ACCRA NORTH SITE

Location: Accra, Ghana
Scope: Masterplan: Residential + Offices + Retail
Area: 74,000 - 92,500sqm
Stage: Competition
Client: Trasacco Estates Development Co.
Architect: Studio Seilern Architects
Structural Engineer: AKT II
M+E Engineer: BDSP
Air flow + shading studies: BDSP
Fire Engineering: Buro Happold
Traffic Consultant: Mayer Brown
Landscape Architect: Bradley-Hole Schoenaich 

Unlike many other African cities, Accra retains a strong relationship between building and landscape. This relationship is the underlying theme of the proposal.
 
On an intense day, asphalt will heat to 65°, a softer pavement to 50°, and a natural green surface will remain at or below 40°. Our idea was to cool the city by removing the asphalt and re-conceive the entire site as a forest i.e. a new urban social environment that withstands the Accra climate, where pedestrians could walk, play, interact and shop in the shade of the trees.
 
Due to the fast growth of the country, demand for commercial, residential and retail areas can change quickly over time. The project has been designed as a toolkit for decision making, rather than a finite masterplan. This allows for maximum flexibility between commercial / residential / retail usage, density ratios over the site, phasing scenarios, as well as the ability to adapt to the future needs of the city.
 
In the scheme, the uses on the site are interconnected, creating a large active public space spanning the entire site. Clusters of buildings are organised loosely on the site, occupied by either residential or offices at upper levels, and retail at ground. A ribbon-like retail element links cluster to cluster and contains double-height retail units. These can be occupied by shops, cafes, kindergartens or leisure.
 
Rather than committing to a large cluster of buildings, we chose to break the building units into clusters of three, four or five components. A loose arrangement of these building clusters creates the possibility of a flexible plan that generates multiple aspect residential units, or office clusters with multiple corner offices. The masterplan allows for each building cluster to be used as an office building, a residential building. or as a mixed-use building with offices at base and residential at higher levels. The floor-to-floor height of 3.6m and the M&E strategy allow for this flexibility.
 
Akin to New York's highline, this raised promenade provides outdoor amenity space for the residential units, separate to the retail park below. The theme of the forest extends up the high-rise clusters, where laser-cut panels are affixed onto the building façades, creating an organic pattern as a shading device. The experience of a typical retail mall is internalised, captive, and relies on destination shopping. By turning this model inside out, the retail experience addresses its urban context and actively contributes to the public space.