Forgotten Fort Kongestein

This studio will explore potential new attitudes toward historical preservation, transformation, and adaptive reuse. The location is Fort Kongestein on the Eastern Coast of Ghana, near the village of Ada Foah. A little-known site, now almost entirely in ruins, the fort was built in 1783 by Danish traders. It is one of many European fortifications which survive along the Gold Coast, erected for the trade of people and goods; between 1482 and 1786. These can still be seen along the coast of Ghana between Keta and Beyin; they were links in the trade routes first established by the Portuguese during their era of great maritime exploration. Purchased by the British in 1850, Fort Kongestein, therefore, sits within a rich historical and cultural framework of contact, commerce, and colonial administration and is a fragmentary and material vestige of a bygone era.

The site is now almost completely dormant and mostly neglected.

The village of Ada Foah, located, as it is in a place of calm and natural beauty where the Volta River meets the Atlantic Ocean, was once a prominent market town but has since lost its regional status and is now becoming a more minor attraction, a place for tourists wishing to temporarily escape Accra, the big city; there are now beach houses, sailing clubs and boutique hotels dotted around the area.

This studio is interested in prompting design explorations that make intelligent and imaginative leaps between architectural past, present, and future, as well as the hybridization and combination of cross-cultural architectural languages within a single project. We will ask how sites like this, with their complicated and problematic pasts, might be reclaimed and reused as generating starting points (both real and symbolic) with potential new narratives and multiplicity of meanings in connection with local communities and their futures. Also of interest is the growing overlap between the landscape of recreational tourism and of historical memory rooted in this place which intersects with a trajectory of growing prosperity and a living community along the coast.

You will be challenged to design a project with either one or two programs. You will be offered a choice of programs (museum, archive, community center), and program selections will be made within the first two weeks of the studio. The project will bridge the past and present, reappropriating the site for new relevance in the 21st century through adaptive reuse, extension, and other strategies.

A number of precedents and essays will be offered up for digestion and consideration at the beginning of the semester, and there will be a trip to Accra and the coast of Ghana in the first week of October. To give a deeper understanding of the current state of cultural production and preservation in this region, a series of (optional) virtual talks will be arranged with a selection of artists, makers, curators, and architects currently doing work of interest in West Africa.

Programmatic, experiential, and spatial investigations will take place through drawings and physical models at the scale of landscape, architecture, and interior. You will be invited to articulate strategies for how your project might engage with and meet the surrounding context and how material language, technology, and process could also instill meaning and relate to broader themes of culture, craft, and environmental conditions. We welcome diversity of approach and attitude, including the speculative and imaginary.

TThe first day of GSD classes, Tuesday, September 5th, is held as a MONDAY schedule at the GSD. As this course meets on Tuesday, the first meeting of this course will be on Thursday, September 7th. It will meet regularly thereafter.