Sunday, July 25, 2010


Hustlers Base

This is the hustler's base. A very common sight in any West African city. The material was obtained from scrap and used wood planks from building sites, treated against termites with waste engine oil. The roof is of old rusted aluminium sheets kept in its place with rocks, cement bricks and anything with weight that isnt worth stealing at night including pots, pans and cookware.The building has no windows and only one imposing door.
The interior is partitioned into three spaces, one main room and two bed chambers. The furniture positions are determined by the leak positions in the roof. Rain water harvesting is done inside.
During the rainy seasons, buckets and pans are placed under leak positions to harvest rain, If you love water music, you will love to be in this shack during a rain storm when the dripping sound in the pans create the most amazing music you have ever heard.

Thursday, July 8, 2010



This is architecture at its Trashiest.  It also reflects the basic instict of man to provide shelter for himself.  This was occupied by a mentally handicapped man who scavenged trash cans, bins in a near by neighbourhood.
The most likely place for a scavenger  to find materials to build this type is the rubbish heap, scrap yard or landfill site.  Natural materials like sticks and stones, litter, junk, raw and recycled bottles, car tires, cardboard, broken bottles , blankets , jute bags, old clothes and scrap metal. Anything can act as a roof, window or door. It doesn’t matter which order. Whichever order, there is a structure which forms his space, his home. Interestingly, there is a car engine fan as a wind mill on the roof. 
The interior? I chose to respect the occupant’s privacy. But let your imagination run wild on what a night might be like in this dwelling. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The Sea Side Ghetto

The first is a dwelling i found by the beach near a very busy high way by the sea. Constructed to be a fishmonger's stall, and later a storeroom, it is now home to a middle aged Rastafarian gentleman named Ras Idem alias Sea lion. His choice of location is based on the fact that he is still waiting for a ship to take him back to Africa, the fatherland. He wanted to escape the oppressors in Babylon (part of the city of Accra) and hopefully wait for the emancipation and repatriation back to his homeland.
The construction of the dwelling is interesting. Half of the building materials used are debris floating onto the beach. the corner posts are coconut tree stumps. The gable roof is made of dried Thatch from a nearby marshland held together by ropes on bamboo rafters. The interior is dense with the smell of mosquito repellent coils and marijuana. The structure is insulated by old leather bags and worn trampolines. The interior furniture is made of old wooden soda crates with cushion of old second-hand clothes.
All these aside, with an old lantern, and mosquito coils, the evening here is delightful sitting on a three legged chair with a battery powered radio straining an ear to listen to Reggae music drowned by the strong winds from the gulf of Guinea and the relentless attack of the waves rushing up against the shore.




I would like to interest you in a type of Architecture that you may not have considered yet as part of architecture. I say it is especially if it is a form of building growing ever increasingly in our urban environments.
This is Trashitecture. It is not to be confused with Primitive architecture, (there is nothing of the sort) or dwellings of a cave or bush man, nor are they slum dwellings. These are solitary structures often found standing alone. they are products of the basic instincts of the human race when desperate, stranded, abandoned, outlawed, confused or mentally disabled. they have no pre-designed process and are built with everything and anything available obtained from anywhere and put together anyhow by any means. Most of the materials used are discarded waste, used materials and objects from trash and garbage,looted or stolen or picked from scrapyards and construction sites. they are usually found in open spaces , green belts, near highways and on no man's land.
In literature , one is reminded of the house Robinson Crusoe built when he was shipwrecked or Ben Gunn of Treasure Island built for himself when he was marooned .
I will entreat you to examine them deeply, out of these we may gain ideas for green Architecture or discover a secret to low cost housing and most of all, the origin of squatter town and cities that have become a part of our urban environment.
I have chosen a few for discussion in the following posts.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


A child's natural home should be like the interior of the cover cloth of a mother carrying a child on her back. It is an external womb woven with umbilical cords of love and care. It is wrapped around the breast of the woman and the back of the child to form the most secure bond between a mother and child. Within it is an atmosphere of companionship, secure and warm. Assured of care and love, a child can sleep soundly listening to the rythm of mother's heart beat.
Its interior has properties like no other. it is the safest mode of transportation, a guard from mosqitoes and flies, a rocking chair, and a sedative to induce sleep. The cloth is tuck tied above her breast and knot tied below her belly for structural soundness, a child feels no fear of fall. Above all, the child is lifted up and away from the rough hard earth, a most comfortable perch, no obstacles to surmount or barriers to cross.
That's what a home should be like for every child, Natural, like the interior of the cover cloth of its mother.
See how comfy that child is feeling, in Ghana we say Ne tim ye ne de. Translated as " he has a sugar or sweet head " in other words he loves being pampered.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


This is a typical picture of a slumburb. It is a suburb where the urban residents of lower income brackets live. Above is a section of Bukom, British James Town, a slumburb of Accra.

Two principles of Social research in slumburbs reveal that first, roofs tell the story of the people beneath them ; for example roofs in a row belong to siblings or members of one family. Secondly, when a man gets married, he builds a room in his fathers courtyard for he and his bride. If he fathers children out of his marital home (as is often the case), he builds a room for the mother of his child in her fathers courtyard.

It is a calm roof scape of rusted iron sheets, asbestos, concrete and plastics. But beneath them is a complex conglomeration of room arrangements, kitchens, laterines, shops connected by alleys and corridors to create the labyrinth of a settlement. The tale of the roofs reveal close family connections , interactions and cultural systems.

The tale of the roofs in the photo have this story to tell;
The three roofs on the left side of the photo belonged to 3 brothers. The attached room built in addition to them belonged to cousin whose father died and whose mother remarried a man two houses away. She married her childhood sweet heart next door who built a house in the road between the two houses. That created the narrow alleyway between them. They had a son who grew up a vagabond and was sent to live with is maternal grand uncle four courtyards away. The grand uncle who was the chief fisherman at the light house beach built more than a few rooms in the neighborhood for women who bore children who looked like him.

The young man grew up with his grand uncle who died leaving him the yard in front of his house. (refer to picture, the biggest roof in the picture top right.)

He fathered six children whom he built rooms in a row in front of the house. His sons grew up and married the daughters of immigrant tenants who rented rooms from the first 3 uncles. They built shops attached to the rooms for their wives. Its was no secret that the 3 uncles also had built a few rooms in the neighbourhood.
This is the short tale of the phenomenon behind the roofs in 4 acres of 3 generations.
Accurate results in social research can best be obtained from the gossips, rumor mongers and tale bearers in the community.- kojo derban

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Whats this blog about?
Yes Architecture. Okay, there is is myopic conception that its about buildings alone and that architects design buildings right? Wrong!
Let me clarify what architecture really is so you may gain a wider perspective of the subject.

Architecture is about the origin,creation, birth, formation, growth, death and rebirth of anything that constitutes life or that affects life on earth. It is not a static phenomenon but an ever changing dynamic process that should result in making life better for the inhabitants of this planet.
Architecture is about Nature, the Universe, the sun , moon and stars without which there is no life. Its about Earth , Wind, Fire and Water, the four elements involved in the making of dwellings for every living creature. The beehive, anthill, rabbits lair, mole hill ,birds nest and fish ponds are not different from houses, towns and cities simply because they also shelter life. From the the patterns of clouds in the sky to the pattern of the variant leaves, the butterfly wing and the tortoise shell, these are indeed architectural styles in different cultures of life. The process by which a tree grows is much the same as that by which a building rises from its foundations in construction. The principle by which the Baobab tree stands tall is the same by which the Empire state building stands.

Architecture is about man, his life and time, his interactions as a social being, his desire to create a better world, to achieve beauty, balance ,comfort and happiness. Architecture is about transformation in this world. It is about belief and hope.Foundations of homes all start with a belief and a hope that they would be lived in. Foundations of forts are built with a belief that they will protect just as the great reformers believed and hoped that their endeavors would change society. This makes Mandela, Martin Luther King, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghandi architects just as Frank Llyod Wright, IM Pei, Frank Gehry or Norman Foster. Other architects are Bill Gates, Steve Jobs,Henry Ford, Leonardo Da Vinci and Mozart, Michael Jackson and Mother Theresa. They brought something new to peoples lives . That is the primary role of an architect.
Obama is therefore the finished structure standing on the foundations that Martin Luther King Jnr and others built. He is the dome over that temple in which African Americans took 400 years to build.

Finally,Architecture is like a religion. A way to honor God in which every act of designing is worship. This is only achievable through Love and Passion to improve the existing.
So dear reader you also are an Architect, if your daily thoughts and actions serve man, respect , preserves and improves other Lives.

Any more questions?

Architecture is Life itself.