Publications

—DK Osseo-Asare. (2021). “What is Fufuzela? Futuring the Pan-African Museum”, in Report of the Presidential Committee on Ghana’s Museums and Natural Heritage. Nana Oforiatta Ayim, ed. ANO Institute of Arts and Culture, on behalf of the Government of Ghana. January 4, 2021. 5 pp.

“What word or phrase in your language speaks to what a building may become when reformulated as a body made up of a skeleton, skin and possibly a few essential organs—a body, or bounded system—that may be living now, in the past, or in the future? Given that all matter exists as part of a continuous process cycle circulating life and death and being, how do you talk or listen to a building? How do you dialogue, or dance, with architecture that is alive (…) ?”

Chapter 9, “Architecture” by DK Osseo-Asare, pp. 46-50.

Download the full report: https://www.ghanaheritagefuture.com/report

—DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas. (2020). “Crafting Spaces” in Farhana Ferdous & Bryan Bell, eds., All-Inclusive Engagement in Architecture: Toward the Future of Social Change. New York: Routledge. 9 pp.

“Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) is a youth-driven community-based project to empower grassroots makers to make more and better together. It was initiated and incubated in 2012 by Panurban, a Paris-based strategic design consultancy, and Low Design Office (LOWDO), a transatlantic architecture and integrated design studio based in Austin, Texas, and Tema, Ghana. AMP began as an experimental demonstration of “stellate design,” a participatory design method developed by the authors for inducing inclusive innovation that links stellation and constellation interoperatively using a polyvalent parametric design process and a “makers and development” (M&D) approach. 1 Starting with a road map for an open technology platform, utilizing the theory of change methodology, 2 we first created a “spacecraft” concept before developing it iteratively over five years with members of the AMP Makers Collective and participants in the #AMPqamp (“AMP Camp”) series of maker workshops. Conceived as process more than product, AMP spacecraft emerged through co-design with more than 1,500 youth from West Africa, Europe, and the United States—half students and recent graduates in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields and half informal sector or grassroots makers—as a twofold form of empowerment. On the one hand, it leveraged architecture to enable resource-poor and vulnerable communities to improve their standard and quality of life and work, and on the other, it expanded the scope and territory of architecture, broadly considered a participatory mode of design and production. We consider this to be an interclass approach to amplifying opportunity: generating the space for alternative future making through the coupling of disciplinary knowledge and latent professional capacity with the practical know-how of grassroots makers and indigenous technology systems to build a STEAM-powered engine for Sankofa innovation (Figure 1). 3 […]

Chapter 3.7: Ferdous & Bell, 2020.
Figure 1. Sankofa Innovation

—DK Osseo-Asare. (2020). “Lowness” in FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture “Radical Noir”, (2), Graduate School of Architecture [University of Johannesburg] and the City College of New York. Presentation included in issue launch, Spitzer School of Architecture [via Zoom], after journal editors Lesley Lokko (‘Facing Forward: After the Storm’) and Caroline Wanjiku Kihato (‘Taking Risks in Storytelling’). September 4, 2020.

Supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, FOLIO is Africa’s newest, peer-reviewed journal of architecture exploring issues, ideas, built projects, criticism and speculative writing on a wide range of topics concerning architecture, urbanism and creative practice both at ‘home’ and abroad. In this second volume, thirty-eight contributors showcase some of the most innovative and critical writing, projects and reflections coming ‘out of Africa’ and the Diaspora today.

DK Osseo-Asare, in conversation with Ryan Bollom. (2020). Texas Architect. September/October 2020 feature, in print and online.

Technology today enables new, potentially more inclusive models of design-building-making-operating such as open-source architecture and open design. The defining characteristic of these models is that data and structured design information (design content, or intellectual property) resides in a “commons.” This content forms libraries that other users can access, use, and contribute to the iterative design process flow. Technology platforms enable this information to be shared in ways that in the past would have required added cost via human labor.

—DK Osseo-Asare. (2020). “Wild Innovation”, presentation for the AIR Centre “Networking Fridays” series. July 17, 2020.

—DK Osseo-Asare. (2020). “Kiosk Culture”, in Bernd Upmeyer (Ed.), MONU #32, “Affordable Urbanism”, (32). Rotterdam. [Browse the issue on Youtube.]

Kiosk culture is customary because it comes into being not because the law allows it, but because it is a way that people create affordable space within the city—to live, to work, to secure, to project and to dream. What can happen if we recognize that kiosk culture is integral to the DNA of West African cities, and that it may be counterproductive to view such interventions as urban blight, or transgressive aberrations that must be excised from the city? This line of thinking has been the kernel of our work over the past decade, leading to a series of micro-architectural proposals and prototypes that seek to demonstrate the democratic possibilities of designing radically more pixelated models of urban development that incorporate low-cost reconfigurable nodes—spatialized at the scale of people and small budgets—that, collectively, create networked geographies of affordance concatenating Africa’s urban past and future.

—Donna Cohen, Charlie Hailey and DK Osseo-Asare. (2020). “Making with Repurpose: Finding Architectural Value between Waste and Landfill”. European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes, 2(2).

This project rethinks architectural work in the context of waste. Fourth-year students designed and built a mobile maker-space at the Repurpose Project, a last stop for cast-off materials before the landfill. This essay argues that the material ecologies found in such places provide a critical context for understanding architectural work as a collective body of knowledge and practical know-how. The rejected and scrapped materials themselves had agency, carrying legacies and future potentialities, not just for the project but also for the larger collaborative project of evaluating and addressing work and waste in and out of academia and the architectural profession. Building the maker-space recast the process of making as a series of critical ecological acts and explored the Repurpose Project model as a knowledge commons for alternative architectural practices.

2019

“Making in the Open”, public lecture, Dr. Bruce J. Nelson ’74 Distinguished Speaker Series, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California. November 14, 2019.

Technology now enables people to collaborate on the design and making of virtually anything in ever-larger groups organized in increasingly non-hierarchical fashion. The ways in which free and open-source software have transformed not only computer and mobile applications but also their design are revolutionizing how we co-create our physical environment and the constellation of products which populate our lives and world. At the same time that models of consumerism and planned obsolescence threaten our planet’s climate and ecological dynamics, more and more people are demanding that we design better, more sustainable and more equitable paradigms for living together on Earth. What does making mean (what and how) in this new regime of open design and collaborative production?

“On Design[ing] Pedagogy”, DK Osseo-Asare in conversation with Lesley Lokko. Errant Praxis Kamukunji podcast. October 30, 2019.

In this episode errant_praxis collaborator DK Osseo-Asare speaks with architect, novelist and visionary educator  Dr. Lesley Lokko, an architect, educator and best-selling author. She served as founding Head of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, and is incoming Dean and Professor at The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City University of New York in New York City. She holds MArch from The Barlett and a PhD from the University of London. She is a frequent contributor to The Architectural Review (London), edited the pioneering book, White Papers, Black Marks: Architecture, Race, Culture, and founded FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture (GSA Imprints). Prof. Lokko has authored numerous works of fiction, academic book chapters, scholarly publications; serves on architectural juries internationally; and speaks regularly to architecture and design audiences world-wide.

“Local Craftsmanship and Microarchitecture as Alternative Production Models”, DK Osseo-Asare and Naeem Biviji in Conversation with Mpho Matsipa. Columbia GSAPP podcast, produced and edited by Lucy Krebsbach, Sritoma Bhattacharjee, and Yulin Peng. September 20, 2019.

In this podcast episode, we continue the conversation around making culture in Nairobi, Lagos, Accra/Tema, and Johannesburg. Faculty Mpho Matsipa speaks with designers DK Osseo-Asare and Naeem Biviji about their making processes, which explore local craftsmanship and low-cost & small-scale architecture as alternatives to rapid industrialization and big infrastructure in Africa today.

Building Cultures: Making in Nairobi, Lagos, Accra/Tema, and Johannesburg. Nifemi Marcus-Bello, Naeem Biviji, Thabisa Mjo, and DK Osseo-Asare, in conversation with Mpho Matsipa. Introduction by Josh Jordan. September 6, 2019. 114 Avery Hall, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University, New York City.

Building Cultures: Making will explore the work of four makers working in different media who are focused on the process of production as much as the product. What is the potential impact of maker culture on manufacturing, technology, and construction ecologies in each of these contexts? Can retrofitting or reinventing existing/defunct/overlooked infrastructures and technologies scale and be replicated? How can designers co-create with laborers and users while moving towards sustainable production?

—Unlocking urban innovation in Ghana’s scrapyards. (2019). Interview shared in 3 sessions/topics: “People in the economy”, “Reimagining Learning”, and “Reinventing Business”. Disruptive Innovation Festival [via Zoom]. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Isle of Wight, Wales. September 10, 2019.

Led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK registered charity, the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) is an online platform which aims to shift mindsets and inspire action towards a circular economy. It invites people to share disruptive ideas and stories on a number of topics and attracts a worldwide audience, sparking critical conversations and participation.

—DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas. (2019). Waste. [in thematic issue, AAlmanac] AA Files (76). ISBN#: 978-1-9996277-1-3 [Available via the AA in a compilation PDF.]

Recognising that waste is a non-real aberration from the cyclical nature of design and continuously integrated processes of making, unmaking and remaking, opens up opportunity for its contravention. Emerging practices in architecture factor transformation into the design and fabrication of things to come, synthesising fixer culture and the right to repair, design for disassembly, upcycling, ecology and bio-design methods into transdisciplinary models of making that subvert obsolete conceptualisations of waste. Realising open and inclusive architectures for crafting futures beyond waste demands alternative spaces – spacecraft – that operate as portals to possibility. Launching these mobile nodes across a network of autonomous scrapyards – innovation ecosystems powered by grassroots makers – can interlink human potential with the agency of materials to make, and remake anew.

—Cher Potter, DK Osseo-Asare and Mugendi K. M’Rithaa. 2019. “Crafting Spaces Between Design and Futures: The Case of the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform”, Journal of Future Studies, 23(3): 39–56. [Special issue on ‘Design and Futures (Vol. I)’ guest edited by Stuart Candy and Cher Potter]

2018

—Tagana: Maker’s Brunch. Opening Weekend: Digital Imaginaries – Africas in Production. ZKM | Center for Arts and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany. November 18, 2018.

—DK Osseo-Asare. 2018. “Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP): The Future of Making” in Proceedings of the 5th AfriDesignX Conference ‘KpaKpaKpa: Design Concepts from the African Continent’. [Edited transcription of a public presentation given at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK.]

2017

—DK Osseo-Asare. (2017). TED talk. “What a scrapyard in Ghana can teach us about innovation”, [Session 6, Urban 3.0] at TED Global, Arusha, Tanzania. August 2017.

In Agbogbloshie, a community in Accra, Ghana, people descend on a scrapyard to mine electronic waste for recyclable materials. Without formal training, these urban miners often teach themselves the workings of electronics by taking them apart and putting them together again. Designer and TED Fellow DK Osseo-Asare wondered: What would happen if we connected these self-taught techies with students and young professionals in STEAM fields? The result: a growing maker community where people engage in peer-to-peer, hands-on education, motivated by what they want to create. Learn more about how this African makerspace is pioneering a grassroots circular economy.

—Starr Forum: Digital Innovation and Africa. MIT Center for International Studies. MIT Media Lab. April 11, 2017.

As mobile money innovator M-Pesa turns ten this year, hot on its heels are an impressive number of “Made in Africa” solutions that claim to revolutionize the education, agriculture, health or energy industries. Digital technologies in Africa are all about being frugal, agile, and collaborative. It’s about starting from scratch, doing more with less, and growing faster. But are they really helping to solve Africa’s global challenges and, in return, do they provide a new model for development? In 2011, MIT Sloan Associate Professor Tavneet Suri wrote that “technological progress or productivity improvements are the only way to have long-run sustained increases in income.” Still, many observers are disappointed in the pace of change, as many underserved African populations fail to see the new jobs and tangible results that are coming out of this new wave of tech. This roundtable at MIT will explore and interrogate the socio-economic, cultural and geopolitical consequences of Africa’s leapfrog into new technologies.

2016

—DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas. (2016). “Leveraging Maker Ecosystems to Drive Design-Led Innovation” in Toby Shapshak (Ed.), SEED: Innovative Africa. Zurich: African Innovation Foundation.

The spirit of Sankofa still thrives in Africa: a traditional innovation method that can potentially improve productivity and enable higher value creation through efficiency with the end result of developing human potential in the 21st-century. As architects DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas have proposed, Sankofa can be linked with innovation practice by leveraging the wisdom of both contemporary society and our ancestors to craft new and better “ways of doing”. Learning from existing indigenous technology systems can greatly improve productivity, quality and amplify value-creation through human-centered design that is culturally-tuned to African spaces.

—Science and Technology Institutions as Enablers. (2016). Panel (moderator), “Taking Bold Steps and Big Bets”, Global Philanthropy Forum. Rabat, Morocco. October 18, 2016.

It is widely recognized that Africa needs more homegrown solutions to some of its most pressing challenges. Critical prerequisites for a vibrant science and technology landscape include strong educational and technical institutions, as well as market-driven research centers that actively partner with the private and nonprofit sectors to develop innovative solutions. This session will examine the state of Africa’s Science and Technology Institutions with a focus on the bold steps and big bets that are being taken to revitalize this space. This is a unique opportunity for the panelists to outline key action steps for creating strong institutions and linkages across the continent. Panelists: Yap Boum II, Regional Representative, Epicentre Africa and Co-Founder, Kmerpad; Bitrina Diyamett, Founding Executive Director, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organization (STIPRO); Paul Mbugua, Managing Director, Eclectics International; Isayvani Naicker, Chief Director, International Resources, National Department of Science and Technology; Moderator: DK Osseo-Asare

2015

—Kiosk Culture. (2015-). Exhibition + book, collaboration with ANO Institute, Accra, Ghana.

—Interview with DK Osseo-Asare. (2015). Design Rendez-vous, African Innovation Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland. November 9, 2015.

Physical space and virtual space are no longer separate. They’re now interlinked. And so this has very, very, very profound implications for the way forward in the future. The children born today and will never see the world as just a physical space. But they also won’t see digital space as a virtual reality separate from their existence. They will see themselves as beings that live in physical and virtual space at the same time, and this is something we have to think about in terms of a design-driven future for Africa.

—DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas. 2015. ‘Investigating 3E-materials at Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana’, Proceedings of the Raising Awareness for the Societal and Environmental Role of Engineering and (Re)Training Engineers for Participatory Design, Engineering4Society 2015 Conference, Leuven, Belgium. Online version (truncated) available online [here] via IEEExplore; full text PDF from the conference available for download here (PDF) and below:

2014

—Makers for Productive Cities. (2014). Talk at Citisense, World Bank, Esade Business School, Barcelona, Spain. November 16, 2014. [via Youtube]

—”Internet of Everyone”, panel at World Bank Citisense, Fira Barcelona:

This panel explores the intersection of the Internet of Things – a globally intertwined network of sensors, data and technologies – and the people who use, create, make, modify, tweak, tinker and innovate on top of this infrastructure. Panelists included: • DK Osseo-Asare, Low Design Office • Júlia López-Venura, City of Barcelona • Drew Hemment, FutureEverything • Saori Imaizumi, World Bank • Hallie Applebaum, World Bank (moderator)

—DK Osseo-Asare talk at MESH Confab, British Council, Accra, Ghana. November 2014. [via Youtube]

We found the concept of agency helpful, because it captured the multiple dimensions of the problem. This was around the same time that we read Michelle Provoost and Walter Vanderphout’s article, Facts on the Ground, which was in the same magazine (Harvard Design Magazine), and which suggested that there is an emerging “ditch urbanism” model of designers as proactive problem solvers. Based on bottom–up grassroots efforts from below, design—and designers—can identify problems and then, as part of a design process, develop creative methods for realizing built results on the ground. We asked ourselves how we could learn from this targeted approach of design married with vaguely guerrilla tactics. We knew that design should not be exclusive, and we knew that traditional client-based models can have a strained power dynamic, that renders architects as prostitutes, turning tricks for commissions and bigger budgets. In response, we argued that we could grow the space within the profession of architecture for an expanded movement to design greater equality into the global power structure’s built environment.

—Blomberg, J., Hagen, P., Loi, D., Osseo-Asare, Y., Wayua, C., Miettinen, J., & Korsah, A. (2014). Exploring the potential for participatory design in Africa. Proceedings of the 13th Participatory Design Conference. (2) . New York, NY: ACM.

—DK Osseo-Asare and Yasmine Abbas. (2014). Affecting Interclass Innovation at Agbogbloshie. Love and E-­waste Workshop at Participatory Design Conference 2014 in Windhoek, Namibia.

2010

—Yasmine Abbas and DK Osseo-Asare. (2010). “Color Coating/Coding in Ghana’s Mobility Marketplace”, New Geographies, 3, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Color-coating architecture is, in the context of Africa, superficial. Alternatively, color-coding represents an enormous opportunity to restructure the relationship between telecom companies and citizens of the city. This demands new forms of design intervention that correspond to people’s needs on the ground: despite ongoing improvements across the continent, many buildings and many people are still held hostage by unreliable or expensive delivery networks (water, electricity, telecommunications, etc.). As a countermeasure, the concept of active architecture seeks to augment delivery by embedding production within architecture—a shift from a project of creating buildings, to creating buildings that do things. […] Given that color is already used for coding land-use maps in urban planning, let color-coding convert telecommunications networks into social networks as part of the semantic of space. Delaminating brand from building opens up the related possibility of encoding brand within the operating system of the city itself, an alternate strategy that integrates aspirations across Africa’s mobility marketplace by converting customers to users and actively leveraging networks on their behalf.

—DK Osseo-Asare. (2010). “AfricentriCITY: From kiosk culture to active architecture”, in NOMA Magazine, Spring 2010, pp. 13-17.

Max Bond once made a powerful observation regarding the social content of design: that the techniques of construction specified by architects affect who builds buildings [Max Bond and Paul Broches, 1981, “Social Content in Teaching and Design”, Journal of Architectural Education, 35(1), pp. 51-56.] This observation speaks volumes. Materials and techniques of construction impact the local building and fabrication industry, economically. In Ghana, key materials and equipment—ranging from glass, tiles, door handles, air conditioners to cell phones and laptops—tend to be imported (as well as models of the city). In Tema, a city founded around an Aluminum smelter that does not source Ghanaian bauxite, the frontier of the locally-made is the poorer edges, the peri-urban, buildings and developments still under construction, the periphery, the tiny and small businesses along roadsides, the kiosks, the spaces where improvisation is automatic.

—”Architecture is ultimately technology: DK Ossoe-Asare [sic] talks about sustainable micro architecture”. TED Fellows interview with Wired UK [via Youtube], recorded during TEDGlobal in Oxford, UK. September 2, 2010:

—”Network Power in a West African New Town”, Paper presented at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and published in Proceedings of the 3rd annual Unspoken Borders Conference at PennDesign: Ecologies of Inequality (2009).

Africa is conspicuously absent from the discourse of architecture. Now, thanks to Rem Koolhaas’ Lagos, there is mention of Africa’s new urban phenomena, an alternate global culture of congestion, emergent entrepreneurship and the informal. This latest attempt to conquer the enduring mystery of the Dark Continent replaces the focus on traditional techniques and materials of construction of previous decades  (mud mosques or village housing) and aligns ultimately with the “design can save the world” philosophy of Architecture for Humanity and NGO-driven social entrepreneurship models.

The problem with this current approach is that glosses over the profound history of modern architecture and planning intervention in Africa. Yes, under contemporary conditions of globalization, Africa has one of the most phenomenal rates of urbanization in all human history. But architecture is not only now arriving on the scene. African architects trained in the US, the UK, the USSR and later, the new African post-colonies have together with a displaced design community of Western expatriates in Africa already created a large-scale infrastructural network that dictates much of the new urban growth.

Tema, Ghana offers a unique opportunity to measure the social and economic performance of modern architecture and planning in this context, because it is a new city built from scratch over the last fifty years. Other modernist ‘New Town’ projects, such as Chandigarh in India, Brasilia in Brazil, and Abuja in Nigeria, were designed as new administrative capitals for government. Tema was instead designed to be a modern city of industry, conceived as part of the mid-20th-century Volta River Project (VRP). The VRP was a highly successful and ambitious project to link hydroelectricity from the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River to large-scale industry and an artificial harbor at Tema. Doxiadis Associates designed the original master plan of Tema for a projected population of 250,000 people. That target has now been achieved. Tema has jumpstarted industrialization in Ghana and is now a major industrial and transportation hub for West Africa.

Perhaps the critique of planning most relevant to the Tema case is Hashim Sarkis’ essay “The Persistence of Planning,” in which he discusses Doxiadis’ scalar ekistics in Lebanon. Sarkis notes that while this form of “comprehensive planning” sought to scientifically “accelerate” modernization of the nation-state, partial implementation and a failure to accommodate change limited its success. However, he argues that Doxiadis introduced in Lebanon a descriptive framework (the ekistics philosophy) that championed technocratic government-sponsored development and prioritized datacollection and physical planning. Sarkis calls not for the end of planning, but for an updated approach that interrogates multiplicity to collectively map an inclusive and collective public future that follows Amartya Sen’s logic of “reasoned social action.” (Sarkis 2003: 205-207).

This reading of Doxiadis’ work in Lebanon moves beyond Doxiadis the geopolitical power broker [1] to address the underlying tension of planning in a post-Doxiadis environment. Tema was also designed as part of a national development agenda (and ekistics study). [2] Even more than in the case of Lebanon, foreign actors were involved from inception through implementation: business owners and investors, political advisors and technical experts. Consequently, it is inaccurate to present Tema as a purely national project, especially given the relative weakness of the Ghanaian nation-state compared to partners like Kaiser Aluminum and the U.S. State Department.

Although neocolonialism remains a valid critique of Tema’s construction and initial phases of operation, the term is conceptually tied to re-introduction of the European colonialist project through new forms of capitalist imperialism. Such models of global power dynamics are increasingly inadequate in accounting for contemporary globalization, in which new transnational actors and systems of coordination exert indirect control over the nation-state, sub-national and transnational bodies. In order to understand how design processes in Tema modify both local and global power differentials, the author applies current research in social and network theory to address the agency of architecture and planning.

[1] For discussion of Doxiadis’ political prowess see Michelle Provoost, “New Towns on the Cold War Frontier: How modern urban planning was exported as an instrument in the battle for the developing world.” URL: http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2006-06-28-provoost-en.html. Also, Markus Daechsel, “Misplaced Ekistics: Constantinos A. Doxiadis and urban plannning in Pakistan.” Unpublished paper from Doxiadis Foundation international workshop (Dec. 2006).

[2] Documentation of Doxiadis Associates’ Tema design appear in Ekistics 13: 17, 159-171. For ekistics study of Ghana see “Accra-Tema-Akosombo” in Ekistics 11: 65, 235-276.