Playtime in Africa Initiative
About the project
At Mmofra, we have used informal, outdoor space for our programs for many years. We are advocates for open space in the built environment for children, as well as child-centered design of outdoor and indoor spaces – and we believe the need for them is even more pressing as Ghana, and the African continent as a whole, continues to urbanize.
Now, with the help of an international network of architects, planners, engineers, educators and artists, we are turning a two-acre plot in Accra’s Dzorwulu neighborhood into Mmofra Place, a sustainably designed, child-focused park concept. Regular updates appear on our Facebook page!
How it began
Our inspiration comes from Playtime in Africa, a pioneering photo essay by Efua T. Sutherland and Willis Bell. Published in the early 60s, the book captured the imaginative games of children all over Ghana.
Fifty years later it remains remarkably current, showcasing a timeless sense of joy and playfulness that has too few outlets in urban Ghana today. Take a look inside Playtime in Africa on YouTube!
Determined to demonstrate that playspaces and creative play are both vital and achievable, we began building contacts with professionals and like-minded people all over the world, from the northwest United States to South Sudan.
In May 2012, the ideas our network had generated began to take physical form. We fed them into three days of intensive design work at the Accra site, led by Ghana-based and visiting experts, and with input from local teenagers and community leaders.
The result was not only the site plan you see above, but a range of strategies for sustainability, resource management and context-sensitive construction.
“Foundation design needs to take into account the high water table level and soil salinity.”
“Generous overhangs provide shaded porch space and help keep the building cool during the day … A roof sloping to one side will provide simplified rainwater collection opportunities.”
Stacey McMahan, architect
Interested in seeing more material from the charrette? Check out some of the links below…
We hosted two unique public conversations on urban open space and play as opening and closing book ends to the charrette. Accra residents from all walks of life contributed valuable insights with remarkable enthusiasm.
In the heart of Accra’s Dzorwulu neighborhood, Mmofra Foundation has long maintained two acres of undeveloped land as a green urban oasis. Host to a flourishing market garden in the recent past, this site will now gradualy become the home of the Playtime in Africa park concept, blending the existing greenery with sustainably designed indoor and outdoor spaces.
Take a closer look at the location on Google Maps.
Why is Playtime in Africa necessary?
- Ghana’s population is young – 40% under age 15, median age of 21
- The country is rapidly urbanizing, and there are no public spaces for children outside of school grounds
- There is no culture of public green space utilization in Accra, an urban area of about 2 million people
- As a result, children create their own play spaces, often in unsafe or unsuitable environments
- A rote-learning model dominates in education, leaving few opportunities for imagination and creativity
As Accra-based architect Ralph Sutherland helps us to develop a masterplan, U.S. collaborators like Friends of Mmofra and MIIM Designs, LLC provide long-distance networking and ideation support.
We are already creating small modular elements and new playspace features using or reusing what we find around us. The great thing is, even without a single permanent structure yet, “placemaking” is underway as the foundation kids and other groups make themselves at home here! We are actively seeking partners and supporters to help us accelerate the pace of this process. With one or two constructed anchor areas, we expect onsite activities to take off!
A core aspect of the Playtime in Africa initiative is the formation of an international network of like-minded partners, supporters and volunteers.
We are especially interested in partnerships in the areas of landscape architecture, natural playground design and management, and environmental engineering.
- Ideas and skills
Architecture, landscaping, outdoor play specialization, planning, engineering, graphic design, horticulture, construction, arts and artisanship, outdoor light and sound specialization, media and marketing
- Equipment and labor
Tools, equipment, plants and materials – and people to work with them!
- Purchases and donations
Sales from the Willis Bell Archive and donations will all go towards funding the project
- Support and feedback
Help inspire us and promote our work through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Delicious
If you think you can help us, email Amowi Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Blogtalkradio Interview on Playtime in Africa: Creativity in Play hosts Mary Alice Long, Ph.D and Steve Dahlberg talk to Amowi and Rachel Phillips.
- Accra’s Mmofra Foundation Puts Children at the Center of Urban Design: Urbanist Victoria Okoye speaks with Playtime in Africa team leader Amowi Phillips.
- Children Fight For Space To Play In An Overcrowded City: Looking for solutions to rare public recreational space on Next City’s Informal Dialogues.
- Imagining a Better Future – Playtime in Africa: Major preview of the project from Playgroundology, including images from Efua Sutherland’s original book.
- Architecture for Humanity Fellows Attend Charrette in Accra: Stacey McMahan and Ken Smith join urban Ghanaians in conversation on Play and Urban Space.
- Designing Cities with Children in Mind: Playtime in Africa team leaders Amowi Phillips and Rachel Phillips write about the philosophy of the project for ThisBigCity.
- Playgroundology: An emerging social science: The Huffington Post profiles Alex Smith’s playground blog, mentioning Playtime in Africa.