Architect Killian Doherty lectured on Tuesday, June 13, as part of MAS Context’s 2017 Spring Talks series. The lecture took place at the Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60604).
Yekepa: Extract and Traces of a West African Utopia
Last year architect Killian Doherty and filmmaker Edward Lawrenson visited Yekepa, a remote new-town in Northern Liberia, designed and built by a mining company prospecting for iron-ore in the late 1950s. Yekepa emerged through the West’s investment in the natural resources of a ‘developing’ Africa to become a built symbol of utopian promise, symbolism that voided local inhabitants claims to ancestral lands and their eventual displacement.
Eventually the iron-ore reserves became depleted and Yekepa fell into disrepair, rendered a ghost town haunted by the memories of past prosperity. Now partly repopulated by workers of another mining firm, Yekepa has returned to life, but its fortunes remain dependent on the global market of iron-ore. Having spoken to past and present residents of Yekepa—both in Liberia and in Sweden—they are making a documentary about the town to chronicle its unusual history and uncertain future.
Introducing a short filmed extracts from this work-in-progress, Doherty discussed the film project and trace, through the colonial architecture of the town, the complex relationship between land, displacement, and the global extractive industries within, and beyond, Sub-Saharan Africa.
MAS Context is supported by a grant by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and by private donations. For information about how to support MAS Context, please visit: www.mascontext.com/support
Killian Doherty is an architect who has practiced in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Rwanda. He runs the collaborative practice Architectural Field Office that has a particular interest in sites of conflict and the dissonance of modernity and development in Africa. He has written for Architectural Review, MAS Context, and VOLUME magazine on these themes. He currently is undertaking a PhD by Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture.
www.architecturalfieldoffice.org | @ArchitectureFO