More than tropical?
More than tropical?
Modern housing, expatriate practitioners and the Volta River Project in decolonising Ghana
With a focus on ‘practised architecture’, this chapter contests the understanding of physical things as mere mirrors of social norms and economic interests, stretching the analysis of decolonisation beyond political and economic narratives. The Volta River Project, a river basin development scheme conceived in late colonial Africa and vigorously re-cast as a postcolonial symbol, offers ideal terrain to expose conflicting ideas of decolonisation as they were enacted during and after Ghana’s lengthy ‘transitional’ phase. It presents the work of different architectural practices involved in the design of new industrial towns and resettlement villages, exposing their conflicting ideas about the temporalities and spatialities of decolonisation. Their overlap presents decolonisation’s increasingly transcultural and transnational nature, as it became more than a unilateral relationship between empire and colony. As former colonial influences began to fade away, architects re-imagined urban models, using the occasion to invest design with ideals of liberation, but also remained tied to evolutionary biases. Attempts at decolonising Ghana’s built and cultural environment also illustrate the tension between market-oriented self-help housing and the extension of government-led developmentalism, a tension which illustrates decolonisation’s major paradoxes, caught between nation-building and (critical) internationalism.
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