Conserving West African Modernism Workshop and Conference Report

KNUST Kumasi, 2 – 18th July 2015



From the 2nd to 18th July 2015 Ola Uduku was involved in setting up and running the inaugural “Conserving West African Modernism” workshop culminating in an international conference held from the 13th – 14th July at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi Ghana.


There were a number of objectives for the project; firstly the visit and workshop aimed to explore the possibilities of Edinburgh University’s Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, (SCCS) and Architecture School becoming involved in research collaboration activities centred on the Modernist heritage of the KNUST campus both in terms of architectural history and also international- tropical conservation practice. Also included in this collaboration was the Liverpool University School of Architecture, (LSA) which has research expertise and archival material on the work of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew who were involved in the development of Kumasi and Ghana’s post-WW2 architectural heritage.


Second, the project sought to make an initial assessment of the modernist heritage site and buildings at KNUST with a view to using these as a basis for documentation, to support the application for Ghana to become a member of the international modernism conservation organisation Docomomo International. This also included a public outreach element in which the project engaged with local university school children in a campus buildings tour and questionnaire session to raise awareness and interest in the buildings on the KNUST campus.


Third, the project sought to explore the possibilities of having the SCCS at Edinburgh University support the development of an MSc. Course in conservation and also contributions to architectural history teaching, initially via online courses, using available media technology at both institutions. In connection with this, linkages to architectural history teaching at the Liverpool School of Architecture and its future research-links with Ghana were also examined.


Also at public and international outreach level, work was undertaken with Junior high school students to raise awareness about the modernist architectural legacy on the Kumasi campus, via a series of tours, discussions and ‘snap-voting’ on buildings judged ‘best’ by the pupils. At the international level the project enlisted PG architecture students to work on listing key campus buildings, using the Docomomo, (the international organisation for conserving modernist buildings and landscapes), fiche listing template. This is with a view to working with KNUST staff and students towards compiling material required to apply for Ghana’s membership of Docomomo in the next biennial conference in 2016.


The project culminated with a well-attended two-day conference at KNUST, where keynote speeches were given by; KNUST Professor emeritus H. Wellington, and Professor Miles Glendinning, Director SCCS, University of Edinburgh. Teams of Junior High School and KNUST Architecture PG students also gave presentations, showing the work they had done during the preceding week’s ‘KNUST Modernism’ workshops.


Providently the conference also heard the views and reminiscences of Profs Wellington, Owuso-Addo, and Arc. J Larbi, all eminent Ghanaian architects and educators, who had been historically involved with the development of the campus, since its inception in the mid 1950s to the 1990s, who attended the workshop. Representatives from the Ghana Institute of Architects, the Lands and Survey office at KNUST, associated faculty staff from the College of Architecture, Arts, and Planning, and from the ArchiAfrika organisation, were also in attendance.


The various workshops and final conference was made possible by funding and in–kind support received from a number of bodies including: The African Studies Association UK, ArchiAfrika, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Liverpool and KNUST.