Ghana marks World Architecture Day in Accra

Mr. James George (inset) addressing the participants.Photo;Mercy Amparbeng.

Mr. James George (inset) addressing the participants.Photo;Mercy Amparbeng.

African Architects have been urged to retrace their steps and research into the philosophy that underpinned traditional African mode of construction.

This is to offer them an understanding into building designs that are not only adaptable to the African environment but also sustainable, economical and in tune with modernity.

According to a Nigerian based Architect, James Indu George, the job of the architect was to ensure that the ordinary man on the streets had some dignity and this could only be achieved through architecture.

“In Nigeria there are only 18million rich people out of the over 180million people so who cares about the 18million people? They can take care of themselves, our job is to ensure that the man on the streets has dignity through architecture,” he said.

Architect George who was speaking at the celebration of this year’s World Architecture Day, organised by the Ghana Institute of Architecture (GIA), in Accra on Monday said it was important that architects on the continent understood this, stressing that “if we are not doing that we are wasting everybody’s time. This is why I practice and this is what architecture is.”

This year’s celebration was on the theme: “The essential role of architecture and good design in making the planet a greener place to live.”

Architect George noted that architecture in Africa was suffering in Africa at large because it had been misinterpreted globally due to a number of misconceptions.

To this end, he said it required a deliberate effort by Africans themselves to change the narrative, stressing that “Traditional African architecture is spirit; it has nothing to do with the form. The form is only the window to the spirit and the spirit is what it is.”

Architects from Africa would have to be deliberate in their designs because the war being waged in the twenty-first century was a cultural and spiritual war.

“We are living in a time where the war that is being fought is cultural and spiritual and we don’t seem to know that we are in war. For instance when Europeans comes to build here, we thank them but we must know that when they build their churches, schools and their soccer fields, they bring along with the ideology,” he emphasised.

He said in Africa the house was a city block which was a compound defined by three environmental systems which were floating within that space and was also economical unit.

“Our fore fathers built homes that could provide economic improvement for them and their children. They passed the house on when they died and they were buried in the house where there was a farm near so he could become manure for his children so they can make economic gains off him so why change this style?” he queried.

On her part, a partner at Orthner Orthner and Associates (OO&A), Akosua Mensah said not only were traditional African Architecture a spirit but also it was creative and naturally sustainable.

She said if the skylines springing up in Accra and other cities continued the continent risked losing its architectural identity, stressing that “when you saw the traditional buildings it had character and a soul.”

By Cliff Ekuful & David Takyi

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