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Building a Library in the Ashanti Region, Ghana

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Lucy Thomas
Mackintosh School of Architecture | UK
In August 2003 I spent three weeks working on a building project, to construct a community library, in Ghana. The opportunity to write a dissertation about the experience seemed a valuable way to gain a deeper understanding of the project in its cultural, political and economic context.

I chose to do this by first examining building traditions and development in the Ashanti Region of Ghana using historical accounts, recent research and my own experience of the vernacular architecture.

The second part of the dissertation is a more personal account of my impressions of Ghana and the library project. I was interested in the current social and cultural climate and how this informed building design and material choices. Relevant to this was an understanding of how the project was organised and the perception of it amongst the local people.

Finally I looked at relevant design issues in relation to the library and explained in more detail some of the concerns regarding building materials and techniques for a country where the vital considerations of climate and economy frequently seem to be sidelined in favour of prestigious, but often poor quality, building methods.

My intention was to describe my experience of building in Ghana in acknowledgement of my position as an outsider. I hope that in doing so I have been able to explain the current situation, as I see it, without undue criticism for a building industry, and indeed a country, that has considerable financial and developmental pressures placed on it.

Lucy Thomas

A highly motivated dissertation based on first hand experience. The background and context is well researched with a clear understanding of the meaning of the evolving vernacular, the sudden jump to Western modernisation and the prestige of "modern" materials. There is a perceptive diary description of personal participation in the building process and informed comment on the social issues, building techniques and literacy. There is a measured and thoughtful conclusion concerning "misplaced" aspirations typical of many developing countries although Ghana has had literacy advantages for 30 years. In short this is a serious and thorough piece of work

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