Sure, colonisation built Ghana but since independence, Ghana has been fighting to claim their identity on a global scale. Accra was formally declared the capital city of Ghana in 1961 by Ghana’s first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah (Spio 2011). Before then in 1877, Accra was the administrative capital when the British colonial authority transferred the seat of government from Cape Coast (Spio 2011).
Figure 1: Airport City in Accra
(Yaw Pare. Accra’s Airport City. 2018. Image. Reproduced from Twitter.)
Building Accra into a new capital where it can be identified on a global scale is a mission but a priority. Ghana is now a hub for international tourism as many African Americans returns to their ancestral roots, it is crucial more than ever to enhance urban resilience in Accra.
Currently, there is an urban strategy to modernise and respond to urbanisation pressure in the Greater Accra Region (Korah et al. 2020). MLA (2016), an international architecture, planning and consultancy firm who advices on global urban challenges, states that “the agglomeration of Accra is growing tremendously in the decades to come.” The city is struggling to cope with urban growth while trying to provide basic utilities and a transport system (MLA 2016). UN Habitat has set providing urban living environment that provides a better living condition for the local population as one of the bigger challenges in the incoming decades.
Now with COVID-19, urban planners are discussing what the ‘new normal’ might look like in metropolitan environments like Accra (The Conversation 2020). Some urban planners have claimed that the pandemic is creating an opportunity to re-imagine and improve the city especially its landscapes (The Conversation 2020). Accra, as a city in a developing country, the current focus is to develop it economically which means that spatial planning gets shoved down in the development to-do list (Ecklu 2015). This is not the case for corporate buildings rather schools, housings and where people actually are is not being prioritised.
Figure 2: Airport City cityscape
(Rotary Club Accra Airport City. Luxurious Places in Accra. 2020. Image. Reproduced from Lasopareg.)
In saying so, Ghana is fighting to be something on a global scale. Some of their ways of doing so is building several Contemporary Architecture in the cityscape. It is clearly seen mostly in areas surrounding the Kotoka International Airport as many tourists pass through there to get to their accommodations.
This style of architecture has taken a seat in the table of reimagining Accra. It has been quickly associated as one of the ways to make Accra look like a more urban city and be able to fit into the Western cityscapes. It is popular to the upper class and architects with wealthy clients.
Common features of Contemporary Architecture include clean lines, slick, bold simple forms, glazed exterior and can subtly or overtly include traditional motifs and ornamentation (Manful 2019).
Figure 3: Villagio Vista
(Villagio Vista. 2016. Image. Reproduced from Archilovers.)
This style of architecture has been questioned as if it is a new era of architecture in Ghana. ‘The culture has been lost’ as my Father says in speaking towards the culture in Ghana, he and many others believe that colonisation halted the growth of Africa. Now, even trying to mimic the styles of Westerners, they have started to lose touch of their cultural roots.
What is sad about this style of architecture is that it fails to acknowledge the culture and what the community wants. The growth of Accra and the popularisation of this style of architecture continuously demolishes homes of working-class communities in Accra (The Conversation 2020).
Figure 4: The demolishing of what once was a community
(Nipah Dennis. A Woman Sits at a Site in James Town, Accra, Demolished in May 2020 to Make Way for a New Fishing Port Complex. 2020. Image. Reproduced from Getty Images.)
Perhaps the goal for Accra should be to find individuality in its planning and incorporate culture to regain what has been unfortunately lost. Ghana’s culture is something to be celebrated and it should not be hidden by facades of Western influences and trends. Finding individuality and uniqueness using the culture will enhance the urban image of Accra and Ghana in general. Marking Accra as an urban and tourism hub in the map of Africa and the World. This process starts with listening and seeing what communities need and wants.
Ecklu, Grace. 2015. “Accra: a City in Need of a Plan.” UrbanAfrica. https://www.urbanafrica.net/urban-voices/accra-a-city-in-need-of-a-plan/
Korah, Prosper Issahaku, Tony Matthews and Natalie Osborne. 2020. “Assembling Accra Through new City Imaginary: Land Ownership, Agency and Relational Complexity.” Habitat International 1(106): 1-10. https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0197397520300989?token=820F2C8B98CC99BBF2C2CCB921E9EDAEA64B27B2690E642E42D7423940D782717E26363E0E666F8D424926CB3E649515&originRegion=us-east-1&originCreation=20210405072723
Manful, Kuukuwa. 2019. “Whose Style? Taste, Class, and Power in Accra’s Architecture.” The Metropole. https://themetropole.blog/2019/11/13/whose-style-taste-class-and-power-in-accras-architecture/
MLA. 2016. “Planning the New African City.” MLA Plus. https://www.mlaplus.com/portfolio/en-22-2-55/
Spio, Anthony Ebow. 2011. “The City Branding of Accra.” In City Branding, 1., Dinnie K. , 99-100. London: Palgrave Macmillan. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9780230294790_12#citeas
The Conversation. 2020. “Urban Planning Needs to Look Back First: Three Cities in Ghana Show Why.” The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/urban-planning-needs-to-look-back-first-three-cities-in-ghana-show-why-144913
“Villagio Vista.” 2016. Archilovers. https://www.archilovers.com/projects/215084/villaggio-vista.html
Dennis, Nipah. 2020. “A Woman Sits at a Site in James Town, Accra, Demolished in May 2020 to Make Way for a New Fishing Port Complex.” Getty Images. https://theconversation.com/urban-planning-needs-to-look-back-first-three-cities-in-ghana-show-why-144913
Rotary Club Accra Airport City. 2020. “Luxurious Places in Accra.” Lasopareg. https://lasopareg308.weebly.com/airport-city-accra-photos.html
Pare, Yaw. 2018. “Accra’s Airport City.” Twitter. https://twitter.com/_thisisaccra/status/968198944802201600