Fusion Architecture (FA) Visits Arcosanti


FUSION ARCHITECTURE (FA) is a group of architects & related  young professionals based in Phoenix & with close links to ASU.  They are a design/built group embracing a holistic, process-oriented approach that divides their work along social, communications and product creation, including such diverse things as the creation of recycled furniture, a planning process to envision a sustainable and prosperous Accra and efforts to design improved school facilities in rural Ghana).

Kobina Banning, president & founder of FA, doing a powerpoint about his org's work.

Meeting the team again this year was also a good experience.  I appreciated the progress they have made in their work in getting a good website, plan and their NGO organizational status in place.

Recently they came back to Arcosanti and met with me to discuss their work. Kobina gave a summary presentation of their work where they talked about several of their projects which revolve around education, cultural and sustainable development.

Approach

Fusion Architecture takes a holistic approach that “brings together architecture, urban design, graphic design, engineering and cultural practitioners to work collaboratively around questions of this kind.” They seemed to be very focused on the process, rather than the actual outcome. This seems like a good approach in terms of seeing the real goal is not a material accomplishment, but rather the learning that comes through the process of experiencing life. Their tagline “unfolding socio-cultural issues through collaborative design,” shows that they realize that architecture is not just about buildings and architect, its about people and their needs. Within that realization is the notion of environmental accountability and design with nature in mind.

On their homepage they pose two key questions:

  1. “How may architecture engage with questions of culture, density, politics, identity, sustainability and its impact on urban settings in Africa?”
  2. “As 21st Century designers, how may we make a difference given the complexity of these contemporary global issues?”

Projects

Originally they put forward a more holistic way of classifying their work and projects however they decided on three core project focus areas as a way to simplify things.

  1. Social
  2. Communications
  3. Products

Here are some of the projects they are working on of most interest to me:

Weweso Junior High is outside of Kumasi, the second largest city of Ghana. As Weweso community has grown rapidly to 5,500 people so has the school which now has over 870 students. However they have not really been able to keep up with the growth. Now there are only 12 classrooms and approximately 70 students per classroom. FA went to the field did an assessment and then provided a plan for the development of more adequate facilities for the students with a modest budget of 50,000 USD.

World Refugee Day Phoenix – A recent project has been to complete a video and and new logo for the World Refugee Day 2010 Phoenix. Their work highlights the reality of humanity’s inability to treat each other with dignity and respect and this is concerning since the numbers of refugees seems to be growing. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) 2009 Global Trend Report, said that there are approximately 15.2 million people classified as refugees around the world. However, Charity Toonze notes in Huffington Post that “2009 marked the highest volume of forcibly displaced people – approximately 43.3 million people fled their homes due to violence or persecution.” The fact that this number is going represents a key indicator of global social unsustainability and what I would consider to be a World Urgent Issue.

Recycling Paper Rolls – Recycling and encouraging the design and development of consumer products that push the limits of innovative design with regards to both appearance and sustainability. Currently they are taking used paper tubes to make tubes using Eco–friendly glue and finished with low VOC spray paint. Recently they completed a Podium for a church as also a cat house they call “Catopia.”

Ghana Urban Think Tank (GUTT) – Urban population in Ghana is growing rapidly. Migrants are streaming in from the rural areas seeking a better life in the city. They refer to this as an ‘Urban Tsunami’. Shanty towns are spreading like wildfire. However governments are unable to address the need for reasonable services for these communities. This pattern is of course repeated throughout the globe.

Some modelling they did as part of a Accra redevelopment plan for their GUTT Project.

The Ghana GUTT sustainable city effort is relevant as the need to create a sustainable city vision for Ghana is compelling based on the unsustainable level of population growth. It is also in alignment with the larger goals to promote global sustainable development through both my work at Arcosanti and oneVillage Foundation.

  1. It links up with the idea of Arcology here at Arcosanti in terms of higher density, transit friendly, sustainable development.
  2. More immediate to us is this idea of creating Unity Centers to promote much of what they are talking about in terms of being able to teach, promote a new model of learning and development that is linked with sustainability and social entrepreneurism (incubate sustainable biz).

One of the things we discussed in our meeting is my colleague Joy Tang’s effort at the Interbreeding center in Taiwan. The project was developed by an architect who was trained at SCI-ARC in LA. Joy is now working with Interbreeding via UnityDrum. The idea behind the sessions was that they are being used to connect the Interbreeding team with a higher level of creativity through a group activity which in this case is drumming African style. So it is a process of connecting cultural learning that includes the experiencing of an alternative culture with an actual participatory process – learning by doing.

We also discussed Tony Brown’s Ecosa Institute program and how I saw a possible link with them. Particularly in relation to their efforts to provide outreach to students of all ages interests in architecture and urban design. Ecosa is also process oriented, holistic Ecological Design approach:

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