East Legon Past Forward
eds. Baerbel Mueller, Juergen Strohmayer [applied] Foreign Affairs Institute of Architecture University of Applied Arts Vienna
Editors Baerbel Mueller, Juergen Strohmayer Design Juergen Strohmayer Proofreading Janima Nam Production Management Roswitha Janowski-Fritsch Printing Holzhausen Druck GmbH, Austria Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions. ÂŠ 2019 [applied] Foreign Affairs, Institute of Architecture, University of Applied Arts Vienna
ISBN 978-3-9504894-1-5 East Legon Past Forward is a joint project between [applied] Foreign Affairs, Institute of Architecture, University of Applied Arts Vienna and Orthner Orthner & Associates (OOA).
East Legon Past Forward Baerbel Mueller, Juergen Strohmayer Mnemonic Nathan Frempong To Be Forgotten? Dominique Petit-Frère Whose Utopia Is It, Anyway? Namata Serumaga-Musisi 100 Years of Abotsiman Godwin Cheung Deferred Judgement Ibai Rigby The Rurality of Abostiman Hakeem Mustapha The Space Between Spaces Abdul-Rauf Issahaque “The worth of a piece of land...” Niiashi Adjaye, Juergen Strohmayer Tacit Networks Konstantin Kim Transformation on Jungle Avenue: A Study of the Commercialization of the Residential Neighbourhood of East Legon David Kojo Derban DIY: Privacy in Abotsiman Madeleine Malle East Legon: A Short Personal Retrospective Joseph Annan 60x60 Juliette Valat “…add culture and future to it” Rosemary Orthner, Baerbel Mueller Public Event Process Image Credits
ELPF East Legon Past Forward Baerbel Mueller, Juergen Strohmayer
East Legon Past Forward is a project investigating the spatial, socio-cultural, and migratory characteristics of Abotsiman, one of the few remaining grown neighborhoods of East Legon, Accra, and the implications of urban transformation on it. Once surrounded by pastures and farmland, the shrinking settlement of Abotsiman is now bordered and the surrounding land overtaken by large single-family houses and gated communities, resulting in the type of urbanism that is now commonly associated with Accra’s upper-middleclass neighborhood of East Legon. Abotsiman is both the name of a place – a ‘rurban’ village – and of a community – a collection of families and boarders, a population of about 300 with a variety of migratory backgrounds. The mappings and texts collected here give a sense of narrative and detail to the urban discourse on Accra, from the vantage point of this community. A city with multiple centers and peripheries, Accra has districts with distinct histories and urban characters. East Legon is one of these districts, located neither in the center nor in the periphery of the larger metropolitan area. As such, urban districts like East Legon have not yet received much attention in urban studies, although they make up significant parts of the city and its transformational impetus. The scenario of Abotsiman (the village) in East Legon (the upper-middleclass neighborhood) is at once specific and at the same time representational of the processes and interrelationships occurring in Accra and other urban agglomerations on the African continent. It is one of many examples of how “[i]n recent years, even more than before, everyday urban life, with its shifting appropriations of public space, has taken on the dimension of an existential, but also deeply political, struggle for day to day survival.”1 The scenario of the Abotsiman community is characterized by a crisis regarding the negotiation of urbanization in Accra from the precarious perspective of a small community. Urban sprawl, gentrification, land speculation, planning and lack of planning, stark demographic inequalities and economic pressures, a lack of representation, and a lack of communal agency have led to shrinking possibilities for the Abotsiman community to develop their land in a way that would improve their livelihoods and build a future in the emerging East Legon. 9
A variety of spaces in Abotsiman could be described as public or semipublic, all of which are in the process of disappearing. Starting from within the settlement, courtyards, niches, and pathways between buildings accommodate various activities and functions – social and otherwise. These spaces may be shared by a large family, several families, or the whole community. These interstitial urban spaces are cross-generational, multifunctional open rooms where leisure and domestic activities take place throughout the day. The porosity which these spaces generate within the urban fabric of Abotsiman also plays a vital role in the climatic comfort of the settlement, allowing air to circulate between buildings, vegetation to grow, and the creation of shaded outdoor space. Currently, these communal spaces are being threatened by the building of walls and the unsustainable densification of buildings, as land is sold off on the perimeter of Abotsiman and the community builds inwards, without having the means to densify vertically.
1 De Boeck, P., 2012. Infrastructure: Commentary from Filip De Boeck. Curated Collections, Cultural Anthropology Online.
Along Abotsi Street, the main tarred road that passes through the settlement, larger public spaces can be found. The zone between the road and buildings and the road itself can be described as a transitional public space with pedestrian traffic from the surroundings and within the community frequenting the commercial nodes along the road. Built shops, kiosks, and hawkers are patronized by members of the Abotsiman community as well as the surrounding single-family houses. The largest public space in Abotsiman is adjacent to the road and a historic adobe courtyard house â€“ Kenkey House. This generous open space is shaded by old trees and has a cleared soil ground that allows diverse activities on different scales to take place. This space has so far escaped partitioning and sale. While not all the mappings or texts presented here have explicit political tones or conclusions, the tension between Abotsiman and its context can be felt throughout. Through meetings with individuals and groups in Abotsiman, and spending time there, the project team encountered a community with a proud history and assertiveness, but at the same time, a profound sense of threat and mistrust. Although the Abotsiman clan was the owner of the surrounding land, the community has not been able to prosper from past and present land sales. The economic hardship in the Abotsiman community and lack of coordination or trust within the leading family have led to uncoordinated land sales without sustainable provisions for the future of the community. This has led to community members migrating further outwards from the city, a decline in small-scale social and economic connections, and a waning sense of identity within the community. The physical and social manifestations of these developments are described in the projects collected here.
The East Legon Past Forward project was initiated out of a concern for the future of Abotsiman by local architects Rosemary Orthner and Martin Orthner (OOA), who extended an invitation to the [applied] Foreign Affairs lab to collaborate on the subject. The team consisted of four students of architecture from the University of Applied Arts Vienna, three students of architecture from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and one student of international development from Lund University. The works presented here are the outcome of individual field research projects by the students that were developed with members of the Abotsiman community and reviewed by architects and other relevant persons in Accra. Several directions in which to continue the project and engagement with Abotsiman have been considered, to strengthen the community and support them in building a sustainable future for themselves in their city.
[a]FA Contributors Students, team and guest authors, alphabetically
Abdul-Rauf Issahaque (M.Arch) is an Accra-based Ghanaian architect and researcher who has a keen interest in sustainability and urban planning. He graduated from KNUST in Kumasi with a design thesis sited within the Marine Drive Masterplan that proposed a National Music Academy. He is currently working on several building and construction projects including Ghana-based [a]FA projects. Baerbel Mueller is an architect and researcher based in Vienna, Austria and Ghana. She is head of the [applied] Foreign Affairs lab at the Institute of Architecture, University of Applied Arts Vienna, and founder of nav_s baerbel mueller - navigations in the field of architecture and urban research within diverse cultural contexts. Her work comprises architecture, urban research, installations, scenography, and curatorial projects, and has been widely exhibited and awarded. David Kojo Derban studied at the school of Architecture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. He is a private researcher on subjects in settlement planning, rural and urban development, as well as the culture and arts of the African continent He is the CEO of Ethnik International, an architectural , research, and development firm based in Accra. Dominique Petit-FrĂ¨re (b. 1993) is a budding urbanist who lives in liminal spaces. She is a recent graduate of Lund University, Sweden, where she earned a masters degree in International Development and Management. In 2018, she founded Limbo Accra, a spatial art platform that connects new site-specific, socially-engaged art projects with the existing infrastructure of uncompleted property developments.
Ka Wai Godwin Cheung is a masterâ€™s architecture student in Vienna with broad international work experience. His independent research and practice focuses on nature-driven design solutions on human to urban scales, which understands all relationships as emergent systems while discovering their local potentials from within. Hakeem Mustapha, Ghanaian, graduated with a Master of Architecture in 2018 from KNUST, Ghana. His thesis was based on the exploration of the Ghana bamboo bicycle industry as a development catalyst that is geared towards addressing issues regarding the Volta delta. His interests include sustainable materials, parametrics, and urban design. He is currently a junior architect at an architectural firm in Accra. Ibai Rigby. Trained as an architect, Rigbyâ€™s previous work for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in developing countries led him to question what architecture is and what the figure of the architect should be, through text, photography, and film, inverting formal-informal and center-periphery relations. He currently works as an editor for urbanNext. Dr. Joe Annan is a governance and business advisor, a farmer, former Deputy Minister, MP, and UN senior advisor. His extensive global experiences in health, capacity building and development outcomes commits and drives him to champion the critical nexus between form, function, aesthetics and the environment in terms of planning and architecture for growing communities.
Juliette Valat is a master student in architecture at the University of Applied Art of Vienna, where she joined the [a]FA lab in 2018. After her undergraduate studies at the ENSAPM in Paris and the University of Hong Kong, in 2015, she worked as an intern and junior architect in Copenhagen for two years. She has received several prizes in student architecture competitions. Juergen Strohmayer is a designer who works on research-based architecture and planning on all scales. He has taught at the Ethiopian Institute for Architecture (EiABC) and the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Juergen applies contemporary design techniques and technologies within precise conceptual frameworks. He has been a member of the [applied]ForeignAffairs lab since 2009. Konstantin Kim is an architect from Moscow with a BA from Moscow Architectural Institute, who is currently finishing his MA program at University of Applied Arts Vienna and will graduate in 2020. He joined [a]FA in 2018 to explore the architectural research capability to unleash new local cultural capacities. Madeleine Malle graduated from the Higher Technical Institute for Biomedical Engineering in Klagenfurt and took part in the bachelor’s architecture program at Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Currently she is studying architecture at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and joined [a]Fa in 2018 for the East Legon Past Forward project. Namata Serumaga-Musisi (The Griot Introspect) is a decolonial spacemaker (background architecture) who is exploring the lived experience in the physical city - and questioning imported/imposed urbanism and the rejection of locally defined spaces in the name of modernization and development. She is attempting to return development narratives to the Living City - the lived reality. Nathaniel Kwesi Frempong, born in Accra, Ghana in 1994, is an MA architecture student at the Staedelschule Architecture Class in Frankfurt, Germany, and joined the [a]FA team on the EastLegon Past Forward project in September 2018. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
Rosemary Orthner co-founded OOA with her husband Martin Orthner in 2003. OOA’s design approach stems from a passionate desire to integrate the multiple social, cultural, and environmental conditions in Ghana with internationally recognized standards of design and execution, creating a sustainable design for all types of architectural projects.
Nii-Ashie or “Nash” Adjaye founded Walulel during his time at University of Oxford. Adjaye coordinates Walulel’s quantitative investigation, web engineering and geospatial analytics workstreams. A politics, law and economics graduate with six invaluable years of experience in London who specialises in real estate and urban development, Adjaye is always concerned with people, place, and perfect information.
[a]FA Mnemonic Nathan Frempong
Mnemonic: A system which assists in remembering something, making use of encoding and visual cues. Of Greek origin – mnemonika; from mnemon ‘mindful’, relating to the power of memory. - Oxford Dictionary …ethnicity, politics, time and development; shrouded in the sanctity of founding, stands the century-old Kenkey House, eight feet off the Abokyi street in East Legon, Accra, in a peri-urban oasis of the city. A relic from time in stills, as the rurality shrinks in the face of the gentrified urban; mnemonic… The house affectionately called Kenkey House – which serves as a symbolic reference to the founding of Abokyiman for many of the community’s inhabitants – was commissioned and built by Nii Adjei Tsuru and his kinsmen when he moved there from Okponglo, 2.5 km away on the establishment of an air force base for British and American soldiers. Nii Adjei Tsuru was the first settler of La lineage in the Abokyiman community in the beginning of the 20th century, moving there from La on the coast, primarily to farm. On arrival, his family met the Abokyi people and constructed a well. Built on the undeveloped savanna land with sparse vegetation as a fort for the family, the house served as the nucleus from which the La indigenes in the Abotsiman community evolved. The house has been passed down over three generations to the current head, Jaabi, the daughter of Adjei Tsuru’s first son, Ataa Okpotsi I.
The eight-room, 212m2 house, facing northwest towards the Abokyi street, formerly a path, was constructed with thick adobe walls (with an average width of 375mm and an average height of 2750mm) at roof level and rendered in masonry plaster. The roof framing, which consists of hardwood trunks with an average diameter of 140mm, supports the aluminum roofing sheets in a direct rafter roofing system. The thick walls were constructed to protect the inhabitants from wild animals and stray bullets during World War II as American and British soldiers plied the Abokyi street, then a footpath leading to the air force base which was located on what is now the site of Airport Residential. The 0.45m2 window openings were kept to a minimum and predominantly located on the southwestern façade, with two small openings located on both sides of the entrance. The rooms, built around a central, 100m2 courtyard, are occupied by ten inhabitants, eight of which are Nii Ajei’s descendents. The other two, a mother and child, rent space in a room just outside the location where the mother, a fruit seller, mounts a table to trade. The rearflanking rooms from the entryway serve as sleeping areas with an occupancy of four people per room, while the rooms to the side serve as storage spaces, although one has been deserted due to collapsed walls. A recessed space enclosed by a cloth and the adjoining walls serves as the bathroom. The courtyard functions as a cooking and storage area for the sale of items such as kenkey, charcoal, kerosene, yam and noodles, which is the main source of livelihood for the inhabitants. The house entryway serves as the point of trade with a kiosk setup. Some items such as kenkey and charcoal are sold from within the courtyard. A semi-formal living space is organized around a radio set in the bedroom corridor, which also serves as storage space. The entryway to the courtyard is placed facing away from the southwest in order to redirect the harsh Harmattan winds. The kitchen, located towards the northeast, away from the predominant wind direction, directs soot away
from the sleeping areas towards the entrance, which is evident from the dark, soot-covered timber framing and aluminum roof. The sleeping areas to the southwest, facing the predominant wind direction, away from the Abokyi street, depict the passive mentality: incorporating existing environmental conditions to achieve ambience in the generated layout of the house is also evident in the general orientation of buildings within the community to either side of the Abokyi street. The firewood for the tripod stove used for cooking is stored and dried naturally behind the house. The charred walls to the rear of the house depict years of burning, either of the wood used for fuel or for the combustible waste. Sewage from the bathroom is drained off between the house and the adjacent courtyard into a dead corner where the buildings share the wall facing northeast. The courtyard has played a central role in the development of the community, with new buildings that can be traced back to bloodlines of Adjei Tsuru and the La community, members of which who became major custodians of the lands after the Abokyi people left the community. The organization of the community around the house is evident in the placement of the communal social spaces. The community meeting place used to occupy the plot of land across the Abokyi street from the courtyard. It was a center of activities ranging from funerals to major social functions, as well as a place where children played during the dull hours of the day. The place had become associated with memories in which Christmas huts were set up and the older generation sat to while away time. As the space was given off to private homes, the communal meeting place has moved to the open space nearest to the Kenkey House. It functions as a multifunctional space where activities of daily life occur, from washing clothes to playing board games. The naturally ventilated, shaded area is cleaned by the children who frequently play there.
…In a space owned by pots and pans, clothes on the line, shoes between the roofs. Smoke rises to the sound of the hungry knock on the door. Corn, more corn, fish and charcoal. Jaabi is posed gallantly at the gate… The kitchen placed at the center of the courtyard reiterates its central theme of house activities and livelihood. The functions of the kitchen spill out to every part of the house, right from delivery, storage, and sale. The direct entry into the kitchen on approach positions it as the point of social interaction between the people. Kenkey, a delicacy of the Ga ethnic group, the primary item on sale after which Kenkey House is coined, indicates some of the cultural influence of the La community on their current Abokyiman settlement. A room to the rear belonging to Nii Ajei Tsuru is regarded as the spiritual gateway of the house, where traditional rites such as libation are carried out for the ancestors and which is placed at the helm of privacy within the courtyard. The courtyard and the adjacent rooms are kept very much private, with access restricted only to family members. The rented space is only accessible from outside, with its access to the courtyard closed off. …As the dying rays of the sun shine fiercely through the gaps between the smoke-charred kitchen roof and the broken front facade, the scene harks back to 1923, when the family was gathered as they are now to celebrate the last living child, the last surviving buildings, whose fate lies uncertain, maybe down to the highest bidder…
Nii Adjei Tsuru (c. 1890 - 1950), known as Nii Adjei, was a pastoralist, leader and founder of present day Abotsiman. Having migrated from the shores of Labadi and into the dense hinterlands of the capital city Accra, Nii Adjei cultivated the spatial landscape of what exists as Abotsiman today. Photographed in front of the earliest known architectural artifact in c. 1930, this building remains a focus of [aFAâ€™s research in investigating the urban and migratory paradigms of Abotsiman and the Accra region.
[a]FA To Be Forgotten? Dominique Petit-FrĂ¨re
How does one preserve the remnants of a native settlement that is destined to be forgotten, especially when single-use buildings without any space for the development of integration are being organized and constructed? In an age where rapid urbanization and (r)urban sprawl has become the normalized fitting of Accraâ€™s urban fabric, the unyielding act of archiving the continuity of shrinking neighborhoods has become more prevalent than ever. To Be Forgotten? does just that, by capturing the growing complexity of migration-related spatial references and the growing heterogeneity of urban Accra. Its aims is to investigate the transitory alteration of the Abotsiman landscape by mapping the different life cycles of place-making through linguistic and photographic forms. As a point of departure, the project takes the relationship between Accraâ€™s (r) urban phenomenon and the informal communities that are nestled in between and on the periphery. This relationship is addressed through a multi-disciplinary approach, fusing together three interrelated qualitative methods: cognitive mapping, walking interviews, and photography. In showing works that address the boundaries between the native settlement and the larger estates, it opens up conversations on the multiplicity of experiences and histories of Abotsiman, thus forging a new dialectic exchange.
As a collection of sorts, To Be Forgotten? exists as a preface to a growing catalog that is contextualizing the spatial narratives of Abotsiman; all whilst providing historical access to elements that have notably shaped the spatial experience of this particular community in East Legon. The resulting documentation does not shy away from the indwelling character of the Abotsiman settlement and contributes a new layer of urbanity through the stories shared by its settlers.
“This is going on documentation, so we need to speak exactly how things are.” — Current (R)urban Dilemmas — “The land in the city is becoming extinct, so people are moving to more fertile spaces. In the Abotsiman village, people are selling their land to buy farmland outside of Accra.” “The problem with farming in Abotsiman is the access to land. The land here in Abotsiman is not rich, it’s spoiled. This is not the ideal place to grow crops like this, the land is not fertile. Without farming I can’t do anything.” “The growth of these large buildings have taken away the rural nature of Abotsiman. For our people, the Eastern Region is the new migration destination, that is why the people of Abotsiman need to sell their land in order to buy farmland elsewhere. There’s no place for us here anymore”
“The settlement of Abotsiman dates back to the late 1800s. Pastoralists and nomads from the North would graze their cattle in this area. This area was once all bush! Nothing else. People rarely settled here. But our grandfather Nii Adjei Tsuru decided to settle here in Abotsiman to farm and create a community for his relatives who were living in La. The old mud house you see on the main road is the first building created in our town and was built entirely by the hands of my grandfather, Nii Adjei. To this day, it stands.” “When you look at the map, you see that the Eastern Region and Greater Accra are neighbors, so by default, the next migrational pattern of the GA people is towards those fertile lands. The whole village doesn’t migrate at once. The process starts like this — a family or two brothers might sell land in the Accra city and then move to the hinterlands to start a small farming process. You will hardly meet a community migrating in mass to relocate and settle elsewhere. Those were the olden days. People do things alone now.”
— Migration + History of Abotsiman — — Urbanization in Accra—
when they saw the Gas coming from the far east from Nigeria, they were scared, so they ran up into the mountain range and watched them from above. The Ga people were so many and they were fast! So by default, the Aburi people called them ants [Nkran], tiger ants.” “The present Abotsiman village is a part of the La community down by the coast. Although the distance is far, the La people do not recognize it as if they have crossed a border — this is their zone, their land, their territory.”
“After independence, a lot of Ghanaian people fled the country due to political instability. However, once we entered the age of democracy, some of those people returned, and when they returned they returned with capital, investing in places like East Legon and Abotsiman.” “Since the late ‘90s, migrational movements of elites have occurred, but right now they are still on the rise. There’s no place for the Ga people to farm in Accra. Their lands are now being used for Western infrastructural things. They are being forced to leave their environment.”
“In the olden days, it was believed that the Aburi people were the only people close to the coast. But
—Land in Africa—
—Demarcation + Architecture—
[In regards to the leasing agreement in Ghana. Land is never sold for life, but only leased on contracted terms ranging from 50-99 years]
“People are building walls and demarcating their land, not solely due to the threat of foreigners but from their neighbors. It’s a statement — I know what is mine.”
“You know in Africa we don’t play with land. Land is our soul.” “An African man with his land, you don’t play. He is not a rich man, but the land is all he has.” “The land is the spirit of an African.” —Fertile Migration— “As times go on, things are getting more difficult in the city. Everything is so expensive. So if you can’t keep up, you go to the outskirts, where things are less competitive and easier.”
—Future of Abotsiman— “The Abotsiman village is the only place we can call our own in East Legon, it’s a statement. All the other land we owned was sold off our fathers and uncles. The only threat to the community is the younger generation. If our leaders and elders die, the younger generation will sell our land. They don’t see the value — they are being sucked indirectly off their own land.”
—Preservation— “Another way of recording our history outside of writing is through folk tales, this is how they arepreserving it.” “Before this community vanishes, we have to take a picture and preserve the history.”
“There’s pressure here in Accra. The Abotsiman migrants who have fled the city to move towards more fertile lands are not losing out. If anything, they are moving to areas in which the financial caliber is maintained. The cost of living in Accra is high, so they do not have access to many necessities such as hospitals, schools, etc. So when they relocate to the Eastern Region and so on, the health and education systems are more affordable and in their caliber to access and maintain.“
“The mud structure was the original building in the community before cement blocks. So when you see mud homes in the community, you know that those buildings have been there for ages, you know that this is where the natives reside. It dates back. We are the indigenous people of this town. It is our indigenous architecture.”
[a]FA Whose Utopia Is It, Anyway? Namata Serumaga-Musisi
Development is coming to Ashaley Botwe The rebuilding of the road to School Junction is paved with political intention – an undertaking that will be wrapped around our necks come election time. The disintegrating bitumen oases in the red desert have been dug up, as construction helmets dance in the sun – bright with the promise of what is to come. “It is good,” says one taxi driver, our teeth rattling from the impact of unabsorbed shock. “We have been suffering with this road for too long.” And we have, as commuter patience is reduced to sullen despair while bodies are thrown about in an almost comical dance, shoulders being bruised against rusted doors, spines aching from the effort of retaining some semblance of order, of form. Development is coming to School Junction. For months now, we have endured the dust, the traffic, the cutting down of old trees along with their blessed shade, the detours; we are proponents, not enemies, of progress, you see. We will all benefit from development. All of us. This morning, the carriers of progress come wearing task force jackets, their neon backs blazing with the promise of displacement. A few finger-pointing, surveyor-squinting hours later, their plan is clear. Who would have thought? The road at School Junction is now actually a dual carriageway — not the single lane we had become accustomed to. The entire taxi rank is on this road, kiosks and all. They will have to go. They will have to go — development is coming to School Junction. Away with the kiosks, away with the taxis, away with the trotros and their communities. Trotro routes are being discontinued at a moment’s notice, their passengers left to improvise. It is alright though — we are proponents of progress, and development is coming to School Junction. This morning there is one trotro stationed at School Junction, a lone wish in front of the trotro drivers’ shed. Inside the shed, the mates who used to fight over passengers now shrug their shoulders — if they even look at you at all.
Will the city look at us, plan for us, at all? As development settles over School Junction, a lone police officer enters the shed, making his way to the office at the back. The resident stationmaster looks up and, without flinching, flips to the back of the open book before him, pulling out a wad of cash. The police officer is soon on his way. As are we, our necks rigid in defense of the dignity the incomplete road wishes to deny us. We resign ourselves to the illegitimacy of our being, for we are proponents — not enemies — of progress; and development is progress, even if it excludes us. We are proponents of progress, development. And development is coming to Ashaley Botwe. The Reactionary City Accra City’s task force has gone through Madina Zongo Junction, clearing away vendors and destroying their structures; this in response to the Ashaiman Market accident last week, where a truck ran into vendors and pedestrians, killing one and injuring several. The Madina vendors are asking, the Ashaiman Market Queen is asking, we should be asking : Where are the people supposed to go?
The city’s chosen action is an example of our insistence on the approach of symptom ‘management’: a knee-jerk reaction that highlights our refusal to address the real issue, the real disease — the fact that we have yet to build a city that accommodates its inhabitants. A city that in crisis responds with erasure, a task force that focuses that energy on the marginalised — these are not signs of ‘development’. Nor are they signs of incompetence. The city knows that the evicted vendors will be back within the week. The evictions will do nothing in the long run — except to further deliberately criminalize the ‘informal’ residents, economy, sector that we continue to refuse to [adequately] accommodate. What would have been the ideal? A city concerned about its people’s well-being would have perhaps already been in the process of pedestrianising the roads in and around our markets. Market structures would have been built in response to a critical analysis of the needs of the people, instead of arbitrary sheds [or worse, multi-storey structures]: concrete ovens, far from the hub of commercial activity, which remain abandoned years after completion. That city would engage its inhabitants, instead of importing foreign answers to the urban problem. And that city, having catered to the needs of its people, would then be able to rightly and consistently enforce regulations, with the knowledge that the infrastructure in place could and would adequately carry its residents. This [temporary] removal of the vendors is a move to appease short-term middle-class indignation, to demonstrate ‘action’ before we are swept up into the next scandal, crisis, political drama. By no stretch of the imagination is it intended to permanently resolve a problem that would require us to revisit our treatment of the marginalised, the ‘informal’.
The city performs governance for us. So before we avert our middle-class gaze, we must join the marginalised in asking : Where are the people supposed to go? A Love Letter to Accra If you want to know whether your city is built for you, take a short walk from Spanner to Accra Mall. When you are done running, dodging, and skipping, let us talk about how cities today are designed to absorb surplus capital [Marxist scholar David Harvey on the podcast Intercepted], i.e., cities are built by the elite for the elite, which means they are not built for you. We build the Circles, the Atomic Junctions, the motorways that carry the vehicled elite from one investment to another; your pedestrian overpasses are an afterthought: inadequate, inconvenient, incomplete. Let us talk about how you feed this city; how you underpin the economy with your ‘informal’ trade, making this city — which is not yours — functional, flowing
This is intentional. The poor will continue to pay for the failings of the city, of our governments: first through their marginalisation, then through the selective rejection of the ecosystems they build on the fringes (and without which the city could not survive), and then through their violent displacement when our failure to incorporate them (them: our hands, our eyes, our mouths) into our ‘development’ plans becomes more evident in crisis.
between the cracks where this photocopied urbanism did not stick, filling them with pure water sellers on hot, badly designed junctions, soothing them with mobile money kiosks where GCB would not venture. How you innovate (!) without your generators and shock-absorbing, AC’d V8s, almost transcending the gutterless roads, the neglected trotro station, the unreliable power supply. Almost. Let us look at how, when they no longer have need for you, the native elite will periodically, violently, remove you from their sight, you — a speck of dust on the fabric of modernity. You are assigned a state of proletarianism — nothing of yours will be accommodated except your labour. They will call your houses informal, your workspaces informal, your business itself informal, you — informal. Why would they alienate you, you, the foundation of the city? Because you, true urban hybrid, are a threat to surplus capital. They will not invest in your business, they will not invest in your neighbourhood, they will not venture out of their elitist bubbles to offer you, backbone of the city, an equal share of opportunity. They will work to alienate you from access to that opportunity, that capital. The cities we are building — composed of these emulators of the houses of Western capitalist economy — continue to ignore us, ignore our reality; yet, because we are real, we keep slipping out into the open, seeping through the cracked veneer of modernity [what is that?]. Accra Mall will continue to need workers. Workers will continue to need trotros. Trotros will continue to be parked at Spanner. Commuters will continue to alight at Spanner. Vendors will continue to be drawn to the commuters. Commuters will continue to run across an unpaved roundabout to get to the mall.
By marginalising you, the elite make you rats, scampering across what is supposedly a fast-growing economy. You cannot be accommodated. You must be punished. So they will continue to destroy your homes, your workplaces, your businesses, in the meantime building their imported replacements. You will not be accommodated because you are the truth – the marginalised blemish on a parallel and, without you, unsustainable , ubercity. And it is you who are building, maintaining, resuscitating this city — this is why you are still here. So, while we still have the chance to think, shift, reclaim… Who is building your cities? Who is defining them? Whose Utopia is It, Anyway? In the days and weeks after [government-sanctioned] “Operation Murambatsvina” (Clear the Filth) was launched on May 19, 2005, police burnt, bulldozed, and destroyed tens of thousands of properties around the country. The destructions resulted in the mass evictions of urban dwellers from housing structures and the closure of various informal- sector businesses throughout the country. According to the United Nations, 700,000 people — nearly six percent of the total population — have been forcibly evicted from their homes, been made homeless, or lost their source of livelihood since May 19. The evictions and demolition of houses and market stalls, and the manner in which they were carried out, constitute serious human rights violations. “Clear The Filth: Mass Evictions And Demolitions In Zimbabwe”, The Implementation of Operation Murambatsvina (Clear the Filth) Human Rights Watch, Sep 2005 A similar fate befell the vendors (though perhaps not on the Zimbabwean scale) in downtown Johannesburg, after their mass eviction in 2013, Agbogbloshie June 4 market [Accra, Ghana] during the July 2015 demolitions; and the
tenants of the Nakivubo Parkyard Market in Kampala, Uganda, who, in March 2017, woke up to the bulldozing of the structures that were, for many, their entire livelihoods. Many African urban spaces have remained oppressive in the 21st century, a legacy of colonialism on the continent. Emerging communities, economies, and structures that should have taken hold in the immediate post-colonial era were and continue to be marginalised into informality by the ‘template’ that we continue to aspire to. This is reflected in our use of urban areas, with the hierarchical tension between spaces such as markets and malls, and between modern African hybrids such as Mobile Money kiosks and banks. Cities have taken the form of a rigid, insufficient mould that rarely meets the needs of their fast-growing, dynamic populations. The inhabitants, unphased by this rigidity, continuously move around and adapt, flowing through and filling the gaps created by imported urbanity, thus highlighting its failures, particularly in spaces where they are not allowed to flow. As urban creatives living in and observing these spaces, we find ourselves with a unique opportunity for introspection. A new equilibrium must be sought. The Age of Multiplicity The urban dweller of the postcolonial age goes through life straddling a razorthin line dividing the perceived modern – too often read ‘Western’ – and our inherent identity, a traditional, yet forever evolving, morphing, breathing identity. Every action is the result of a number of conscious and subconscious decisions based on this fluid identity and the global – and therefore no longer foreign – identity. Nowhere is this multiplicity so clearly expressed as it is in our cities. We live out our urban lives in an infrastructure constructed and designed by and for a different age and inhabitant. The functionality of the Physical City must often be questioned as we face the violence of navigating this alien structure that has been imposed on our reality by authoritarian figures, in the name of ambiguously defined modernization and development.
With this wealth of dynamic information at our fingertips, our infrastructure should reflect the innovative nature of our inhabitance of space, yet we continue to import alien models in a misguided effort to prove ourselves worthy within the global urban development discourse. We label markets and public transport systems ‘informal’, building [then abandoning] parking garage markets in commercially dead zones and bus stops for inadequate bus systems instead, all of which will be altered and repurposed by those they were intended for, before being labelled as ‘problem areas’ during the next wave of government mandated development planning. We invest in unconnected development plans, but do not engage the communities they impact. We reject – in terms of structure but not in function – that which is truly representative of our needs, our way of life, identity, and take on outdated versions of models that continue to grow outside of us, thus guaranteeing ourselves a back seat in our own development.
The Living City, on the other hand, tells a different story; the inhabitants act as fillers, flowing through rigid infrastructure and challenging all restrictions and channels, recreating and reinforcing more dynamic solutions to our needs on a daily basis. A street vendor at an intersection that is notorious for congestion ensures that commuters are hydrated. His colleagues provide everything from toilet paper to airtime and chocolate. Thus, the most marginalised [by design] of the populace have become a living map of our needs in the hybrid state that is our existence.
In living this schizophrenic existence, in appreciating the innovative measures taken to ensure an [uncomfortable] equilibrium, one finds the opportunity to facilitate a more inclusive development dialogue that transcends generation, class, and borders, for a manifested whole. This dialogue must be founded on a period of introspection, allowing all who engage a moment to reflect on space in all its embodiments, in the understanding that the Physical Space cannot be at odds with the Living, that for the Living Space to manifest itself in intentional design, we must engage all aspects of our psychological, mental, and virtual space, and that for us to truly engage, we must empower the primary informant in this dialogue â€“ the citizen. We must take the development narrative and return it to those who live it. Empowering the Interstitial There is a disconnect between the imported urban ideal and the lived reality. The world of the â€˜informalâ€™ is possibly the only mediating element, the organic space where the needs of the citizen take priority. These spaces are structured, sustainable ecosystems that dominate economy and serve the communities who build them. What if we were able to use these spaces as platforms for development dialogue and implementation? What if communities were the driving force behind development? To begin this process of recalibration we must engage, deconstruct, and analyse African revolutionary thought, freeing it from the exclusive circles of academia and enriching it with the lived experiences of the majority. This could be easily achieved, as the tradition of disseminating information and engaging in dialogue in shared spaces, beginning with the Griot, continues to be manifested through, among others, mobile community radios, market preachers, singers, and actors. Across the continent, preachers effectively share their faith with commuters, quoting biblical texts and leading in prayer and song from within the matatus of Nairobi and Kampala, the danfos of Lagos, as well as the trotros of Accra.
This is the Griot Introspect.
An established dialogue in which all parties have a voice would allow the urban creative to explore, engage, and record the interstitial that is the informal, setting the foundation for various expressions of collected observations, installations that are living maps of the reality: recorded space as installation. In mapping the experienced space, the creative is able to identify hierarchies, issues, gaps, potential; creating and leaving visual traces of this mapping in the process: installation as intervention. The more permeable our physical, psychological, mental, and virtual spaces become through this intervention, the more efficiently the greater community will be able to engage with it, allowing the citizen, facilitated by the creative, to direct the development of their own space: intervention as space.
[a]FA 100 Years of Abotsiman Godwin Cheung
In East Legon, the value and attitude by which the Abotsiman people view their estates have exhibited drastic permutations over the last century. Consequently, notions of boundaries, public spaces, and culture of the Abotsiman settlement have evolved over time towards an ever more fragmented community. When the first Abotsiman settlers arrived in East Legon in as early as the 1850s, they found themselves on a piece of barren land teeming with lush bushes and trees. The Kenkey House was the first mud construction erected in the region for the family from La. This family and subsequent settlers relied on agriculture as their primary activity and source of food while the community steadily grew in numbers.
By the late 1800s, however, the idea of land ownership within the settlement began to intensify as British and American soldiers raided the farms. Powerless against the Western military, the chief began allocating his territory to his close relatives from La for better control and protection. Over the following decades, dozens of mud houses were built across the territory. A handful were built in the form of courtyard houses, compounds where an entire family of ten could reside; while others were organized in ethnic clusters and formed public courtyards around the trees, which provided natural shade for all kinds of outdoor activities, such as laundry, cooking, and gatherings. As the community grew, zones such as village centers and football fields were also established. After Ghana gained its independence in the 1960s, the socio-political landscapes of the country under Kwame Nkrumah brought about prosperous promises for the people. Official zoning plans from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) imposed laws on land use/ownership and planned excessively wide roads, which began to fragment the community and implicitly hindered the sprawl of the settlement. These urban policies, although zoned as residential land use, forced the community to densify inward. Landowners became desperate and allowed renters to build timber houses within the courtyards. The plot across from the Kenkey House, which was once a public event space for celebrations and meetings, was sold to a foreign businessman who occupied the space with an unfinished villa construction for at least 15 years. The football field, where most of the people in the settlement spent their childhood, was replaced by three single-family houses, all built with unmarked fence walls that frame the streetscape. Farmland was also sold in order to make money that could be invested into other business strategies, such as setting up kiosks to produce, sell, and activate the streetscape, or in favor of working in offices elsewhere. The settlement, once the monopoly of the Abotsiman region of East Legon, slowly began to diminish, along with its history. The contest for properties around the Abotsiman community has increased drastically, especially over the past decade, during which the Ghanaian upper middle class have begun to see East Legon as Accraâ€™s new hub. This tension is currently being reflected in the informal settlement, as new fence walls are being erected everyday to demarcate clear divisions between the landowners. The once intangible and fluid boundaries between the households, which allowed for an informal gathering space, have now become tangible and impenetrable thresholds. The agglomeration of all these socio-political and economical forces that are interwoven into every Abotsimanâ€™s livelihood begs the question: What will happen next to this community? Will it be possible to protect the relics and memories of the rich Abotsiman history against the threats of modernity?
[a]FA Deferred Judgment Ibai Rigby
The African continent has not always been regarded with inferiority by Europeans. Historically, racial concerns were about discriminating aristocrats from the plebeians; recent scholarship contends that the Roman Empire had no bias against different ethnicities. Slavery was the result of war captivity and not related to inherited physical characteristics. When 14th-century Catalan cartographers produced their now celebrated maps, kings and sultans on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea were equally represented on their thrones as respected rulers of their respective countries, including Mansa Musa of the wealthy West African Islamic Mali Empire. Things nevertheless began to change around the 16th century, when the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, propelled by the invention of the printing press, together with the serendipitous “discovery” and conquest of the Americas1, filled European nations with hubris. The soil of the “new” continent was perfect for cash crop plantations that nevertheless were only profitable as long as labour remained unpaid. Since diseases from the old world decimated the Native American populations, African slaves were imported to do the hard work. In order to justify the dehumanisation through the slavery of millions of Africans, and the colonisation processes that followed during the 18th and 19th centuries, a process of cultural “othering” was put in place. In Edward Said’s words, “European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient [everything not European] as a sort of surrogate and even underground self”2. African societies were considered static, as if lacking the agency that produces history. Western leadership was legitimised in the name of the mission civilisatrice. Slavery was abolished in the 19th century and formally prohibited by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948; former colonies such as Ghana gained their independence from imperial power in the mid 20th century, and racial segregation has been officially put to an end in most countries. However, uttering the word “Africa” today still sparks in many Westerners the image of tenebrosity that Joseph Conrad put forth in his novel Heart of Darkness. War, terrorism, AIDS, Ebola and slums are still part of the mainstream narrative of the continent, which we still too often refer to as a homogeneous entity, regard less of the fact that it is composed by 54 countries with an estimate of 2000 spoken languages and four major climate regions. The fact that economic growth in many African countries doubles or triples that of any European country does not seem to strike a chord with many. As Filip de Boek writes, “The strength of the imagined place renders invisible the reality of the African site”3. As a consequence, hoards of volunteers from the West keep travelling to the continent to participate in cooperation projects, occasionally with the idea of experiencing the authenticity of a human society whose traditions have not yet been corrupted by modernity. The fact that rural populations are deserting the countryside for the city is often met with horror. Architects, who ever since the Great Recession have been inclined to exchange the comfort of the boudoir for the nostalgie de la boue, have joined the corps of humanitarian aid, more often than not to prevent the use of modern materials such as steel, glass and concrete. The noble African, they say, must be saved from the Promethean promise turned into a Faustian bargain. Africa must remain undeveloped to redeem the excesses of the West. That is the assignment of the new civilising mission. Undoubtedly, Africa’s rapid urbanisation can seem like the result of a deal with the devil. Most rural-urban migrations throughout history followed critical ameliorations in agricultural production that required fewer hands to work the land; better transportation systems that would allow cities to feed themselves with food originating from greater distances and most importantly, industrialisation. Urbanisation has been considered a key factor of economic
growth; as Edward Glaeser preaches in his book, The Triumph of Cities4, people learn by being close to each other, and it is this induced creativity that generates the progress fuelling economic growth. On the other hand, living close to each other also helps the spread of disease. In order to keep industrial populations productive, the ruling classes had few options other than providing better housing for the proletariat. However, the process of urbanisation in many other sub-Saharan nations in general, and in Ghana in particular, has followed different paths. The elimination of tariffs on state-sponsored American and European agricultural produce, under World Bank- and IMF-enforced Structural Adjustment policies, has created the perfect scenario for an urbanisation without industrialisation. Neo-liberal policies have privatised the extraction of natural resources, which has indeed improved the income of a small portion of the population. Without the need of a labour-based economy, there is little payoff offered from improving the quality of life of the urban poor. Modern vaccinations have also made the urgency for hygienic cities redundant. Lowcapacity governments are not able to guarantee the safety of their citizens or the quality of public infrastructure. As a consequence, those who can afford it, i.e. elites involved in the management of the countryâ€™s natural resources, together with non-resident nationals or families with important ties in the diaspora, are moving into low-density, segregated communities outside the city, similar to those we see in East Legon, gobbling up pre-existing rural enclaves and habitat protection areas. It is such that the importance of international factors in the making of these suburbs has resulted in some scholars giving them the name â€œGloburbsâ€?5.
Moreover, looking at urban sprawl with deferred judgement might help in find ing a wide range of opportunities that do not necessarily exist in the socalled compact city most urbanists defend. From an economic point of view, the initial capital needed to build single-family units is less than that required to build apartment blocs. Savings might be invested in construction materials that at a later time can be employed to incrementally build a house, keeping loansharks at bay. The construction process might be completed by the owners themselves or by contractors, depending on individual access to finance, tools, time and knowledge. As individuals escalate the social ladder, they can adapt their suburban houses to their growing aspirations by expanding, adapting or rebuilding them, without needing to leave their neighbourhood. This is not possible in apartments and has been seen as one of the causes of degradation of social housing districts in Europe, where the middle classes left behind their
The adverse effects of urban sprawl, whether it is called suburbia or globurbia, have already been analysed in detail in different contexts and are well known. The intensive consumption of land that could otherwise be used to industrially grow food; the difficulty to provide utilities such as clean water, proper water sewage, garbage collection, electricity and telecommunications; the reliance on private mobility for transportation and its impact on traffic and pollution; the rampant alienation of individuals as a consequence of fewer casual interactions and spontaneous meetings; epidemic obesity induced by lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyles; these and many others make for a growing list of attributes that disqualify sprawl as honouring the interest of serious architectural debate. Nonetheless, suburban areas keep multiplying themselves whether serious architects and urban planners like it or not. When the United Nations announced that the world had become urban at some point in 2010, it was the image of densely populated megacities with complex skylines that came to the mind of many. A closer look at the data would reveal a very different truth: the world did not become urban, but suburban6. The challenges of the sub-urban age are too complex and urgent to keep ignoring them.
1 It is becoming more and more accepted that unintentionally importing diseases from Europe has played an important role in the conquest of Pre-Columbian civilisations. See Mann, C.C., 2005. 1491: New revelations of the Americas before Columbus. Alfred a Knopf Incorporated. 2 Said, E.W., 1979. Orientalism. Vintage. 3 De Boeck, F. and Plissart, M.F., 2014. Kinshasa: tales of the invisible city. Leuven University Press. 4 Glaeser, E., 2011. Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer. Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. 5 Noteworthy the work of Anthony D. King. See King, A., 1999. “Suburb/Ethnoburb/ Globurb: Framing Transnational Urban Space in Asia”. In WALD International Conference, Istanbul. 6 Keil, R. ed., 2013. Suburban constellations: Governance, land and infrastructure in the 21st century. Jovis Verlag. 7 Turner, J., 1976. Housing by People (London). Marion Boyars. 8 Comaroff, J. and Comaroff, J.L., 2015. Theory from the South: Or, how Euro-America is evolving toward Africa. Routledge. 9 Koolhaas, R., Boeri, S., Kwinter, S., Tazi, N. and Obrist, H.U., 2000. Mutations. Actar.
African cities can take enormous advantage of the ideas put forth here. Lacking infrastructure means that it can adopt the latest innovations available, leapfrogging obsolete technologies such as landline communication or physical coins. Considering, among other things, that text might kill speech in the future, it does not make sense to imagine the future of African cities as following the model of medieval Spanish towns or Brooklyn, with a clear centre surrounded by subordinate neighbourhoods inherited from monarchical regimes or colonial rule. We should not forget that the ubiquitous single storey bungalow or veranda house found today across the entire United States actually originated in the tropics, as a vernacular solution to a warm and humid climate; in a way, this typology is finding its way back to where it comes from. While the African continent remains rural today, there is no doubt that the bulk of future urbanisation processes will happen on African soil. Besides, the African realities of today might resemble those of the West in the future. It is for this reason that, for any architect interested in the future of cities in general, Accra is an excellent place to start. As the Comaroffs explain in their breaking ground theory from the South, “it is the south that often is the first to feel the effects of world-historical forces, the south in which radically new assemblages of capital and labour are taking shape, thus to prefigure the future of the global north”.8 Alternatively, as Rem Koolhaas reported from Lagos, “To write about the African city is to write about the terminal condition of London, Chicago or Los Angeles”.9 So it is here that programmes such as the [applied] Foreign Affairs play an important role. Leaving behind a nostalgic attitude for an Africa that is no more, it arrives with the endeavour of better representing the realities and complexities of contemporary African cities, generating a space in which an exchange of ideas between equals produces a new architecture. An architecture that is neither African, European, Austrian or Ghanaian, but Cosmopolitan, in the sense adopted by Ghanaian author Kwame Anthony Appiah.10 An architecture that is literally a stone soup shared among those willing to build a better future.
10 Appiah, K.A., 2017. Cosmopolitanisms. NYU Press.
less fortunate neighbours as soon as they had the means to do so. In terms of mobility, it is possible to affirm that telecommuting will soon become the norm as businesses try to reduce operating costs such as running office space, in a similar way to how hospitals reduce expenditures by sending patients home as soon as possible. The separation of workplace from residence, initiated by the French bourgeoisie in the 18th century, might be reverted; 3D printing and drone transportation will make production and consumption ubiquitous. Shared vans or trotro operations could already improve dramatically by simply adapting existing ride-sharing apps; the future promises autonomous vehicles that serve as moving co-working spaces or kitchens for delivery food. The larger proportion of roofs per capita found in suburban areas must be used to generate energy through solar panels; gardens could be adapted to grow food employing homemade compost. In the end, as John Turner put it, it is not about what the house looks like, but what it does.7
[a]FA The Rurality of Abotsiman Hakeem Mustapha
Rurality as a concept has had varying definitions based on the country, policies, or research (Chigbu, 2013). According to the United Nations Statistical Division, ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ are not considered exclusive definitions that are universally applicable due to characteristic differences based on nations and even regions within nations (United Nations, 2017). Some useful points of measure have been population in agriculture, availability of electricity, piped water, schools, medical care, social and recreational facilities, as well as locality sizes (United Nations, 2017). Most definitions present rurality as poor and disadvantaged (Phuhlisani, 2009b) or “of traditional rather than modernity, of agricultural rather than industry, of nature rather than culture, and of changelessness rather than dynamism” (Ward & Brown, 2009). But with the advent of technology and globalisation, rural areas and the concept of rurality are changing in terms of these points of measures and definitions. And in tying the idea of rurality to physical, political, and economic impressions of rural areas (Hoggart, 1990; Chigbu, 2013), it is also important to identify the time factor. The growing agglomeration of traditional rural settlements, the availability of amenities (such as electricity, piped water, schools, and medical care) and infrastructure in rural areas, as well as technology and globalisation, implies that the typical ideology of rurality may not be clearly visible in modern-day rural areas. As such, in identifying the rurality of a settlement, it is important to understand the historical growth of the settlement and how typical rural characteristics are being redefined, lost, adapted, or reinvented.
33% Tenants 67% Owners
9% Krobo 3% 2% 2% Eastern Kumasi Northern
Number of families
Total population: 297 people
The Abotsiman community is a settlement that has seen a lot of change in the past century, from a minute, one-family rural settlement to an agglomerating, multi-cultural area experiencing gentrification. The community has grown from a single courtyard to a classical rural village into what is now an agglomerating, multi-cultural settlement, although the agricultural landscape of the community is almost extinct and the population data also supports the idea of a weak land entitlement. The rurality of the community is redefining itself in the areas of social interaction and ethnography. The future of Abotsiman currently depends on which side of this rurality will win the battle.
As the Adjei Tsuru family was growing during the mid-1900s, accompanied by land renters, the settlement grew into a diffused, classic village structure. The appearance of modern homes in the late 1900s saw the beginnings of suburban development in the area. The ethnographic culture of Abotsiman is multi-cultural and diversified, with 51% of the households being Ga, 33% being Ewe, followed by the Krobos with 9%, the Eastern and Northern households having 3% each, with the Kumasi household being the least with 2%.
Thus, this work presents data on the Abotsiman community, its adaptation to agglomeration, and its historical rurality in terms of defining the settlement and understanding its future. The work looks at the rurality of the area over the years in terms of its agricultural landscape, ethnographic map, social spaces, and population data.
This map shows the distribution of the population in Abotsiman according to ethnicity. Historical representation of the area recounts ‘Abotsi’ nomads from the north as the first settlers in the area over a century ago. The Abotsi relocated to Alajo, which was then occupied by the Ga man Adjei Tsuru I. The need for security and a sense of community allowed for Ewes such as Bokon Osinyo (father of Agbetoglo) and Krobo groups to acquire land through some form of agreement or payment to Nii Adjei Tsuru I and create settlements.
Years of stay Range of period of stay: Average years of stay: Number of tenants:
4 months - 18 years 3.6 years 104 people
Social Spaces Although it is agglomerating, Abotsiman is reinventing its social rurality. One underlying feature of rural settlements is the sense of strong social connectivity amongst rural people. This is identified by the social spaces and the various activities that are done in groups. Historical tales of the Abotsiman
Over a century ago, the natural landscape was made up of wild grass and forest areas. The first settlers made use of the land for mainly pastoral farming. In search of better farmland, Adjei Tsuru I moved inland from La and finally settled in Abotsiman. The first houses were built along the current Abotsiman road and the farmlands grew around the settlement. The land was fertile enough for all kinds of crops, such as guava, cashew, mango, beans, and others. The development taking place around the settlement resulted in a reduction in land area for farming. The current state of the area has reduced the agricultural landscape to one remaining farmland belonging to Nii Odoi Adjei, who is practicing a mixed farming system on about a two-acre piece of land. He mainly farms tomatoes and plantains, in addition to rearing cattle and poultry. However, he has encountered difficulty in his agricultural practice due to poor land conditions, and a lack of irrigation and adequate land for significant commercial farming. With the primary skill of farming battling with unfavourable farmlands, coupled with the growing surrounding suburbia, the agricultural rural lifestyle within the settlement is looking hopeless for a farmer. In response to this, Nii Odoi has expressed a desire to sell this land and move to the Eastern Region, where he has acquired six hectares of land for agriculture. Although agriculture is a towering feature of settlement rurality, the last standing farm provides the only space for any form of agricultural rurality in Abotsiman. Losing this, which seems imminent, will eliminate a major rural characteristic of the settlement.
settlement position it within a strong social context. Areas such as community squares and soccer fields were spaces for storytelling, festivities, games, and other social activities. Up until early 2000s, the community had a village square and a makeshift soccer field. These spaces are now covered with roads, villas, and uncompleted modern buildings. However, the social rurality of Abotsiman has reinvented itself in the form of tree-shaded courtyards used as multi-purpose social spaces, dormant alleyways, football fields, and enhanced frontages as bars and social areas.
United Nations Statistical Division. (2017). Population Density and Urbanization. United Nations. [Online] Available at: https://unstats.un.org/ unsd/demographic/sconcerns/densurb/ densurbmethods.htm#B Accessed (January, 2019)
There are about 297 people living in Abotsiman. The population shows a high proportion of active community members (18-60) at 65% and an almost extinct sensitive group (60+) at 2%. This could indicate a lower sense of entitlement in the community and a sentimental attachment to maintaining the settlement. This is further strengthened by the higher rate of renters (67%) as compared to owners (37%), which could mean a lower sense of entitlement to lands and a low resistance to gentrification. As opposed to typical rural settlement patterns, this area is densely populated and some of its housing typologies are temporal. The building-size-to-people ratio shows a densely populated settlement, as compared to the gridded villas around it.
Chigbu, U. E. (2013). Rurality as a choice: Towards ruralising rural areas in sub-Saharan African countries. Development Southern Africa, 30(6), 812-825. Hoggart. K. (1990). Letâ€™s do Away with Rural. Journal of Rural Studies 6, 245â€“57.
Ward. N. & Brown. DL. (2009). Placing the Rural in Regional Development. Regional Studies 43(10), 1237â€“44.
Inverted figure-ground diagram of Abotsiman in the adjacent urban fabric
[a]FA The Space Between Spaces Abdul-Rauf Issahaque
This project compares the unbuilt areas in Abotsiman with their immediate neighbours, made up of of large, single-family, gated houses. To understand the quality of voids and open spaces in Abotsiman, all the publicly accessible areas in the settlement were mapped, including pathways. A case study was carried out on the largest open space in the settlement, which hosts a variety of activities at different times. The investigation questions the dialogue between building masses and interstitial voids with projections into the future. Patterns Looking at a satellite image of the study area in the context of East Legon shows the contrasting building orientations, shapes, sizes, and densities of the native settlement and its surrounding developments. Buildings in the native settlement are oriented towards the prevailing wind direction (southwest and northeast, respectively). The native settlement has developed organically in response to its environment. On the contrary, in the surroundings, more recent developments are aligned with a master-planned grid, sited on predefined plots. One can identify an inconsistency between the two areas in terms of their urban patterns in the sense that the native settlement addresses communalism while the new developments are geared towards a more individualistic lifestyle.
In such a dialogue, who do we learn from? As the native inhabitants may have discovered building typologies and patterns that work efficiently for them, these strategies need to be documented and preserved in order to be considered when planning with local communities. Otherwise, it makes these patterns seem disoriented within the gridded neighbourhood. For instance, a figure drawing of the study area, with the new developments aligned to the grid, puts the native settlement in the situation of being visually inappropriate. The visual inappropriateness stems from the fact that the scales, proportions, and orientations from which the indigenous settlement have evolved do not conform with the patterns the city planners have designed for, which makes them look alien in the context of contemporary East Legon. In summary, the indigenous Abotsiman community was growing in response to its environmental context, until it was interrupted by a rigid and formal planning pattern that threatens the continuity of the indigenous building typologies. Voids Ghanaians patronize outdoor spaces, and this is no different in Abotsiman. The voids within the native settlement have been seen as the most versatile spaces that are accessible to everyone. However, the relevance of these multifunctional spaces has not been formally recognized, as they have not been officially named or assigned to any functions. As a result, open spaces are generally thought of as pieces of land awaiting development â€“ such as a for a building. The largest open space within the Abotsiman community was observed in order to understand how the space is used. The open space in question has large Neem trees with wide canopies, which continually provide shade. The comfort within this space has encouraged the taking place of various activities. The following scenarios describe how different users have patronized this space:
• User A is a young man who meets his friends to play card games and chat • User B washes and dries his clothes in the same space • User C does all his cooking there • User D is a little girl who comes to play there • User E uses the bathroom on the space everyday • User F comes to get a haircut from a friend who lives close to the space • User G also cooks and sells food there Who names the voids? The various activities say something about the culture of the people, which needs to be addressed. In a setting like East Legon, where the economic value of land is high, justifying the need for these voids may result in prolonged dialogues within the community before a consensus is reached. As a starting point for these dialogues, survey forms were shared among guests at the exhibition held in the community, in order to collect views on the future of the compound being studied. Circulation The native Abotsiman community has a complex, interconnected system of pedestrian routes, which brings a certain liveliness to the settlement. The pathways not only facilitate circulation, they also provide security and social contact between neighbours using common routes. The children in the community have also carved out their own niche by playing hide-andseek and other games within the complex web of pathways. Nonetheless, the community is reacting to the influences of its immediate neighbours and are building fences and gating their homes. As a result, the native settlement is becoming less permeable, and shortcuts are becoming longer with every path that is blocked. On the other hand, the new developments are not as permeable as the native settlement, which renders them impassable. Can we save circulation, passage, and communal space? 59
To secure the survival of the pathways, the community could be engaged in identifying and naming major pathways within the settlement. Once these pathways are tagged with names and highlighted through designed interventions, they will be perceived as a communal legacy which needs to be preserved. This intervention would also help to improve the identity and spatial qualities of the pathway network of Abotsiman which, in the long run, should continue to foster the community’s social contact and culture.
MASSES VRS VOIDS 20% of the study area is occupied by the native settlement (18149m2). Out of this areaMasses open spaces vs Voids constitute 56% and the remaining20% 44% of is built up the study area is occupied by th including roads. enative settlement (18,149m2). Out of this
area, open spaces constitute 56% and the remaining 44% is built up including roads.
MASSES VRS VOIDS Comparison of the building masses (white) with the open and unbuilt areas (black)
Masses vs Voids Comparison of the building masses (white) with the open and unbuilt areas (black)
FENCED VRS UNFENCED Illustration of the fenced properties (grey) versus the unfenced areas (black) areas
Fenced vs Unfenced Illustration of the fenced properties (grey) versus the unfenced areas (black)
STUDY AREA MASSING Massing of study area (90000m2) showing overall building shapes, sizes and heights
Study Area Massing
Massing of study area (90000m2) showing overall building shapes, sizes and heights
The native has a Thesettlement native settlement has a complex, complex, interconnected interconnected system of pedestrian routes, system of pedestrian routes, which brings liveliness to the settlement. which brings liveliness to the The new developments on the other hand settlement. The new can only be accessed along the roads by developments on the other pedestrians. hand can only be accessed along the roads by pedestrians
Illustration of the vehicular accesses within the study area. The Abotsi Street is the most lively and it hosts several smallscaled commercial activities
Vehicular Accessibility Illustration of the vehicular accesses with the study area. The Abotsi Street is the most lively and it hosts several small-scale commercial activities.
CIRCULATION Illustration of the paths within the study area
Circulation Illustration of the paths within the study area
Buildings within the native settlement are predominantly oriented towards the prevailing wind direction (southwest and northeast), while the new developments are aligned to a master planned grid.
D BUILDING ORIENTATIONS M WIN STOR Buildings within the native settlement are predominantly oriented towards the prevailing wind direction (southwest and northeast), while the new developments are aligned to a Building Orientations master planned grid
Contrasting urban fabric of native settlement and new developments in terms of scale, pattern, vegetation, and shared spaces. The largest, most versatile open public space within the study area is highlighted.
[a]FA “The worth of a piece of land...” Niiashie Adjaye, co-founder of Walulel, as interviewed by Juergen Strohmayer via email
JS: We discussed urban mapping and data collection and the way it applies to our work in Accra. Could you describe your work in the city and how you came to do what you do? NA: I am the co-founder of a company called Walulel. Having had the privilege of being able to study law, urban economics, political science, and advanced statistics, before working professionally in urban planning, real estate law, and real-asset secured lending, I was able to help bring the company into being. Walulel was born of an immutable truth that still holds true within the field of urban economics. The worth of a piece of land is determined by its subjective utility. Forming an opinion of, or on, subjective utility requires a free market that provides “perfect (objective) information”, so that all decisions made by market participants are informed. By providing hyperlocal coverage (based on 1m2) grid units, with each 1m2 unit being a recognised location, we can provide nearly perfect (objective) information and thereby help market participants make informed decisions, understand subjective utility, and much, much more. Our work in Accra is threefold. We describe the three intertwined strands of our business as: - The geospatial, which is the mapped urban data that we provide to customers - The geosocial, which is the geographic-boundary-restricted communication platform for shared spaces
- The geocivic, which allows our geosocial offering to be used in geographies according to their geospatial insights The provision of our geospatial work has only been provided commercially for specific sites as per customer requests. This is because the amassing of accurate, reliable and complete measures of urban data (the “Accra Data Goal”), which will be of use in determining the “quality” of a location, is a continual task that we assume will take up to two more years of full-time work to complete in Accra. Until such time as sufficient donors and/or governmental provision of raw data material is vastly improved, our move towards the Accra Data Goal is possible only through collating data from our geosocial offerings and site-specific geospatial offerings. JS: The urban landscapes of cities such as Accra can be described as granular: pockets of very different types of urbanism and urbanity existing adjacent to each other. Typologies, densities, timeframes, and activities can vary greatly from one unit of land to the next in some areas, while other parts of the city can seem homogenous. How does your work help to describe these complexities? NA: Our work does exactly that, that is to say, it describes those complexities, simply. In order to show how typologies, densities, and activities can vary greatly from one unit of land to the next in some areas, we always make sure we do one of two things: First, if the phenomena we are interpreting varies from unit to unit, say, for instance, in terms of architectural style, we provide percentile breakdowns of the prevalence of each architectural style (within for instance a 10m2 area), comparing all the architectural styles recorded as existing in Accra, and then give a visual representation of how different groupings of architectural style percentages look and feel in terms of urban form.
Secondly, If the phenomena we are measuring simply needs to be â€œbest describedâ€?, then a classification system or measure of central tendencies, together with deviations from the normal/middle range, will suffice. JS: What possibilities do you see in working with qualitative and social parameters rather than quantitative measurements? Could you give examples of how you gather, analyze and use these in your work? NA: Without contravening any intellectual property or non-disclosure constraints I am under, it is fair to say that everything qualitative can be analysed quantitatively and vice versa. The only consideration is in terms of how one wants the results to be interpreted. So, for example, if you want to examine a social phenomenon such as walkability, you have to obtain measurable indicators that do their best to explain the variability in terms of walkable places. Using quantitative measures alone, for instance, a motorway would be deemed as a walkable place if it is surrounded by green verges, it is compact and free of obstruction, etc., but that would be an obvious misunderstanding of walkability. Therefore, once this is combined with a deeper qualitative understanding of where and why people want to walk to places, a better understanding of walkability could be deployed, and various groupings of walkability could be made so as to allow qualitative phenomena to be analysed quantitatively. JS: What kind of technologies are you envisioning being used in individual homes, communities, and cities in West Africa in the future? How will this change these cities?
In solving the mobility problem, the demand for centralised low-density housing should decline, the landscape of the city, whose logistics are tightly intertwined, should also change as mobility becomes the ultimate goal of West African cities. Wayfinding technologies will also play a big part in solving the mobility problem. Similarly, in solving the collaboration problem with technologies that make collaborative communication easier, such as booking meals, arranging and participating in meetings, notifying people, opinion gathering and dissemination, etc., the landscape of the city should be altered in a way that is less focussed on prescriptive single use(s) and more amenable to organic flexible-use spaces, underpinned by an infrastructure that allows collaboration, be that through digital or non-electrical dependent solutions.
NA: For individual homes, we have seen nothing that informs us about how the technology that city dwellers in West Africa will use within their homes will deviate from the technology used by equally wealthy dwellers of dense cities. Therefore, assuming current trends arenâ€™t altered by an exogenous shock, the labour-saving technologies of the last 30 years will be used in a way that is better adapted for their context, i.e., made more adaptable in a way that it can be used in higher temperatures with greater particulate matter in the air. This will do little to change cities beyond making land use intensification more comfortable in light of shrinking unit sizes. At the community-wide and citywide level, city dwellers are plagued with two fundamental problems in West Africa: relating to a lack of affordable mobility solutions and a lack of collaborative communication solutions. I would envision there to be technology to meet this need.
JS: Smart cities are mostly built from scratch (e.g., Konza City in Kenya) or integrated into centralized, efficient governance systems, such as in Singapore. But many African cities like Accra operate in a decentralized and less predictable way. What are the possibilities of using big data technologies in this kind of context? NA: I personally could not be more staunchly against the top-down governance of citizens. Big data is thematically (normally) designed to enhance the operations of those governing, so that those governed are trackable, and their actions are predictable. There is a real opportunity, however, to design agnostic systems that collate information in order to allow the governed and the governors to have greater parity of power with regards to their data. This is the biggest possibility I see. It would also mean that predictability could become less of a constraining factor of governance. Achieving this, however, is reliant on highly interoperable technology, such as fifth generation mobile radio communication, the Internet of Things, and lithium energy discharge enhancement, which are all being implemented or implementable/financeable within the West African urban context. JS: Data technologies and devices offer the possibility to create more direct, transparent and democratic cities. How can these technologies be used to improve social inclusion in cities such as Accra, which are becoming more unequal and exclusionary?
NA: Technology can facilitate or ease social equity by making information accessible or making pre-action communication easier, however, unfortunately all the technology in the world will only improve social inclusion, if its designers or commissioners implement it in such ways. I see this happening not by means of technological action in West Africa, but rather by means of political action.
ELPF Tacit Networks Konstantin Kim
How does an indigenous community survive in a gentrified area? And how can the area be enriched by the “collision” of the two? In the case of the Abotsiman community and East Legon, the answer is trade. Trade preserves and expands the threatened compound culture outside of its borders, opposing a pervasive cultural homogenisation of the whole district. Today, from an overhead view, East Legon is represented by a structured grid system, imbued with coloured roofs of imposing single-family houses, positioned on timid, in comparison, private sites. Time seems to stand still amid those sites. From time to time, a car passes inbetween the high fences and disappears behind a private gate. Within that system, the Abotsiman community compound resembles an island of chaotic labyrinths consisting of huts and passages, divided in two parts by an imposed street swarming with passing cars, vendors, shopkeepers, customers and kids. Having settled in East Legon since the 19th century, the Abotsiman community can be described as indigenous. It is marginalised and threatened with erasure and consumption by uniformity. Positioned in one of the remaining but shrinking East Legon informal pockets, the community seems to be hostile and protective of its land and identity. Through an adaptation and a constant flux, the community is trying to oppose gradual economic pressure. Keeping the core of compounds protected by walls, inaccessible passages, and an uninviting atmosphere in general, on the contrary, its perimeter is articulated by lively streets with tailors, food courts, fruit stalls and shops with various goods. The perimeter acts as an economic bridge between the Abotsiman people and the outside world. Reinventing old relations and establishing new relations becomes a way to survive. Adaptivity and connectivity are the main means of preserving the community and allowing it to function within a contrasting and dominant environment. Trading plays the key role. Not only does it provide the compound with much needed financial resources, it enriches the rest of East Legon with necessary services.
This mapping aims to comprehend and represent networks that have been established within the Abotsiman community and beyond, be it within East Legon, Accra or its suburbia. Networks represent the community’s ties, established trading structures, inner and outer economic relations, and cultural merging. The visualized information highlights the strong and weak sides of the community’s trading system and could potentially be a source for composing a better one. Data is visually coded and overlaid with my personal interpretation of the cultural clash that I observed during the research. Such a way of representation is demanding on the viewer, as it demands a longer time to comprehend the information that depicts the intricate holistic system, which is the Abotsiman community.
Today, East Legon still holds the potential to become something more than a sterile suburbia. This possibility lies in the cultural diversity of people, local communities, and small businesses that can comfortably integrate and flourish within a district, whether they are acting within urban informality or one of the formal systems in place.
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[a]FA Transformations on Jungle Avenue A study of the commercialization of the residential neighbourhood of East Legon David Kojo Derban The geographical centre of Accra has been shifting northwards, in relation to the sprawl and growth of the city, from central Accra towards Legon. The Tetteh Quarshie interchange is now a major intersection between the northern, southeastern, and western parts of the city, as it is expanding. With the construction of the landmark Accra Mall to the east of the intersection, a commuter hub has developed, serving the exchange of commuters between Spintex Road to the east, La Paz to the west, and Adenta Madina/Dodowa to the north. The increase in student admissions at the University of Ghana and its affiliate institutions have also made Legon an educational hub and home to student dormitories that are growing in number on the East Legon side of the road. Residential East Legon was built gradually over a 20-year period by civil servants who were planning for retirement, non-resident Ghanaians who remitted foreign exchange homes for wealthy, home-building individuals and politicians. Since the origin of its occupancy, it has been synonymous with affluence and high social status. In recent years, the commercialization of East Legon has been growing at a rapid rate. It has been transformed by the modifications, additions, and conversions of residential properties into shops, offices, restaurants, boutiques, and food joints. These transformations have made it more convenient to stay in East Legon than to travel downtown to Accra to shop. Jungle Avenue, the subject of this study, three kilometres from the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange, has become one of the most popular interior roads in East Legon. The rate of commercialization of residential properties is the subject matter of this photo report. The phenomenon of transformation through commercialization begins with one major building, which serves as a primary node. A node is an urban planning term used to describe a place of concentrated activity of humans. When one commercial node is established, spinoffs from the node are generated as support activities or secondary commercial activities. A conglomeration of these can form a secondary node. Spinoffs from the secondary node can be a series of spread-out, light commercial activities.
1980-1991 Pre-Development Years The East Legon extension was a harsh and barren grassland savannah of trees and neem tree shrubs. The location that is being referred to is composed of the harsh dry grasslands across the Motorway beyond the underpass, a land inhabited and used by Fulani cattle herdsmen to raise cattle. To this day, this area still carries the ticks and insects that resulted from the infestations caused by cattle dung. The soils are naturally poor, consisting of shale and rock, commonly referred to by construction workers and foundation diggers as ‘East Legon biscuit’. This area was used as cattle-rearing grounds, as the reservoir dam, now called ‘the lake´, was located nearby. The cattle underpass beneath the motorway served as a cattle crossing, but is now used as a tunnel for vehicles. The landscape was scattered with tall termite hills, some as tall as three meters. Removing them became a specialized trade for some workers who had learned to perform the ritual of capturing the queen of the colony. By spreading her pheromones while being taken away, all the other termites would follow, leaving the hill empty for demolition to pave way for construction. The subsoil was a dangerous habit for poisonous scorpions, driver ants, monitor lizards, and different species of snakes. Early residents reported seeing pythons that were as long as four meters. Construction workers also set grass cutter traps for the rodents that were abundant in the area.
In 1991, the area still had a few uncompleted homes, dirt roads, and electrical lines, but no water lines. It was inaccessible by any form of public transport, such as trotros ( a local 15-seater van) or taxis. The area was notorious for being a passage for armed robbers. With the indigenous villages of Baweleshi and Shiashi miles away, and the Legon police station even further away, the area was very susceptible to attracting armed robbers who terrorized the developed roads and areas such as the Mensah Wood Street. The rough, sandy road, now called Boundry Road, that runs along the edge of this undeveloped area was connected to the motorway by an illegal route that served as an escape route for robbers and smugglers from the Port of Tema. These criminal activities subsided by about 1991, when the area came under heavy military police surveillance patrols at night. 1991 The Block-Making Business There was only one residence on Jungle Road at this time. The Okrah family were the founders of the local Christian service centre, a small church that mostly served the builders and construction workers in the area. The Okrah family owned a block-making factory called Harko Blocks, which supplied most of the construction sites. The business of block-making, which only required a large flat piece of land to operate on, a truckload of sand, a storage space for cement bags, and a shed under which the block-making machine stood, was thriving. The block-macking machine was a simple machine consisting of a vibrator, compactor, and water tank. There were electrical lines in the area to operate their electrical motors. The compacted blocks would then be dried in the open sun. Locally manufactured water tanks on old Bedford trucks supplied water to the factory as well as the residents. The blocks were supplied on a truck on order to construction sites around the area. A typical factory employed about six workers: a machine operator, two loaders, and three block packers. Two or three others sometimes joined the supply truck team to act as off loaders for the supply services. 1995 Squatter Communities
The squatter culture has now moved on to kiosks on the fringes of the Motorway, or serving as caretakers on undeveloped plots of land. This has become an urban problem that has to be tackled through seeking macro- economic solutions. 2000 Primary Activity Nodes According to the urban theory regarding the generation of activity nodes, the A&C Shopping Mall, the Equity Pharmacy, and East Legon Christian Centre were the first activity nodes. The primary nodes are the first activities that gather large numbers of peoples and are capable of generating spinoffs. In this case, the first was the Christian Centre, a church founded by the first residents of the area. Its first congregation was made up of the squatters in the area, the current
The construction of East Legon attracted a generation of migrant workers from the Volta, Eastern, and Northern regions. They settled in uncompleted projects and served the property owners as caretakers, masons, carpenters, and labourers. As East Legon developed, the migrant workers became security guards, gardeners, and household helpers, supporting the domestic life of the home owners. Squatter culture has now become a part of living in East Legon. Many more rural and urban migrants are still pouring in to find jobs, looking for livelihoods selling all types of goods, providing services, such as street catering, to shop and office workers, and as bus and van drivers in the urban transport sector. Their simple aim is basically looking forward to a better life and sending their children to school.
one includes a large number of nearby residents consisting of home caretakers, drivers, security guards, and general workers. The Equity Pharmacy is the only pharmacy on the road and its central location serves both homeowners and servants. It’s the only place where one can receive quick medical attention. The A&C Shopping Mall is by far the greatest attraction of activity. Its opening heralded the beginning of the full commercialization of Jungle Avenue. 2005 Guest Lodges and Hotels There are two medium-sized hotels in the vicinity of Jungle Avenue. The older of the two is the Sonant Court Hotel, with 20 rooms and a swimming pool, conference hall, restaurant, and cocktail bar. The Mirage Hotel is a bigger hotel located next to the shopping mall. These hotel facilities signify confidence in the area as a viable place for business. The Mirage Hotel is well patronized by international guests and family holidaymakers due to its proximity to the mall. The Lion House is another landmark that was used as a guest centre, even though it was originally built as a private home with a rooftop pool. Its architecture resembles that of a castle. The owner, who resides in Austria, built this replica of a small castle after obtaining the plans from the Austrian authorities. Once popular for its rooftop pool parties, it was closed down by the owner a few years later. According to the urban theory, the presence of hotels, leisure centres, and clinics siginifies that an area has reached a milestone in development.
2010 The Starbites Success Story Starbites Food and Drinks has become a well-known, citywide brand. It all started in East Legon: two former attempts to launch a restaurant in that location had already failed. But the chances of success greatly increased after the growth of the suburban area of Agyiringaanor and the tarring of Boundry Road. For residents passing through on their way to Agyringaanor in the evenings, it was a convenient stop for social interaction. It became even more popular when it installed a big screen for viewing World Cup football matches. The biggest stabilizer of its operations was the establishment of the American International School directly opposite to the restaurant. Parents waiting for their children became customers. When the restaurant increased its range of products to include ‘takeaway’ services, its popularity grew. Since then, other neighbouring restaurants have been established that now compete with Starbites. 2015 The A&C Shopping Centre Now termed a ‘mall’, the A&C Shopping Centre was completed and opened in the year 2000. It not only serves as the centre of shopping activity on Jungle Avenue, but also as a landmark for all of East Legon and its residential extensions. Its anchor tenant is the well-known MaxMart, a large retail shop for upper-middle-class residents. Its success has made it a household name. Other big names that can be found there are the Woodin fashion brand, EcoBank, and Fidelity Bank, as well as a clinic, a number of eateries and restaurants, juice bars, electronics shops, boutiques, photography studios, a wine shop, and many others. The A&C group first leased part of its land to a Total fuel station. It has also built two other facilities with a gym, swimming pool, office block, playground and another block of shops and offices. This has made the shopping centre more like a community centre. Now, over 50 different enterprises rent spaces in the shopping mall, which employs 180 workers and features a carpark with a capacity of 70 cars.
2016 Sidewalk Commercial Activity Small sidewalk businesses have not been left out of this process of growing commercialization. There are a number of growing activities located between the Christian Centre and the mall, usually situated in front of empty plots of land or wide sidewalks or any space that can accommodate them: fruits stands, small shops, convenience stores, gift shops, food joints, barber shops, boutiques, kiosks, etc. Following the theory of the generation of activity nodes, these could be considered as tertiary activities that have been generated as a result of secondary nodes, but also serve the primary nodes. The ever-increasing rate of commercialization of residential property ensures an increasing amount of sidewalk commercial activity, which makes use of the sidewalk and empty spaces at different times of the day. Its concentration around free spaces also makes it vulnerable to the owners of these lands, who may evict these businesses when seeking to develop their properties or when the district authorities consider them a nuisance. 2016 Commuter Dynamics The theory goes on to predict an increase of transportation dynamics following commercialization. Over 120 employees of the A&C Mall â€“ salespeople, cleaners, bankers, office workers â€“ come to work everyday, generating heavy pedestrian and vehicular activity. Taxis, tro tros, private cars, and office vehicles all arrive and leave the A&C area during rush hours. This has created secondary activities, such as a Total fuel station, an on- street taxi rank, and many food joints that serve the workers. The Christian Centre area also has an on-street tro tro and taxi point that serves the artery roads, which are all developing commercially as more homes are being partly or fully used as offices. 2018 Enterprise Migrations from Osu Oxford Street
Jungle Avenue and Beyond Currently, a growing number of secondary and tertiary commercial activities are beginning to develop around the A&C Mall. An analysis of these activities over the years reveals that they have spread beyond Jungle Road. Many of the residences on the artery roads have started conversions and demolitions. Informal retail activities have begun to spread behind the shopping mall.
The last five years have shown a growing trend of commercialization through the increasing construction of taller structures. New buildings, which are neither conversions nor residential, keep popping up. Plots are used solely to build two- or three-story offices or retail blocks that also try to provide customers with parking spaces. Their tenants reveal the growing trend of wellknown retail brands migrating from Osu Oxford Street to East Legon and Jungle Avenue. The proprietor of Chez Julie, a well-known 40-year-old African fashion brand, migrated to Jungle Avenue due to the extremely high rents in Osu. The Pinocchio ice cream parlour, which is part of an existing franchise, and the Photo Club are also other migrants from Osu, along with African Market, which brings street bazaar characteristics of Osu. New buildings contain offices for rent to accommodate the growing migration of offices and businesses from Osu and the airport residential area. Their new locations suggest that Jungle Avenue will soon become the new retail corridor, rivalling Osu Oxford Street.
The negative impact of this spread has been the pedestrian and vehicular conflict it has created. Parking space for all the shops that are being constructed seems to be limited and is obstructing vehicular movement. Conclusions The Theory of the Spontaneous Generation of Activity Nodes The study of the development of Jungle Road demonstrates the theory of the generation of secondary activity by the establishment of primary ones. It states that by establishing a primary commercial activity, other related activities will be generated spontaneously to support or fill in the deficiencies of the primary activity. These secondary activities often generate tertiary ones which develop through induction or attraction to the secondary activities. The opening of the A&C Mall generated vehicular traffic, commuters, and on-street lorry parking, which further generated a fuel station and a taxi rank, which further generated drivers and workers, chop bars and fruit stands. For example, a womenâ€™s salon and boutiques will attract the presence of a hair product shop, which may be followed by a cooking utensil and home appliance shop hoping to serve customers who patronize the salon. Most likely, a baby and childrenâ€™s clothes and toy shop would be generated next, followed by a gift shop. Similarly, the establishment of a small hospital or clinic will attract a pharmacy, a convenience shop, a snack shop, or a food joint, all to serve patientsâ€™ visitors. Together, these secondary commercial activities could form a primary node of commercial activities which is characterized as a shopping precinct. Planning Lessons
In developing countries, there is often a conflict between formal planning and reality. Formal plans for our cities seem to result in informal outcomes over time. This may also be as a result of not understanding the nature of spontaneity in terms of an urban setting. What must be realized is that the provision of one facility may result in the attraction or induction of other allied activities, as demonstrated in this study. The spinoff or secondary activities must be anticipated and provided for so that future planning can accommodate them. When developing commercial spaces in urban areas, even around residences, this must also be taken into consideration. It requires an understanding of socio-cultural or socio-economic contexts. Modern city planning in developing countries should therefore take development patterns caused by the generation of spontaneous activity nodes into account and adopt them into formal planning.
A&C Shopping Center
Harko Block Factory
Christian Service Church
A&C Shopping Center
Starbites Food & Drinks
Uncompleted Structures Completed Residence Block Factory Church Building Commercial Building School Building Roadside Kiosk Untarred Road Tarred Road
American International School
Fuel Station at A&C Shopping Center
Pinochio Ice Cream Parlour
On street lorry station at Christian Center
[a]FA DIY: Privacy in Abotsiman Madeleine Malle
East Legon, a part of the Accra metropolitan area, is largely characterized by single-family houses on fenced, private properties. The borders between private and public space are clearly defined. Public space only includes the streets in between the private properties and functions solely as a circulation space. In the middle of this area, a small, different social group, called Abotsiman, coexists with the properties, and could be considered a microcosm within East Legon. In this community, there is an assemblage of different spaces with varying levels of privacy. Instead of single-family houses and fenced gardens, people own small shacks in shared courtyards. These courtyards serve as a unifying model of intimacy and extroversion, where the border between public and private space is constantly shifting. Local inhabitants of the community spend their time in shared outdoor spaces during the day. As privately owned or fenced exteriors hardly exist, the multiple intensities of privacy are generated by a programmatic composition between the body and the built surroundings. It is a programmatic and social amalgamation that generates a variety of environments. These spatially diverse configurations allow for unpredictable appropriations.
In order to contribute to the understanding of the spatiality of the Abotsiman village and its community, this project takes a closer look at everyday life there on the smallest scale. How is privacy formed within different spatial conditions? What are the borders and how do people use space over time? Three protagonists from the same courtyard â€“ two women and a child â€“ were documented through hand-drawn sequences. These drawings show the different spatial conditions that the selected people used for different tasks, in which they changed their behavior and perceptions of spaces. The definition of private and public becomes interesting here on a programmatic level - private, semi-private, and public â€“ as the privacy in outdoor spaces is highly dependent on the relationship to the human body. Which kinds of spaces are people choosing for cooking, washing clothes, working, taking a break, or spending time on their own? The local inhabitants interact with the chosen spaces in myriad ways: they may focus their movement and attention outwardly/inwardly to space, orient their bodies towards objects or in relation to architectural settings, and so on. Instead of separating the space according to functions, the courtyard is inventively reconfigured by every process, which creates an overall compactness, adaptability, and transparency. The reconfiguration of the individual drawings in three-dimensional space translates the phenomena of the diversity of usage. Through this process, social, cultural, and spatial conditions are visualized, and the different levels of privacy are highlighted. The final piece - a collaged map - was exhibited on the wall of one of the shacks in the Abotsiman community. The drawings of the three protagonists were arranged in a sequence, separated through their distance to the wall and overlapping the area where the space was shared. The documented observations pointed out the qualities of the spaces the community offers, the lifestyle of the community inhabitants, and how diverse life in a small shared space can be. The future development of the Abotsiman community on this confined area needs to be reconsidered and adapted to new conditions, keeping the existing multifunctional shared spaces in mind.
[a]FA East Legon - A Short Personal Retrospective Joe Annan
60 years ago, my father, who was in charge of the British Colonial Ministry of Agriculture, would take us out on occasion for an exciting weekend adventure in the bush, where we would stay in simple wooden accommodation and the only light that shone in the evening was the dim light of our kerosene lanterns. The climax would be drinking fresh milk from the experimental dairy cows located on the agricultural research station. This “far away” adventure would take place in Nungua, today a highly populated, residential suburb of Accra, with the occasional cow still in evidence. 30 years later, the cows migrated to what is generally known today as East Legon, which then consisted of a few small traditional villages, farm and grazing land, and bush. These small settlements included, Shia Shi (beneath the sand), Abotsiman, and others, which often started as one-family dwellings and then morphed into multi-ethnic settlements, whose settlers came from the La, Nungua areas, and further afield. One such clan of Burkinabe extraction claimed that in the 1960s, large swathes of the area had been given to them for cattle rearing by Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. That family set off the “land guard” (gangs of men paid to fight off other claimants of landed property) syndrome. This illegal practice, which persists till today in one form or another, often escalates into violent confrontations with dire personal and financial consequences. The tension over lands acquired and sold by the government and those claimed by rival traditional settler clans has been and remains at the core of land disputes in East Legon.
By the late ‘80s, the main access to East Legon was through the village of Shia Shi, which was a collection of thatched roof houses with a smattering of cement block constructions in between. Today, some evidence of the earlier existence of this and other settlements, such as Abotsiman, can be found off a couple of the main roads of this rapidly gentrified neighborhood. The other entrance to East Legon we used was more intrepid: the service underpass beneath the Tema Motorway that led onto the Boundary Road. These were all difficult dirt tracks that had deep pools of mud in the rainy season. Ah yes, the cattle were ever present, often head-to-head with the occasional vehicle that navigated this tortoise-pace route. This was the new bush close to Accra, where early urban adventurers were rewarded with roads or sites named after them, such as “American House”, named after the gentleman who built the original house, who was a “returnee” from the US. By the mid-‘90s, some “early birds” had established residences and many unfinished edifices, so it was hard to imagine what East Legon would become. Each visit to a site was accompanied by cutlass-wielding help, as we hacked our way through thick bush, large ant hills, and fauna. Since the colonial era, the unplanned nature of Accra has resulted in the development of slums and much smaller communities within officially recognized neighbourhoods with well-defined centres but poorly identified extremities. East Legon has somehow mainly escaped this fate and to date remains relatively orderly, with expanding satellites such as Adjirgano, Odbojo, etc.
Interestingly, the original difficult or limited access to and semi-isolation of East Legon compared to other post-independence Accra neighbourhoods, such as Dworwulu, may have helped its urbanization outcomes. It has developed quite rapidly into a more complete, independent, and self-sustaining neighbourhood, in the nature of a London borough or a Paris arrondissement. Today, you can live, work, and play in East Legon, in this neighbourhood that is gradually developing a unique character of its own, which one day may rival Osu, Adabraka, and Airport, which have been deliberately planned and nurtured since colonial times. Finally, let me suggest that over the past 100 years or so, East Legon has been settled by an evolving, diverse group of families, clans, and cattle herdsmen, so in historical terms, it cannot be compared to well-established, core Accra neighbourhoods such as James Town, Osu, or La. But, in time, some hidden histories or myths could be eked out of East Legon, as a way of completing the notion of an independent neighbourhood. Perhaps an urban myth could be created that answers the question, â€œWhere have all the cows gone?â€?
[a]FA 60x60 Juliette Valat
The Abotsiman territory is an island in the upper-middle-class suburban area of East Legon, Accra. Villas and mansions dominate the landscape of this gentrified neighbourhood. As a result, the streets of East Legon hardly accommodate public life. Most of the residents only get around in cars. There are no sidewalks, but if there were, they would mostly be skirting fenced-off private properties. As one approaches Abotsi Street, the fences open up, and more and more people are inhabiting the streets. Stay-at-home and selfemployed inhabitants cook, eat, and sell food in this public space. Food is at the heart of the community’s life. In economic terms, but also – and more importantly – social terms, cooking represents one of the main activities of the compounds. Food is not confined within the walls of indoor kitchens: it is extended into open spaces, into the public realm. The houses are small, often without kitchens or storage space for cookware – these end up inhabiting the open spaces in front of the house instead. Other furniture and pantry items are left outside, to be used at one’s convenience in the same way a kitchen, a dining room or a pantry would be used. This project looks at the everchanging layout of these tools and analyses them as space-generating objects. By giving a function to the area they are standing on, the various artifacts create rooms without walls, allowing for new activities without new constructions. The tools visually organize the in-between spaces that would otherwise be left vacant, and suggest links and boundaries between places and people.
The installation 60x60 explores how this experience varies from the ones created by modern kitchens installed in the surrounding villas. By opposing the verticality of the fixed kitchen modules (60x60cm) to the horizontality of the traditional kitchen, this installation celebrates the flexibility, diversity, and eclecticism of Abotsiman cooking spaces. These spaces blend traditional handcrafted cookware, like asankas (grinding pots made of clay and its wooden masher), with mass-produced plastic tools, including the iconic yellow Kufuor water gallons. These emblematic tools are overlaid on the elevations of an existing kitchen in East Legon, which is complemented by textures, colors, and history. The project questions the relevance of modern kitchens in Accra, Ghana. Ghanaians’ favorite dishes include fufu, banku, kenkey, kelewele, and other traditional dishes that require bulky cooking utensils and can potentially damage kitchen floors in the form of stains or cracks. For this reason, even in modern mansions, the indoor kitchen is often abandoned in favor of paved outdoor areas. 60x60 initiates a conversation on the limits of the Westernization of kitchens without prior adjustments to Ghanaian cooking culture, urging investigation into hybrids that would bring the local lifestyle into future constructions.
Drawing showing one of the outdoor kitchens in the Abotsiman community. Objects are largely spread throughout the available space, with storage adjacent to the house and the oven on the opposite side, protected from the wind. Cooking happens freely between the two.
1 Stool for the main cook
10 Coal oven
2 Water basin
11 Windbreak for oven
3 Preparation basin
4 Waste basin
13 Water jar
5 Stool for helper / friend
14 Seat for resting
6 Jar for kids to sit on
7 Cookware storage
16 Bench for napping
8 Ingredient storage
17 Laundry drying rack
9 Wood for oven
18 Entrance of the house
6 5 18
4 7 1
10 2 11 8
[a]FA “…add culture and future to it” A conversation between Rosemary Orthner and Baerbel Mueller, Accra, October 3, 2018
BM: It is special that you perceive Abotsiman as an architect and planner in Accra, but also as a neighbour and citizen. Could you describe the qualities of Abotsiman, both on a spatial and socio-cultural level? You were the one who initially proposed addressing the place and topic to [a]FA. RO: Well, what Abotsiman means to me starts from my childhood, when we moved here. At that time, there were hardly any developments around, so our main source for getting items, material, or help came from Abotsiman, they were the only ones who knew their way around here. They were the citizens or people living here at that time. We were actually coming from a higher income bracket and also an expat background, and we were completely relying on them. Whatever issue or problem you had, if you needed someone to take care of your compound while you were away, you could get some people from there to help you out. It just had this way of solving all our problems. If you needed to buy something, some eggs, some yam, whatever it was, you went there and someone would help you out. So that always had a positive influence on me. BM: And today, if you look at it spatially – I mean it looks totally different than its surroundings – are there qualities for you? RO: The quality there is actually the natural development it had. Everything happened in an organic way. It’s not like in a grid. So being there, you always discover new areas, new places, and I think it offers something for everyone. If you look at what is happening around it, you have this grid of houses. Everyone fenced in with a wall, and it doesn’t give you any imagination, but if you go to Abotsiman, you have a tree here, a house there, you go around the corner, and there’s a playground in a field. You go further, you notice this is an area where elder people are sitting or playing. There are activities everywhere. It’s alive, it gives you this village feeling in the city. Which I think is very interesting.
So, it developed not in a grid system, but in a natural system according to local needs, and it fulfils all these needs, as well as the needs of those of us surrounding them. So, I think it’s a small place and it does so much. BM: You described the differences between these two sites – and worlds. In urban discourse on the African city or any other city in, let’s say, India or South America, for a while there have been definitions of formal and informal. More recently, this is being questioned, because real life and research shows that it’s all strongly interconnected. There are very formal things happening inside these grown, informal neighbourhoods and there is also a lot of informality in the formal. So it is difficult to separate. Can you talk about this from your experience? RO: When I hear the word “formal”, it sounds boring. It’s like no adventure, it’s just straightforward things. Informality makes things interesting and I think that’s exactly the case in Abotsiman. What it gives you is atmosphere. And the design is somehow based on the availability of materials. It also automatically keeps the costs low, maintenance is low, the way they cook and get their fire, it’s all done in a practical way, which makes life easier than what formal development offers. So I think it is atmosphere, and considering the climate, and giving it identity, that’s the nice thing about the informal area, if you put it like that. BM: When you talk about the interconnection between these different sites, is it you especially and your household consuming from Abotsiman or going there? Or are others living this connectivity as well?
RO: Yes, I think there are others, but not exactly like in our way. They are actually a bit dependent. Unfortunately, here in Africa, everyone accepts everything easily. You have a market across your house. A few months later, the market is no more and you have to walk further. No one complains. So this is a problem. People are not seeing what they are losing. They are thinking that if they see a nice new house, wow, this area has developed. But they don’t see the sacrifice that has been made at the same time, the social sacrifice they are having to make and changes that are actually making their distances for supplies longer. So it’s taking it further away to a shopping center. So, if we are relocating everywhere and we are all spending more money to get our needs and our supplies, no one considers these things as valuable. I’ll put a value on it. It’s something, a small figure, but because everyone does it, this figure gets bigger and bigger and no one is considering this, including the government. Nor are the developers considering it. BM: Very interesting. This also relates to my next point, the question of what potential Abotsiman has in the future. It is this remaining grown pocket embedded in this more formal, grid-based, wealthy settlement and there is a lot of pressure on such neighbourhoods in regards to real estate developments and land ownership and therefore it’s in danger of being taken over by developers, or whomever. Could you talk a bit about the potential future of that when you are looking at the economics and the market value of this precious land? It is now in the middle of East Legon, which is not somewhere far away anymore, it has become one of the expensive neighbourhoods in Accra. So, what can be done with or despite these kinds of changes? RO: If I look at it now, I just get sad and I find it very difficult to see how they are going to just change Abotsiman. Their future is not looking bright if it continues in this way, because sooner or later, in the direction we are going, all the land there will be sold off. The culture will be gone, the history will be gone. We will lose so much quality, which at the moment, no one has put a value on. So that is actually the sad direction we are taking.
BM: So what you foresee as the ideal future image would be a kind of master plan in which, and if it comes to inhabitation, it would be a mix with the people of Abotsiman? And then it would be people renting or buying? RO: Actually the same thing they are already doing now, although they are just small huts, most of it is rented out. Someone is living in there for their relative, someone is the caretaker. We have everything there already, but at a very, very low standard and the sanitary issue is also a problem.
I think the only way we can change this is by trying to convince people and making them aware of the value they have and letting them know that if they want money, there is the possibility to make money and demand something. They’re just making it too easy for the developers. They just give them money and then they get the land and do what they want. I’m like, let him sell it, but create a condition for how they are going to sell it and what has to be done. So we are looking at maybe establishing a master plan and a system that ensures that there are still shops there, that the quality and the natural organic structure somehow stays, in a modern way, like a small village in the city. You know, there are so many ideas you could create to make something for the community and also for the people who are still living there. I’d like to see the area develop, but in a way that the people can still stay there for a reasonable price. So that, I think, is the only hope I have for them.
So, if you could get a developer to bite into that idea and develop it in a way that they still benefit from them. The idea should be that it has low maintenance, low running costs, and actually they should earn something from this. They should get a monthly income. Now I’m talking about how the Abotsiman people and chief should be able to live from this and the developer should also make his money. So all parties should benefit from the development. At the moment, what is happening is that only the developer is benefiting from this and the whole area, as well as Abotsiman, is losing out. So that’s the real sad thing. We are developing in a direction which is not working and we are still blindly following it, because you make good money out of it. So we need to break that. Make money, but add culture and future to it. BM: Is it that for you it doesn’t work because culture is lost, but also on a planning level, as a consequence of these evictions, of selling and leaving Abotsiman, it’s becoming more and more gentrified and people with money are living in inner Accra while everyone else is getting pushed out towards the edges? RO: What’s happening now is that the developer buys them land somewhere outside and builds them a house. That’s an exchange and gives them a bit of cash money and they are happy. They are not thinking about the future of their children, who actually grew up here, and have suddenly landed somewhere else and have been forced to just look out for themselves. They don’t inherit anything. So, if we keep them here, we’ll give them the possibility to stay home, to be part of the development, and to inherit something when their parents are no more.
BM: We’ve been talking about these potential interventions and planning concepts for neighbourhoods such as Abotsiman, but also for places like Nima on a bigger scale, where one needs to come in with small and innovative ideas regarding real estate in which it’s a win-win situation and not one in which the developer comes and the original inhabitants leave. You already mentioned that it must be on an infrastructural level but also on a planning and architectural scale. So, how would you operate in this scenario, if you had the means now? RO: I have always believed that you should start with a sample. A sample project is always a good start for testing how it works in order to see how people react, and then improving upon that. I don’t think it’s necessary to just get a bulldozer, tear everything down, and then build this great village city in East Legon. Because you have to get the people involved and for them to accept something, it’s always good to give them time and do it step by step, because when they see something happening, and how positively it’s working out for them, then they will get more involved, more interested, more open. So, I think these small steps are necessary. It would give value to everyone here if we were able to start a small project like this. And maybe we should really start talking with developers and giving them the idea. So, the bottom line is that you need someone who has the money to start, even if architects do it pro bono. For example, we are now supporting this maternity clinic and it’s a very small project, but it will have such a big impact, just using local materials, showing the beauty of local materials, which is no longer respected here in Ghana. If you propose earth, it’s like, why? Don’t we have concrete anymore? Can’t we afford concrete? The beauty and advantage of their material is completely lost in the development. They don’t understand it. They don’t know the value of it anymore and we have to bring that back to them, but you can’t bring that back on a big scale. You have to bring it on a small scale.
BM: So it would be like bringing someone in who has the means to start something, being in dialogue with the community, and this dialogue would need to be monitored. RO: Yes. I mean, people who believe in the idea, in what we are doing. You do have to get the developer on your side so that he can see that he’s getting his figures and at the same time doing something good and maybe getting some advertising in a different way. BM: In the past, we also briefly talked about ideas for making Abotsiman an attractor, like in the tourism sector, for example. RO: There’s not so much to look at in Ghana. When I have visitors, there are just a few areas where I am able bring them to, so it would be great to have a sample, a modern sample of a village in East Legon, where people can come and find out about the story of Abotsiman, because when we did all these exercises with the students, we noticed how the history is about to be lost. You guys were the first ones to write it down and it has so much value but no one appreciates it. Only the elderly lady we spoke to, she’s the only one who is concerned that all the knowledge she has, and the story she has about the connection between Abotsiman and La, that there was actually a path where they walked up and down daily, that all this will be lost. So I think that would be a very sad story, if we let it happen. BM: In your scenario, you described the modern village really nicely. It’s a real response to the title we gave the lab, “East Legon Past Forward”. And since some have been stuck a bit in the past or in the now, but hardly looking to the future, I hope we will continue. RO: We have to stay flexible and open-minded and really create something that will also be flexible. So I’m looking at small units, different family units and shops, and a mix of everything so that in case things change, you can easily adapt with the space you’re getting. So, you give the people space, the structure, an infrastructure that is workable, which considers local materials, climates – everything we know about earth construction, which is no longer being implemented in the new buildings. So bring all this back and make people realise that, “Look, it can be done differently.” RO: Exactly, I mean simple stuff. At least they still have some trees. If you look at most compounds, for any new buildings coming up, the first thing they do is cut down all the trees, but they hardly plant any new ones. And at least you still have beautiful trees in Abotsiman, which people are sitting underneath, enjoying the shade. It gives you this atmosphere, which we no longer have.
BM: Including vegetation, as we discovered.
[a]FA Public Event
A communal event and walkthrough of Abotsiman with a decentralized exhibition set in strategic locations throughout the community took place on Saturday, September 29.
EAST LEGON PAST FORWARD
Addis A baba Rd
Abotsi S t
community members. The installation is presents the settlement from a century 7 situated in the former Village Square, which ago, between the 1970s and 1990s, a is located directly across from the sacred decade ago, and present day. mud compound. Holding the mirror up to society, the placement of Anamnesis, 5 Observing the Voids of Abotsiman serves as a sanctuary of memories in search Abdul-Rauf Issahaque of a promising future. It urges us to reflect This study takes a look at the unbuilt areas upon the contemporary nuances of East in Abotsiman compared to its immediate Legon and the untold potentiality of the surroundings of gated single-family houses. Abotsiman community through architectural In order to understand the quality of the preservation. voids and open spaces in Abotsiman, all accessible areas in the settlement have been With Abdul-Rauf Issahaque, Dominique Petit-Frère, Godwin Cheung, Hakeem mapped, including all pathways. A case study 3 200 Years of Abotsiman has also been carried out on the largest open Mustapha, Juliette Valat, Konstantin Kim, Godwin Cheung Madeleine Malle, Nathaniel Frempong The Abotsiman community, although space in the settlement which hosts a variety undergoing rapid extinction, has a longof activities at different times of the day and Curated by Baerbel Mueller, Jürgen standing history in East Legon, dating week. The investigation finally questions the Strohmayer, Rosemary Orthner back to 1815. Over time, the sociodialogue between these masses and voids political as well as cultural landscapes with recommendations on the way forward. have radically transformed the physical 1 Mnemonic 8 Nathaniel Frempong footprint of the community’s built and 6 Tacit Networks The Abotsiman community in East Legon natural environment. These conditions Konstantin Kim has remained in its social setting against force the settlers to constantly adjust their The realm of networks is invisible, enveloping the background of vast gentrification on lifestyles to diminishing spaces. Economy us from head to toe and beyond ourselves, its periphery. It is becoming of paramount and land ownership, especially in the last creating a holistic unity, it remains unseen. need in retrieving the cultural information two decades, have become the community’s When looked upon, the indigenous of this nucleus from its existing buildings. most heavily contested topic, both internally community, threatened with erasure and The project showcases the historical and and externally. The agglomeration of all the consumption by uniformity, tends to be current relevance of the central courtyard forces interwoven into every Abotsiman’s hostile and protective of its identity, but what to Abotsiman, focusing on the tangible and livelihood begs the question of what will happens on a deeper level is an adaptation intangible cultural information it holds, happen next to this community. Will the relics and a constant flux that tries to oppose on patterns and dialogue. This courtyard and memories of the rich Abotsiman history gradual economic smothering. Reinvention house is further analysed by tracing its be preserved against modernity? of old and establishing of new relations is a social influences, blood lines, building forms way to survive. Adaptivity and connectivity and spatial relations. The work includes become the main means of preserving the 4 Agglomeration of the Abotsiman Settlement photography, measured drawings and Hakeem Mustapha community and allowing it to function within The Abotsiman community is a settlement collected data. a contrasting and aggressive environment. that has seen a lot of changes over almost The mapping tries to comprehend and a century, from a minute one-family rural represent networks of trade that are 2 Anamnesis — Relics of the Visceral Past Dominique Petit-Frère settlement to a agglomerating multi-cultural established within the Abotsiman community Captured in a fully immersive audio-visual area experiencing gentrification. This project and beyond, be it within East Legon, Accra or installation, this eproject in progress maps centres on understanding the rurality of its suburbia; networks as economic relations, the genesis of the Abotsiman community the area throughout the years in terms of cultural merging and means of survival. through a recollection of memories bestowed landscape, ethnographic relations, social by the eldest clan leaders and surrounding spaces and population density. The work
East Legon Past Forward is a project investigating the spatial, socio-cultural, and migratory characteristics of Abotsiman, one of the few remaining grown neighbourhoods of East Legon, Accra, and the implications of urban transformation on it. East Legon Past Forward is a joint project between [applied] Foreign Affairs, Institute of Architecture, University of Applied Arts Vienna and Orthner Orthner & Associates (OOA).
EAST LEGON PAST FORWARD
DIY: Privacy in Abotsiman Madeleine Malle This collaged map explores the connection between spatial conditions and the human body in the context of privacy. How do people create privacy in the village of Abotsiman? How are borders defined and how is space used over time? Three protagonists - two women and a child - are documented by hand drawn sequences. Through this process social, cultural and spatial conditions are examined and different levels of privacy are highlighted.
60x60 Juliette Valat Food is at the heart of the Abotsiman community’s life: stay-at-home or selfemployed inhabitants cook, eat and sell food in the streets of East Legon. The place dedicated to food is not restricted to the indoor kitchen but spreads into the public realm, where furniture, cookware and ingredients organize the outdoor space. This project analyses the specificities of the outdoor cooking spaces of the Abotsimans, juxtaposing their horizontal organization with the vertical layout of the standardized kitchen elements (60x60cm) found in surrounding villas. While the modern kitchen is planar and frozen in space, the horizontal kitchen is spatial, flexible, and reinvented by the cook with every dish.
Meetings with Abotsiman community and elders
Lectures and discussions
[a]FA Image Credits
Pages 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 30, 46, 48, 50, 67, 98 (all), 99 (m, b), 100 (t, b), 101 (all), 104 (t), 105 (t), 106 (all), 107 (all), 109 (all) Juergen Strohmayer Page 25 Tsuru family archive Page 28 (all) Dominique Petit-FrĂ¨re Pages 68 (all), 105 (m) Konstantin Kim Pages 81, 82 Madeleine Malle Pages 87, 92 Juliette Valat Pages 99 (t), 100 (m), 105 (b)
Baerbel Mueller Page 104 (m, b) Unknown t: top / m: middle / b: bottom
East Legon Past Forward is a project investigating the spatial, socio-cultural, and migratory characteristics of Abotsiman, one of the few remaining grown neighbourhoods of East Legon, Accra, and the implications of urban transformation on it. East Legon Past Forward is a joint project between [applied] Foreign Affairs, Institute of Architecture, University of Applied Arts Vienna and Orthner Orthner & Associates (OOA).
East Legon Past Forward is a project investigating the spatial, socio-cultural, and migratory characteristics of Abotsiman, one of the few r...
Published on Dec 14, 2019
East Legon Past Forward is a project investigating the spatial, socio-cultural, and migratory characteristics of Abotsiman, one of the few r...