Elsie Owusu Architects and Knak Designs are to head up a high-profile team charged with masterplanning the city of Accra in Ghana. Richard Rogers Partnership, Llewelyn-Davies and Battle McCarthy are among the other members of the consortium.
The appointment is the result of a competition managed by the Society of Black Architects at the invitation of the president of Ghana (AJ 4.10.01).
A condition of entry was that the head practice must have at least 50 per cent black leadership - the criterion for SOBA membership.
But despite offering a prestigious design opportunity, the competition attracted only two entries. And the project might never be completed, since the Ghanaian government has no money to implement it - the onus is on the winning team to raise its own costs.
SOBA member Annette Fisher said she was deterred from entering the competition by the high entry fee - £350 - and the short time given to work up a submission. Fisher, present at the original SOBA visit to Ghana which inspired the competition, was impressed by the political will to develop the city. But she warned: 'There is a long way to go until it becomes real or possible in financial terms.'
And she added that the heavyweights lined up behind Owusu would add some clout to the team.
'But she'll have to be careful she doesn't get sidelined, ' she said.
However, David Taylor, director of regeneration specialist DTP, who will be responsible for raising funding for the project, was unfazed by the challenge. 'The way Ghana has tried to procure expertise is quite unique, ' he said. 'It's a high-risk project, but the better projects tend to be. Someone has to have the guts to get the ball rolling.'
Other members of the team include Corporate Edge, a marketing company which has 'rebranded' Scotland and New Zealand and will be charged with doing the same for Ghana. And members of the unsuccessful team - led by Kuma Environmental Design with Eme Kalu Associates and Luton University professor Dr Joseph AmoahNyako - will remain involved.
The project brief, presented by Ghana's President Kuffuor, called for the transformation of Accra into 'a sustainable exemplar of the new African city of the 21st century.'
Owusu said: 'Our team aims to develop a masterplanning vision which will reposition Accra as a new 'world city'. Our work will focus on the innovative principles defined by Lord Rogers' urban taskforce. If this strategy proves to be successful, Accra will become a beacon for sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa, an exemplar for the developing world.'