OLD BUILDINGS.

By Nii B. Andrews.

My natural inclination is to gravitate towards old buildings.

After living in downtown Brooklyn for well over a decade, a loft conversion in Jersey City and yet another decade in the Marrakech Medina; it is not at all surprising since there are also ancestral homes in Teshie, Osu and Krobo Odumase.

Every old building anywhere is unique with its own distinctive appearance and identity or vibe.

Dining Room panorama in 200 year old refurbished house with astounding architectural detail.

 

The appearance is formed by the visual aspects or physical features – the shape, roof, projections and exterior materials are all included.

But each building has character defining elements that include craftsmanship, decorative details and aspects of its site and environment.

Now, with our largely non-existent maintenance culture and terribly stymied aesthetic appreciation, old buildings are very low on the priority list in these parts.

Ussher Town, Old Accra.

 

Most often, trying to share architectural details of old buildings in Accra is met with a wooden stare and non-committal monotones or simply a stony silence.

With land values soaring unrealistically, who cares about an old building?

That is the prevailing attitude….

“It is quite unfortunate” (please get the inflection right!).

Early summer evening stroll to dinner venue down a street in historic quarter with restored houses; Marrakech Medina. Psst…..the cheese platter (white shirt, left side) was wicked!

 

So we demolish all the colonial bungalows and build cookie cutter, ghetto style apartments…and do not bother to widen the roads in the ‘hood or improve the antiquated drainage system.

We take down and discard totally pest free, wooden shutters made of perfectly seasoned wood – but perhaps painted over with layers of paint and replace them with hideous aluminium sliding windows.

Or we place an AC over an archway or vintage façade. Who cares?

Ms. G’s living room; exquisite detail and furnishings.

 

Then we turn our attention to getting rid of the greenery.

We cut down the old trees that provide shade and a hang out for birds  –  because we believe that witches gather there. We then proceed to cover the yard space with those ridiculous hexagonal cement blocks and build a  perimeter wall that is 8 feet high.

Finally, along the porch, we line up earthenware pots painted in multiple bright fancy colors; yellow, lilac and pink.

Now, we have arrived, the “g” way.

Under development has so many facets; the substrates are closed minds, a herd mentality and unrefined attitudes to life.

Temple St. George; McCarthy Hill, Accra.

 

That is why Joe Osae-Addo at ARCHIAFRIKA/Jamestown Cafe has our support.

Take the fight to them, Joe; we know that it is HARD.

Keep creating, Joe; keep speaking, writing and advocating an authentic architecture – creative and based on context and place; INNONATIVE.

Don’t stop.

You are ahead of the curve, the real deal; so the others must up their game, catch up and understand.

Until they do, “Don’t mind them!”

General Post Office, Accra.

 

Just as it happened with our traditional African art and now with contemporary African Art (CAA) our architectural gems are not being safeguarded nor appreciated by us.

We have not realized that architectural heritage is a capital asset.

Everybody else knows and understands that – except us.

Hamamm with centuries old Amazigh mosaics; now a luxurious ensuite guest bedroom.
No comment.
Main salon; colonial feel massive windows for ventilation and light; Tema.

3 thoughts on “OLD BUILDINGS.”

  1. I admire some colonial buildings of Achimito School, Accra Academy and Univeristy of Ghana. It’s a shame such buildings are gradually being replaced with plain houses with sliding glass windows and no attention to details.

  2. What do you think is the way forward to help Ghanaians come to a realization that our architectural heritage is a capital asset? Also what do you think is blinding us in the first place?

    I do feel that our environments also don’t encourage the need to even appreciate old buildings – There’s garbage all over our cities, streets and water bodies, there’s very little order all over, from our governments to small businesses and very little attention to detail in a lot of different things we do. All these, coupled with our need to have ‘quick fixes’ to problems we notice only allow us to think that building some flashy building with very little use and function is more valuable than some old buildings with a lot of purpose that also tell us a lot about ourselves and history. Our environments are constantly shaping us, as we shape them.

    1. Thank you for the feedback.

      What blinds us is two fold; ignorance and or dishonesty.

      To move forward we must fight these relentlessly and win.

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