2012 – Comparative Informalities
Kumasi, GHANA

Cultivating Kumasi

Creating a productive eco-system.

Joel John, Rishab Jain, Rubella Sejin Jo

Kumasi, or what is better known as the ‘garden city’, is the land of overflowing greenery in and around the region. The growth of the city has lead to an urban sprawl that has encroached upon these green spaces. Our regional strategy is to contain the sprawl by making the urban core more dense, and providing a green infill connected to the peripheral green belt, which would essentially contain the sprawl.

Having recently found oil, Ghana is right now at the point of rapid urbanization causing people to migrate from all over the country towards the major cities of Accra and Kumasi. Kumasi is thus at the threshold of a seemingly dangerous rate of urbanization that could lead to rapid depletion of its resources. The most evident problems that face Kumasi are deforestation, desertification and heavy pollution, affecting both the land and the people. The fertile land and migrating population from the rural areas, are both resources that could and should be ‘cultivated’.

The site is located at an urban edge where the country touches the town (with the main influx of people coming from the northern part of Ghana). This is apparent in the sudden shift in urban density and lack of availability of usable land. By tapping into the resources of this site, we would like to make our site the catalyst in an inevitable surge of growth that Ghana will see in the near future. This project would be the module whose practices could be applied on similar areas within the larger region. We would like to focus our attention towards the needs of the community, by curbing the poor environmental conditions that create unhealthy living conditions, so that the people can lead themselves towards prosperity. And the most significant skills that these people inherently possess, is in the area of agriculture.

To take that forward, we have indentified four major change agents that would facilitate socio-economic growth within the site, and also create a ripple effect towards similar communities within the entire region. We would like to call these out as ecological agents, namely the cash crops, moringa (drumstick), kenaf (fibrous) and jute. These plants would be introduced in three stages for their properties in controlling soil erosion and phytoremedating water bodies to fight contamination. They have been phased out so as to make the ecological process gradual and the economic results more effective. The cash crops (which include crops like ayoyo, cabbage, sugarcane and cassava), and moringa tree would be introduced in the first stage. Physically, it is a plant that prevents soil erosion, which could begin to conserve the soil. Economically, it is a crop that could generate income at a small scale that could subsequently be put back into the operation for the second stage. This stage introduces kenaf, which is a crop that along with its soil cleansing properties would also help in creating small cottage industries, owing to its fibrous composition. Its applications are varied and range from the production of small supplies like bags, to the generation of electricity through its bio mass.

In the third and final stage, we introduce jute. According to our research of Ghana and its economy, it is the second largest exporter of cocoa in the world. Cocoa alone contributes 18.9% towards the country’s GDP, and has around 720,000 households dependent on that industry. On further study, we learnt that each cocoa season, Ghana imports approximately 25-35 million jute bags for packaging, from India, Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire and Pakistan, which in itself is a multi-million dollar investment. Ghana already has the climatic conditions and infrastructural requirements necessary for sustaining its own jute industry. So, with the land prepped, and the funds for investment, this phase would have the required set-up in place, to produce enough jute for cocoa packaging, without having to import it. This 3-phased approach should then get Kumasi working to its maximum potential, and lead itself out of its economic stagnancy.

Cycles Gone Right

Clara Goitia. Will Grimm. Ori Guy. Fernando Arias

The rapid and recent growth of Kumasi to nearly 2 million people has generated new urban conditions and the monetary benefits of city life, but at a severe cost to public health and the shared environment. The hazardous release of untreated human waste into the public realm coupled with ongoing ecological damage will be exacerbated in the future by increased flooding and erosion due to climate change. These factors will combine to generate a dangerous public health crisis within the neighborhoods of Akrom, Adukrom, and Sawaba, and reinforce a negative cycle of poverty, health risk, and environmental degradation.

Our project addresses the immediate hazards of exposed human waste, builds up ecological defenses and introduces a new local economy. We propose to integrate waste and natural processes with forward-thinking urban development that will result in a healthy shared environment and more prosperous communities in these neighborhoods. We have aimed to set these cycles right.

Issues of sanitation, water management, and the degradation of ecological services are evident in this sub-metro area. But this problem is not unique to Ghana. In many developing countries, population growth coupled with urbanization has outpaced the development of sanitation infrastructure, leaving the urban poor virtually without sanitation facilities. Of the roughly 2.4 billion people worldwide lacking access to basic sanitation,13% are in Africa. Our project, while specific to this study area, aims to a develop new model where poorer communities “leap frog” over traditional methods of major infrastructural underground sewerage, (which is often prohibitively expensive ) to bring a higher standard of public health to a greater number of people who need improvements to their daily life and health now.

Our studies began with issues of ecology and changing local perceptions about sanitation and environmental priorities by creating productive economic opportunities through assigning value to treated waste. We discovered that communities next to Akrom also had disrupted ecologies and services that threatened schools, clinics, and sanitation sites at public toilets and private housing.

We expanded the scope of the site and its ecologies to address the integration of human and natural cycles in these communities to improve safety conditions immediately, to demonstrate feasible changes with defined results and efficient implementation.

Despite the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly’s directive that all toilets be connected to a centralized sewage system, this long-term prospect has an unclear and indefinite timeline, and a significant price tag, while risk to public health and ongoing landscape degradation accelerates. We prioritized immediate and localized waste management/ environmental recovery as the initial critical step.

These improvements include new toilet/waste management strategies, a new storm water processing system, and related public services, outreach and infrastructure. Managing human waste is arguably the most important aspect for both proper sanitation and stream water quality. Innovative and hygienic modular systems that capitalize on human waste as an asset are integrated into the existing urban fabric. Newly built or readapted composting toilets, coupled with biodigesters that turn human waste into energy and also produce rich fertilizer for agriculture are introduced. Vertical wetlands can treat wastewater for irrigation use or future flushable toilets and are integrated into the urban landscape.

We propose to develop, through a cut and fill strategy that treats clean solid waste as “fill,” and establishing new grading and drainage patterns that will both channel and filter the water in the dry season, while protecting these institutions from flooding during heavy rains. Moreover, we advise that it is crucial to zone the stream beds as non-residential areas as a critical part of the new treated waste-landscape system. Therefore, policies for densification and sensitive relocation within the community of residences in flood-risk areas must be developed concurrently.

Public institutions (schools, religious centers and public toilets) in what are now the eroded streams that are currently disease vectors, with our system could become centers for “landscape stewardship,” including education, training and demonstration programs that will encourage a civic engagement with the natural environment.

Ultimately, bringing together practical sanitary, urban design and ecological management techniques, our project speculates that the quality of life and health for these communities can be improved today. Our design strategies combine to form a “new ground” of productive landscape that accommodates growth and creates long-term sustainable value within the neighborhood.


Densifying around cultural infrastructure to create a resilient, prosperous community.

Armando Birlain, Matthew Henry, Denise Preschel, Wassim Shaaban

INSIDE-OUT proposes densification of African courtyard typologies around existing cultural infrastructure nodes to trigger economic development in the diverse urban communities of Akrom, Adukrom, and Sawaba. Their future development is likely to be more sustainable and resilient if they develop from the inside-out in the methodology outlined in this proposal.

The strongest asset of these neighborhoods is their social capital – their tight family and community bonds and people’s strong relationship with their cultural institutions such as mosques, churches, and schools. People’s religious beliefs, priority on education, and the need to deal with inadequate economic opportunities knit them together.

Similar to other areas in Ghana, the communities in Akrom, Adukrom, and Sawaba revolve around complex and tightly woven family structures. These structures manifest themselves in the West African courtyard housing compound: a place for living, but also for production and commerce, that grows and changes over time. This courtyard typology is the essence of West African design, and has inspired the design of this project towards strengthening the neighborhood’s economy.

In order to generate change, we propose development from within by developing new courtyard typologies that support and expand existing social infrastructure. This method rejects the traditional western notion of a top-down master planning approach. Instead, design propositions are made for three locations involving existing cultural institutions: a school, a church, and two mosques.

The specific design proposed for each site is based upon careful study and analysis, and forms part of a set of strategies or toolkit that can be implemented across the community.The implementation of this toolkit would be carried out in the courtyards of selected cultural institutions. The intervention would begin with programmatic activators that trigger improvements to economy, environment, and the neighborhood’s cultural identity over time. The result is expected to be the generation of stronger economies, an improved public realm, and a resilient and organized community that can deal successfully with future economic and development pressures and opportunities that are likely due to the site’s proximity to the Kumasi Airport and the Eastern Bypass road.

Market Hub

Investing in logistics, infrastructure and women’s empowerment.

Harshavardhini Baladevakrishna, Heejin Lee, Yoon Young Cho

Our project envisions how new investment in infrastructure, coupled with women’s programming will create comprehensive market development model for the growth of Kumasi as a prosperous regional food hub.

Background (market, women, and the city)

Kumasi sits at the intersection of city and countryside, and has long been a trading crossroads with substantial flux of agricultural, social and economic resources. Kumasi is $$distinctive in West Africa for its high concentration of markets. It has one central market, the Kejetia market, which is of the largest open-air markets in the region with almost 2,000 traders. At the wholesale yard at Kejetia, trucks laden with fruits and vegetables, among many other foodstuffs between ecological zones across a broad area stretching to periurban and rural areas from the far north of Ghana are processed and distributed to vendors.

Women ultimately provide much of the logistical infrastructure, by organizing the logistics of processing, and in terms of carrying heavy loads, but these women operate with little or no support. Women trade in each local food group and operate at every level, working as wholesalers, retailers and street hawkers. (Clark 1994, p.1) The majority and dominating merchandisers are women. Market women who work together or in adjacent stalls formulate almost familial bonds. These relationships serve a vital social and economic function, providing market women with credit, critical business information, and other forms of mutual support. (Storr 2008, p.145) Also ‘Queen Mother’ is a unique feature demonstrating women leadership in the market. Each commodity such as yam or tomato has a specific queen mother, who controls everything from price to personal affairs. Our $project magnifies the aid and assistance to women while at the same time upgrading the logistical infrastructure of the market distribution system.

Another informal sector labor force in the market is the Kayayo, a migrant group of young females typically from the North. They work as porters, carrying heavy loads on their heads to transfer goods among markets. They are paid very little, but nonetheless the work offers them opportunities that are not available in their rural villages. Most kayayo live on the streets or inhabit poor areas on the periphery of Kumasi, sharing small shacks or rooms. Sometimes women traders take care of kayayo and support their safe stay in the city, which is also a form market women entrepreneurship. Investing in educational resources and support for the kayayo through the market operations is a key part of our scheme, which we imagine will lift many of these young women out of extreme poverty.

Reclaiming the Right of Way

A Performative, Generative and Green Corridor for Kumasi and its local communities.

Hannah Allawi, Minyoung Kim, Julie Marin and Eri Suzuki

This project reveals the tremendous potential of Kumasi’s seemingly forgotten railway right of way (R.O.W.). It is a speculation on how Kumasi’s disappearing railway corridor could become a green multipurpose spine within the densifying city of Kumasi. The strategic introduction of ecological, economic and cultural improvements and opportunities could transform this corridor into a vital, performative, and empowering infrastructure, benefiting the city of Kumasi from the local to the regional scale.

The railway R.O.W. plays an important role in Kumasi’s urban fabric for locals using this corridor as a safe, quick and convenient pedestrian and bicycle path. This corridor connects them to important educational and economical hubs, while avoiding the congested road network. However, this R.O.W. is threatened by serious problems such as erosion and encroachments of various kinds which have started interrupting its continuity after the discontinuation of the rail service about a decade ago.

The key advantage of the railway R.O.W is the leverage that the Traditional Authority, the Ghana Railway Development Authority and the City of Kumasi have over ownership and usage. The R.O.W. cuts through the urban fabric of Kumasi making it an ideal place to plug in the city’s infrastructure systems and much needed public amenities. Our proposed strategy illustrates how the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (K.M.A.) could lead the revitalization efforts by providing a clear vision for this amenity, and by involving neighboring communities, commerce, industries and institutions into the reclaiming and revitalization process, without relying on external resources. The physical transformation of this corridor is expected to build equity and resilience within the city and help guide regional and national developments.

A first step of this project, to be initiated by K.M.A., is to acknowledge the corridor’s value and to improve its existing conditions. This can be done by ensuring accessibility at several points, and installing lighting along the corridor to add a sense of security for the users. By providing an alternative non-motorized ransportation route for the city, these simple actions could alleviate some of the traffic congestion that exists on the major city roads. In the following pages, we depict three scenarios of the next steps to uncover the various possibilities for the R.O.W. development. This proposal addresses critical issues of landscape, built-fabric, and infrastructure systems along the railway R.O.W.

In terms of ensuring landscape development, bio-diversity and native vegetation suited to the fertile soil of Kumasi could be re-introduced along the railway corridor to help this space gradually grow and define its role as a green spine traversing the city: providing a pleasant and shaded walkway above ground and stabilizing the soil and preventing erosion below ground. Plants such as bamboo, mango, and palmoil trees have the potential to trigger small scale market activities and new agro-industries that could become new economic generators. At intersections of this corridor with major roads, we predict an increase in mixed-use and higher density developments to accommodate the rapidly growing population. As these improvements take place the city could take advantage of the R.O.W. by simultaneously overlaying infrastructure systems and public amenities to properly service neighboring communities. Using the R.O.W. in the manner suggested here will also ensure that the option of bringing back a railway service to Kumasi is not jeopardized. These changes will redefine the corridor as a productive and performative armature that will help achieve a better quality of life for the City of Kumasi.

Suturing Kumasi from Within

Aireen Batungbakal, Qianrong Huang, Maryam Zamani

Identifying Kumasi as incomparable to the Garden City concept easily leads to the misconception of a city lacking positive qualities and potential to thrive within development. With Kumasi unable to resemble the Garden City, its image is hindered to be approached in a positive outlook. Acknowledging Kumasi and the Garden City as separate entities, the characteristics of Kumasi is fundamental in supporting its permanence. “Suturing Kumasi from Within” questions whether particular aspects results in the resilience of Kumasi. Identifying existing activities, communities, and resources from the past and present indicates the need to integrate these aspects harmoniously. Suturing Kumasi exposes the city’s aspects, resources, and communities, which has existed and defined Kumasi all along.

Kumasi’s differing aspects in culture, economy, and development, conflicted against the imposed planning of the Garden City concept. Forcing the concept onto Kumasi disregarded its existing environmental fabric, economical structure and cultural characters. As it is now evident that neither a top-down master planning of Kumasi, nor a series of bottom up arrangements that organically grow in response to such forced conditions would be capable of creating a functioning cycle of urban living, it seems that the only way to design for a self-sustaining, fully functioning Kumasi is from within.

The premise of this project revolves around the critique of the garden city concept identified in Kumasi, and its impact in regards to ecology, economy and social structure of the city. Identifying and correlating the Kumasi site in three conditions is key in how the design schemes were strategized and implemented: its original state, its intended layout, and its current condition. As it is evident that the garden city concept did not follow along with its development, spatial, economic, and social aspects were determined whether they contributed to the deterioration of Kumasi and its resources. The most evident failed intentions modeled from the Garden City concept were identified on two pilot sites. Relating their original intent to the current condition served as a fundamental component in responding to garden city master planning of site. Using components which were identified to be responsible for the failure of the Garden City concept to be implemented onto Kumasi ground were instead indications in what the area called for.

Identifying what defines Kumasi, from its communities, activities, and infrastructure further supports the potential Kumasi is composed of. Conditions contrasting from the Garden City concept but were prevalent throughout the site were classified. Among the various forms in contrast, conditions which were most common were: concentrated civic nodes, inactive wide streetscape, mistreated natural infrastructure and resources, introverted compounds, and underutilized infrastructured disregarding local fabric. With these conditions most concentrated around the greenbelt dividing Akrom and Adukrom, pilot site one and two exemplify the potential to reform the area while tying its character.


Kumasi Women’s and Girl’s Center

Paul Nelson, Claudia Ray-Centeno, Johannes Pointl and Felicity Stewart

As envisioned by the Kumasi Metropolitian Assembly and the Millennium Cities Initiative, this new center is to be a hub for the empowerment of women and girls in the community, the city and the region. This unique community facility will be the  rst of its kind; with demand driven programs in skill building, health care, education and targeting key needs as determined by its users.

Despite having come a long way since independence in 1957, Ghanaian women and girls still face serious challenges. The Women’s and Girl’s Center will aim to improve the quality of life of its members and visitors by providing training and services such as banking, micro-credit, family planning, sexual health, remedial education and legal services. Critical to the Center will be facilities that allow women to better their situation through education and training and will support new career and business avenues. The Center will house a range of programs including a business center, clinic, community kitchen, meeting space and classrooms.

Our design for the Women’s and Girl’s Center includes a main hub building on a strategically selected site in Bantama, one of the 10 Sub-Metros of Kumasi, with satellite kiosks or outreach in targeted locations around the city. The main center is conceived as a family of buildings, conceived in a highly accessible spatial arrangement.

This plan seeks to establish a demarcated and secure zone for the Center whilst capturing the  uidity and freedom of movement that is characteristic of Bantama and Kumasi at large. On-site interviews and meetings with stakeholders have been fundamental in the development of the design.

The design aims to take advantage of the site’s frontage on a busy arterial street, provi$ding revenue raising opportunities, and to delineate the Center from the existing New Bantama International Primary School. The design for the Center has a layered logic, allowing people to plug in to the facility while still having a strong sense of community. The users will be able to adapt the spaces with moveable screens according to di erent needs and climate conditions.

Participation is key in this design; whilst on-site research has informed the brief and the design, it is envisaged that women, girls and other members of the community will be involved in the actual construction process providing them with skills training in construction, and subsequent management of the Center. The design seeks to improve the environmental quality of the site by remediating and untiring the degraded natural systems on this heavily eroded patch of land.

The project is suggestive, not prescriptive. It is highly public and yet provides a much needed haven. The building makes a strong urban gesture, taking its place along a major city road to highlight a new paradigm, in the name of the women and girls of Kumasi. It will be a model for West Africa and provides a new way of imagining transformative community design.