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Where's that bus? Owusu in Accra

Hugh Pearman

We like the look of the proposed $90m super-bus system for Accra, capital of Ghana. Designed by a team headed by Ghanaian/British practice Elsie Owusu Architects, this is a pragmatic and spirited response to the culture and particular conditions of the city.

Owusu is an architect well used to collaborating with artists, in this case Kofi Setordji and Akwele Suma-Glory. It’s not just decoration: the work incorporates what is described as “a new language of signs and symbols rooted in Ghanaian culture”. 

Accra is a city often gridlocked by traffic congestion. The new BRT (bus rapid transit) includes dedicated bus ways, inspired by other cities such as Bogota and Curitiba, which along with a new breed of vehicles will have the effect of halving bus journey times. The system is designed to handle up to 120 buses per hour. 

Key to all this is the main bus station, its intersecting-canopy design enlivened with colour patterns. Patterns of cloth associated with the country, along with a numerical system based on Ludo tokens, make this building highly distinctive and lovable. It’s ‘branding’ - but not quite in the reserved, London-Transport way, though Owusu sees London as being an exemplar of public transport design. 

This project is for the pilot route: if successful the system will be expanded. To deliver the scheme, Owusu’s practice is working with Feilden+ Mawson’s Czech office (FAM Architekti), engineers Mott MacDonald and Twum Boafo & Partners.