Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources

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Members of the Projects Office and students from the Architecture school at the Cass have been collaborating with Freetown and the Sierra Leonian NGO Community Empowerment Support Organisation (CESO) on a primary school building project since 2008. The Ivor Leigh Memorial School was completed in 2011, providing improved facilities for residents in the peri-urban settlement of Kaningo in Freetown. In 2013, students carried out a furniture making workshop with local carpenters to provide timber children's classroom furniture for the school.

Students and Researchers carried out research in the Lumley Valley investigating and cataloguing local materials, resulting in the production of a Freetown Construction Manual. The process of constructing the Ivor Leigh Memorial school in the Lumley Valley revealed the deep social as well as physical problems encountered by poor Freetown communities. These include a sense of isolation from, and a lack of confidence in, engagement with the city.

The ARCSR team was invited by the British Council to participate in a summer exhibition as part of the International Architecture Showcase and London Architecture Festival 2012. The exhibition entitled “The Architecture of 3 Freetown Neighbourhoods” then travelled to Freetown, and was displayed at the British Council headquarters in 2013. The exhibition showed photographs and measured drawings of three Freetown neighbourhoods set within their immediate topographical and historical city context. The presentation of early timber framed Krio Architecture of the downtown Tower Hill District included photographs taken in 2005 by Tim Hetherington and Sullivan Khallon, and measured drawings from a 2012 survey by students from the Cass Faculty of Art Architecture and Design. Also exhibited were surveys of the prefabricated timber colonial bungalows of Hill Station, which are perched high on an escarpment overlooking but not connected to Kaningo in the Lumley Valley where the new school has been constructed.

By highlighting the cultural and environmental context within which these neighbourhoods continue to be formed, the exhibition aimed to give place meaning and a sense of identity to the growing populations of the newer neighbourhoods where the greatest change is currently taking place. By representing together examples of historically and culturally diverse but spatially adjacent architecture the exhibition sought to make explicit the rich architectural capital embodied within the thriving city of Freetown: a cultural resource for everyone.

A publication of this work, "The Architecture of Three Freetown Neighbourhoods" was launched in 2013.

In April 2014, London Metropolitan University signed an agreement with the University of Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone Institute of Architects to collaborate in founding Sierra Leone’s first School of Architecture to be set up on the university campus perched high above the capital city of Freetown overlooking the sea.

CESO: www.cesoprojects.org.uk

Ivor Leigh Memorial School

Freetown, Sierra Leone