Urban Design Lab Presents Innovative Upgrading Plans for 3 Kumasi Neighborhoods and Designs for a Women’s and Girls’ Center at the Heart of Town
Graduate students in architecture and urban design recently presented their findings and design work issuing out of a collaboration between the Urban Design Lab (UDL) and MCI in the Millennium City of Kumasi, Ghana. At the city’s invitation and with MCI’s facilitation, the UDL came to Kumasi in early February to devise solutions to revitalize the severely degraded and impoverished areas of Akrom, Adukrom and Sewabah and to design a comprehensive Women’s and Girls’ Center for the vibrant downtown commercial neighborhood of Bantama.
While in Kumasi, the 30 UDL faculty and students, all practicing architects and landscape architects and urban designers hailing from all over the world, worked in close partnership with their counterparts at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana’s premiere institution in architecture, planning, engineering and numerous other areas of study. The KNUST team, which had worked in these study sites for an entire semester to conduct mapping an ethnographic analyses in preparation for this collaboration, shared their findings, launching the partnership between the two institutions aimed both at exploring innovative solutions to the three adjoining neighborhoods’ many pressing challenges and at creating designs for the proposed Women’s and Girls’ Center that will address the needs and wishes of its would-be users. Together, the teams presented their ideas to the Kumasi mayor, city officials and other stakeholders, all of whom provided valuable feedback.
The students’ collaborations, which continued via Skype and with the MCI-sponsored visit earlier this month by one of the lead KNUST professors, Prof. Prince A. Anokye, were fine-tuned over the last few months, as designs and development ideas were presented to MCI Director Susan Blaustein, UDL Director Richard Plunz, UDL faculty Michael Conard, Kate Orff, Geeta Mehta, Petra Kempf and Victor Body-Lawson, and to invited panels of visiting critics, culminating in a final presentation in late April and an exhibition at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in mid-May.
The designs are now being shared with Kumasi officials and other stakeholders, and at the invitation of MCI and UDL, MCI’s longtime Kumasi Project Manager and Regional Coordinator Abenaa Akuamoa-Boateng will come to New York next week to work together with members of the architecture design team. MCI and UDL have hired several architects to then spend the next several months preparing a publication of the final work of the studio, complete with infrastructure design, market upgrade and environmental reclamation proposals, as well as the final Women’s and Girls’ design work. MCI and UDL are hopeful that the city and MCI can help secure the requisite investment and/or donor financing to actually build some of these projects. If so, the UDL and MCI will be eager to follow through by working closely with the city and the communities in question to help implement those proposed solutions believed by all parties to have the greatest capacity to jumpstart improvements in community health, skills-strengthening and economic and civic empowerment.