and Algiers taken as the epitome of how modernism memorably embraced the vernacular to amend its tenets in the early 1950s; however, British involvement in the colonies has more commonly been documented in relation to the tropical architecture canon, with a focus on institutional buildings rather than housing projects, especially in West Africa. Housing design, on the other hand, makes manifest the significance of the social and cultural dimensions as a basis for housing and urbanism during decolonisation in Ghana, downplayed to date because of a focus on climatic and economic factors. Projects by Fry, Drew, Drake and Lasdun, and by Alfred Alcock and Helga Richards, are discussed to gauge the extent of transcultural exchange while socio-economic surveys, experiments in building science and anthropological studies increasingly inspired the design process.
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