Participatory Design Practice and Research
AGBOGBLOSHIE MAKERSPACE PLATFORM (AMP)
Project team members:
AMP Makerspace Collective
DK Osseo-Asare & Yasmine Abbas
African cities hold kernels of local knowledge and practices for global learning. Current UN projections suggest that 40% of planet Earth’s human population may be African by the end of the century. This demands rethinking not only models of urban innovation – to integrate more diversity and range of expertise – but also operations: How to embark everyone, democratically, in co-creation of their city?
The Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) is a stellate design experiment to empower Africans to make inclusive futures. AMP is an open-source community-based project to enable grassroots makers in resource-poor environments to (1) gather resources and tools (2) learn by doing and from others (3) produce more and better items (4) trade to generate steady income and (5) amplify their reputation as makers. To design and prototype the AMP platform that links recycling and making, we used a “transformal” approach to design, an approach that mediates “formal” global systems and networks with locally adaptive “informal” modes of production and distribution.
Started in 2013 (preliminary work 2012), the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform project uses a participatory approach that emphasizes the value of local expertise and participation in the design and making of things. Through locally driven design and making opportunities, AMP aims to address urban resilience and community empowerment. Over multiple years, members of the Agbogbloshie scrap dealer and maker community participated in maker workshops to drive “interclass innovation” – creating a space to learn from and collaborate with peers from different economic, ethnic, tribal and religious backgrounds – 750+ grassroots makers and 750+ students and young professionals in STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) from Africa, Europe and North America collaborated to research, co-design and prototype AMP as well as experiment with materials sourced from the scrapyard to develop potentially saleable products.
AMP has three components that function together: the spacecraft or makerspace kiosk (modular construction system that is light, mobile and expandable, featuring prefabricated (recycled) steel semi-octet trusses that can be assembled, disassembled and reassembled as needed by grassroots makers); maker toolkits or add-ons (customizable per a given community’s requirements, to support what makers want to make); and mobile app (for Android, that amplifies makers’ capacity for making and trading through information-sharing). Basic fabrication diagrams, instructions, and digital 3D models for the AMP Spacecraft are available on the website: http://qamp.net/spacecraft/
Experienced together as a community center, a vocational school, a means to upward social mobility and building trust and a curious object in an open-air manufactory, the Agbogbloshie spacecraft prototype led to the design and fabrication of a sturdy, easily replicated (by roadside welders), modular and customizable kiosk — a familiar architecture typology in African cities and an affordable class of deployable architecture that empowers micro-entrepreneurship. Material (Pieces of iron rods) used for fabricating the Spacecraft can be gathered from scrap building materials.
To date, makers have fabricated five modules serving different functions and addressing different community needs / purposes (see figures) and are developing a number of maker toolkits (including a solar-powered pollution sensor, a hydroponic system para-wall) and user tested the AMP App. In all, we conceive the AMP as an “Open Machine for Making” for urban resilience and community empowerment.
The project received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation (2013 Centennial Innovation Challenge Award winner), Bazaar Strategy (2015), the Shuttleworth Foundation (2016), Design Corps (2017 Social Economic and Environmental Design (SEED Award winner), 2017 Seoul Biennale for Architecture and Urbanism (Invited Artists), and from ZKM, Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany (2018). AMP won Digital Champion in Education Technology at pan-African startup competition, Africa 4 Tech (2016) and received the Le Monde Urban Innovation Award – Citizen Engagement, Le Monde Cities (2020).
Project Publications by design leads:
Abbas, Y., & Osseo-Asare, D. “Paysage électronique mouvant.” In Allard, Laurence, Nova, Nicolas & Monnin, Alexandre (Eds.), Ecologies du smartphone, Le Bord de l'eau. [Under review].
Osseo-Asare, Y. D., & Abbas, Y. Prototyping the Transformal. In Shaffer, Marcus Steven (Eds.), Transformered: Three Decades of Machinic Works in the Department of Architecture at Penn State. [Under review].
Osseo-Asare, D., & Abbas, Y. Occupying Africa: Prototyping a Transformal Makerspace Network. Architectural Design: Production Urbanism: The Meta Industrial City. [Forthcoming 2021].
Osseo-Asare, D., & Abbas, Y. (Co-Author) (2021). &Spacecraft: Building an Afronautics Program. In Richard Rottenburg, Oulimata Gueye, Julien McHardy, Philipp Ziegler, Marion Louisgrand Sylla, Tegan Bristow, Fiona Rankin-Smith (Eds.), Digital Imaginaries: Africas in Production. (pp. 190-211).
Osseo-Asare, D., & Abbas, Y. (2020). Crafting Space. In Ferdous, F., Bell, B. (Eds.), All-Inclusive Engagement in Architecture (pp. 208-216). Routledge.
Osseo-Asare, D., & Abbas, Y. (2019). Waste. AA Files (76), pp. 179-183.
Abbas, Y. & Osseo-Asare, D., (2017). "Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform." In Pai, H. (Eds.), Imminent Commons: Live from Seoul. (pp. 65 and 67). NY, NY and Barcelona, Spain: Actar.
Osseo-Asare, D., & Abbas, Y. (2016). Leveraging Maker Ecosystems to Drive Design-Led Innovation. SEED: Innovative Africa Zurich: African Innovation Foundation.
Osseo-Asare, Y., & Abbas, Y. (Co-Author) (2015). Investigating 3E-Materials at Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana. Raising Awareness for the Societal and Environmental Role of Engineering and (Re)Training Engineers for Participatory Design (Engineering4Society). (pp. 41-50).
Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform | Digital Imaginaries: Africas in Production – ZKM, Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM), Karlsruhe, Germany. (November 17, 2018 - March 17, 2019).
Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platfom | Production City – Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Seoul, Korea. (September 2017 - November 2017).
DK Osseo-Asare is principal of transatlantic architecture studio Low Design Office (LowDO), Architectural League of New York 2021 Emerging Voices award winner, and assistant professor of architecture and engineering design at Pennsylvania State University, where he directs the Humanitarian Materials Lab. DK co-founded the pan-African open maker tech initiative Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) and led urban design for Anam City and Koumbi City new town projects in Nigeria and Ghana. DK is a TED Global Fellow and received his M.Arch. from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His research explores material assemblies optimized for massively scalable radical resilience.
Dr. Yasmine Abbas (SMArchS, MIT, DDes, Harvard GSD) is architecture and design faculty at the Pennsylvania State University. She researches strategies for the design of living environments across contemporary conditions of expanded physical, digital, and mental mobilities. Yasmine has worked in multicultural environments employing design thinking methods to generate panurban intelligence and drive urban innovation. She co-founded the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP), winner of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Centennial Innovation Challenge 2013, the 2017 SEED award for Public Interest Design, and Le Monde Urban Innovation Award – Citizen Engagement, Le Monde Cities (2020).
3 posters (revised May 2020, from original version 2017 Seoul Biennale for Architecture and Urbanism).
Poster 1, Poster 2, Poster 3
The Spacecraft_ZKM made in Accra, Ghana for a final quality check-in before maritime transport to Germany.