Collaboration between Amsterdam Academy of Architecture -The Netherlands, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology – Ghana, Ho – Polytechnic, Ghana.
This project aims to stimulate innovative thinking about architecture and landscape urbanism through an exchange between students from Ghana and the Netherlands. The objective of the studio is to learn from the patterns of settlement and displacement that can be mapped in Ghana as a potential model to adapt and engage with Dutch spatial planning. In so doing we aim to bring together two approaches to architecture and the study of landscape which have been described in J.B. Jackson’s essay “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes”. In reflecting upon two ideals he acknowledges the following:
‘I would be more than content if I myself could learn to distinguish between two very different but complementary kinds of place making in our landscape: one established and maintained and governed by law and political institutions, dedicated to permanence and planned evolution. The other, the vernacular landscape, identified with local custom, with pragmatic adaptation to circumstances, and unpredictable mobility.’
We will ask if these two ideals can be easily deciphered in the context of Ghana and the Netherlands. On the one hand there is centralized planning that was practiced in Europe from the 1920’s onwards and exported to Africa as part of the Modernist project, which resulted in edifices belonging to what may be called the ‘political landscape’. On the other there is the informal, vernacular, native, local or popular traditional settlements and architecture that leave few clearly defined boundaries; the inhabited landscape. Our fundamental concern is to decipher if there is a difference between planning and place-making. Therefore, a key aspect of this project aims to define ‘the vernacular’ within the context of architectural discourse and to place it in perspective with the local landscape. What is essential to this definition is creating an understanding of the vernacular as belonging to an inhabited landscape that is not planned from without but that grows in a self-organizing way from within. If not easily understood and legible, at least in the eyes of architects or landscape architects, once mapped it may reveal who has been in control of shaping the environment; the architect, the inhabitants or both?
“To me the essence of African Architecture lies not in the edifice but rather its soul lies in the interstitial spaces, between the built form. Architects and Landscape Architects have a huge role to define and respond to the context in which we live, to these in-between spaces and to design with and around the sun, the wind and the rain……. This is how we used to live.”
Joe Addo (transcribed from a conversation held at the AvB Amsterdam, 2010)