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.
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.
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!).
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?
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.
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.
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!”
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.