Anam City at Clinton Global Initiative

October 24, 2014. By dk. 0 comment(s).

We were excited to see that Anam City featured again at Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, this year in a plenary session exploring cities as innovation labs at the urban scale. Watch Mrs. Gesare Chife, Executive Director of the Chife Foundation, explain in a separate interview at CGI how the superblock model developed for Anam City can serve as a flexible prototype for new forms of human settlement in Africa (from 3:30):

Bamboo TV

October 14, 2013. By dk. 1 comment(s).

Television is a word invented at the turn of the 20th century, to describe the (then) emergent phenomena of transmitted and projected electronic audio and visual displays. Technically, it means:

"an electronic system of transmitting transient images of fixed or moving objects together with sound over a wire or through space by apparatus that converts light and sound into electrical waves and reconverts them into visible light rays and audible sound" (m-w.com)

Part of the thinking behind the bamboo "TV" that we built for Sir Black and Martin William's Otublohum Urban Living Room installation at this year's Chale Wote festival was to get Jamestown's young people outside in the open air and expose them to the sounds, images and ideas of their own culture and community  not just the over-commercialized global pop narrative that emanates from the electronic televisions in their actual living rooms, and increasingly, everywhere in the city.

(In the future, we will all have tele-vision.)

Design233 posted a nice roundup of Chale Wote 2013, an amazing festival to celebrate Jamestown, reclaim public space through the arts and re-imagine the city. Community planner and urbanist Victoria Okoye considered this year's event in the context of public space on Urban Africa, as well as wrote up the pocket park project done with Ghana Urban Platform. Accra [dot] Alt, the group behind the initiative, now in it's third year — the only independently produced arts festival in West Africa — also uploaded a great video of the sights and sounds "in reverse".

We spent a week in Otublohum Square, at the intersection of Accra's High Street and Brazil Lane, which leads to Brazil House. It was an unforgettable experience to meet so many people in the community and learn so much about Jamestown and it's history (not to mention building bamboo trusses!). The budget was only GHC 400 (USD 200); hopefully next year we can find a bigger pot, and do more to rehabilitate this important piece of Accra's urban heritage. Here are a few pics of the buildout (more on Facebook):

And a fantastic performance by New Morning Cafe, in which through dancing, drumming and narration in the local dialect they re-interpreted folk icons of the goddesses of Air, Water, Earth and Mami Wata to explain to children the importance of nature and the inter-relationship of the environment and their actions:

Thanks to all the makers who helped build the bamboo TV and the urban living room at Otublohum! And check out the #Accratopia project that Hassan Salih and crew are working on: to transcend the negativity and imagine a utopian future for Accra in 2050. This was hugely well-received at Chale Wote: even the youngest could understand the message. All of which speaks to the power of images...

After the festival, the bamboo structure was disassembled and transported to Berekuso Hill Station, where it will find new life in the on-going #bambot (bamboo robot) experiments. And in case you want to build your own "bamboo TV" stage:

Announcing AMP

May 29, 2013. By dk. 0 comment(s).

Amplification is the fundamental process of addition. Life is not either/or; it is both/and.

Ghana Makers is a social network, right now on fb. AMP to date is a makerspace project that lowdo, Yasmine Abbas and my father have been plotting. We used the Rockefeller informal round as an excuse to conceptualize it. Proposal is for a locally-fabricated modular, scalable, coupled digital and physical infrastructure for open-source design and making in Africa+

More and more, people ask for more information or express an interest in collaborative production. And it can be hard to explain to them what we are doing. For most people it's slightly too complicated for them to conceptualize fully.

In August, we want to run a limited startup phase to work with a select number of architects, programmers, artists, systems thinkers and makers in any field to jointly develop a more coherent model for visualizing and communicating the project. More details soon. (Builds off this working theorem on design innovation *stellation*)

images are brekship1 from Brekuso Hill Station, where building off the bamboo robots line we are planning toward kinematic and aeronautic roofing. Yes, that means roof structures that (eventually - this will be years of research) can fly. This is 20 ft container; we are starting with much smaller 10 ft. version

Also: Check out what Wɔɛlab is working on in Togo: W.AFATE to MARS!

Don't know what a "makerspace" is? Read this.

Network(ing)

May 18, 2013. By dk. 2 comment(s).

John Cary, the founding editor of PublicInterestDesign.org, launched the Global Public Interest Design 100 last week and LowDO was honored to be included among such amazing designers and advocates doing such important work world-wide. In March we presented at the Harvard African Development Conference on a panel with Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ and Chelina Odbert of Kounkuey Design Initiative. And next month we'll be presenting at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Capetown, South Africa. 

The program for AIMS, like most conferences, includes networking prominently between events. All this got me thinking about the power of a network and of networking. (Yes, I've done that before.)

I've met John Cary in physical space only once. It was at Systems for Inclusion 7 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (SFI is an annual conference organized by Design Corps in partnership with architecture students.) He had chaired the planning committee for SFI6 the year before, and Ryan Bollom and I were about to organize SFI8 at Harvard GSD. A group of us took over a wing of a conference hotel and discussed design, agency and the future late into the night. Since then, he has gone on to do some pretty rockstar stuff.

At LowDO we've spent the last five years making and building kakraa kakraa (step-by-step) to help realize the change we want to see in the world. That approach derives in part from those late night debates, when we decided that -- unlike architecture's past -- the only way to be radical in the 21st century, is to build.

The HADC conference was a dynamic interdisciplinary event organized by students across all of Harvard's schools. And it was especially encouraging to see that the Graduate School of Design now has an AfricaGSD student group (which organized the architecture and urbanism panels).

But some of the most influential discussion came after the panel...over burritos with Heinrich Wolff.

Picture thanks to Caroline James

Sometimes people characterize networking as meeting people and making contacts. To a degree that is true, and may get the job done for MBA types. But in the world of design, increasingly networking seems to be perhaps more about linking the creative efforts and capacities of different people and groups into projects of co-creation. That means, in part, borrowing the wiki spirit from the web and applying it to the physical world.

And if you're curious, here's the etymology of the word "network":