World Architecture Day 2021

“In great cities, spaces as well as places are designed and built: walking, witnessing, being in public, are as much part of the design and purpose as is being inside to eat, sleep, make shoes or love or music. The word citizen has to do with cities, and the ideal city is organized around citizenship….around participation in public life.”- Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

For the first time in many years, architecture has taken a reasonable portion of our national discourse in Ghana. There is a strong push back from Ghanaian Architects and the fact that they are poised to partner government to play their role in the national development agenda. A strong advocacy for equitable distribution of public projects has been the cry of many a Ghanaian Architect. The Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA) further continues to ask of our various procurement agencies to be responsive to the dictates of the Public Procurement Act and the protection of local architects to also grow through competitions. It is in this context that we celebrate World Architecture Day.

Construction stimulates the economy. The construction industry, in which architecture is embedded straddles all three economic sectors i.e., primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. The primary sector involving production of materials, components and even the quality of labour involves a very large group of our population. The secondary sector involves activities that transforms these raw materials into finished buildings, roads and other related infrastructure. And finally, the tertiary sector of the economy involves consultancies where the Built Environment Professionals and other allied professionals play a very key role even before the real construction starts. Therefore, the discussions significance of the construction industry and the related policies, legal frameworks and safeguards that guides the transformation of our cities should be given much more importance than we do in Ghana.         

The World Architecture Day (WAD) is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October by global federation of National Associations of Architects. These national association of architects come under the umbrella of the International Union of Architects (UIA) that represents over 1.3 million architects in 124 countries and territories including the Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA).  The UIA was established in 1948. The theme for this year’s celebration is “clean environment for a healthy world”. All architects around the world hope to contribute to the global conversation on the 2030 development agenda by focusing on three key areas; housing, public spacesand their relation to climate change. In Ghana, our theme is "THE FUTURE OF OUR CITIES: Showcasing the Ghanaian Architect. The Ghana Institute of Architects has thrown the challenge that they are equipped and ready to play their role in complementing the infrastructure development agenda. We do expect that in the coming months, the Ghanaian Architect will be engaged in this respect.

40 percent of the world’s 1.8 billion people lack adequate housing. Adequate housing means decent spaces and the complementary key infrastructure; access to sanitary facilities, access to power, water, drainage and good access roads. Barely a week ago, a new Population and Housing Census report was released that indicates that Ghana’s population now stands at about 30.8 million. As we wait for the full report, there is a strong indication of increased urbanization. The population of Greater-Accra surpassed all the other regions and the incidence of informal settlements is on the rise. The huge urban sprawl in Ghana is worrying for all architects and built environment professionals as well. We are building horizontally and the sprawl does not take into consideration the need for Public Open Spaces. Ghana needs a renewal of our policy on sustainable urban development and this must come from strong leadership. 

Ghana is experiencing our fair share of the effects of Climate Change. We have had some intense rains that seems to be exceeding previous recorded rainfalls. We have had increased incidence of flash flooding. We have had reports of roads being inundated and even eroded up in the northern parts of our country. It is time to look at the local role of governments, with the help of built environment professionals, in changing of the fortunes of planet earth and of course Ghana as well. The Forestry Commission has taken the initiative towards greening Ghana. How green can our buildings get to complement these efforts and how can we consolidate this action?

A clean and healthy environment has to be intentional.  Slogans and political propaganda unfortunately do not make the environment clean and healthy. Clean environment means clean air and an environment that manages waste disposal carefully and thoughtfully. Habits must change but the infrastructure and the policies for recycle of waste and the use of plastics needs a rethink. We take too long to enact policies, by the way it is done we may be way behind and the solutions may be inadequate.

As we celebrate World Architecture Day, pause and think about the following with regards to  our cities and the rural urban drift:

    1. The increase of temporary structures i.e., kiosks, containers and timber structures. In Greater Accra Region alone, the Population and Housing Census states that there are more than 600,000 of these. These structures add to how ugly our cities have become. This responsibility should be laid at the doorstep of the various District Assemblies and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. We need to have specific designated places for commercial activities where these can be taxed and regulated properly.

As Architects celebrate World Architecture Day, our role in making our cities better and the complementary roles government, civil society, faith-based organizations and the general public need to play should be looked at again. Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and all the other capitals could be better than we have it. If we want generations to come to enjoy our cities better, then the time to start doing something about it is now.

God bless our homeland Ghana and make our cities great and worth living in.