Students build in Ghana
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 02:10
While Europe is always a popular destination for studying abroad, last summer 16 students took a different route and traveled to Africa with a very clear mission. They were part of the Design/Build Ghana Summer Workshop, an intensive studio project popular with architecture and interior design majors. The Cage Gallery in Alumni Hall is currently hosting a collection of work done by these students.
This six-week program gives students an opportunity to design and build a community based building. According to J. Elliott, architect and instructor in the Department of Architecture & Interior Design and director of the summer workshop since 2005, it has been going on since the mid-90s. This year the students traveled to Abrafo-Odumase, a village in Ghana, to document information on the community they would be building for before touring the country for two and a half weeks. This allowed them to get a feel for the style of architecture. On the road, they designed in groups, drawing up several proposals that were presented to the village and decided upon. Once chosen, the students teamed up with ten of the local villagers to execute the plans.
“The masons and carpenters teach the students everything from mixing the concrete to installing roofs,” Elliott said. “All this is done without power tools during the rainy season, when it still can get over a hundred degrees. They build a building in 22 days.”
The building this year was a cottage for two single teachers. In the past they have built houses, classrooms with attached offices, a community center and a library.
“The biggest challenge was getting used to their construction methods and how they do things over there,” junior architecture major Jordan Osborne said. “It’s much more rudimentary than what we’re used to. We’re used to heavy machinery, their methods are all hands-on.”
Although they exclusively use indigenous materials and building techniques, the program also tries to bring something to the design.
“We always try to introduce something new, whether it’s a piece of technology or building technique,” Elliott said. “But we don’t go overboard and do something inappropriate for the context. It’s not a big flashy project. It’s very tasteful and really a beautiful thing.”
This year they implemented a built-in form of ventilation that can be seen on the small piece of the house that has been rebuilt for the exhibit to hang from the ceiling. The rest of the gallery is filled with photos of the process, a model of the completed building, and the students’ reflective projects that are required. These projects are open-ended and can be in any medium.
“The biggest thing I took away from the experience was just seeing how the rest of the world lives and how truly fortunate we are,” Osborne said. “That has inspired me to want to work in urban settings and it inspired the whole group to be conscious of who you are designing for. It’s all about bettering the people in the community.”
The exhibit will be on display until Oct. 19 in the Cage Gallery located in Alumni Hall, which is free and open to the public weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.