ACCRA, GHANA — As founder of accrascope, German art historian and designer Charlotte Langhorst combines her love for architecture with a strong desire to bring sustainability and resiliency to urban planning in Accra. Her organization’s mission is to, ‘promote Accra’s architectural heritage and encourage more Ghanaian scholars to research, document, record, and write about Accra’s urban environment.’

Langhorst moved to Accra in 2011 with, ‘no idea’ what was in store for her. When she arrived, she said she met a lot of expatriates who complained about the city’s poor infrastructure, dirty streets, traffic and noise.

“ It turned out that not one of these people ever left their cars to actually walk in the city. Of course, Accra is not Paris but why compare classical music to jazz? I think Accra is like experimental jazz music, very entertaining if you dare to leave your idea of an ideal and comfortable touristy capital behind you. You have to throw yourself actively into the city.” — Charlotte Langhorst

Fast forward four years, Langhorst provides tours of the city to those visiting and to Ghanaians in her 19-year-old Landcruiser, with its 40-odd, West African architecture-book library in its trunk. She has also become a strong advocate for resilient architecture and infrastructure in the city, through education, sharing the narrative of Ghanaian urbanization and preserving Accra’s architectural history.

“In collaboration with the German Goethe Institute, I’ve had the chance to give lectures at the University of Ghana on Architecture in Accra. I’ve been on field trips with students to show them the important and iconic sights that had an impact on Accra’s urbanization. Some of the students had never visited some of the well-renowned forts or had any idea of how the urbanization of West African cities progressed during the last six hundred years.” — Charlotte Langhorst

Charlotte Langhorst drives around Accra, surveying the city’s infrastructure

Charlotte Langhorst drives her Landcruiser around Accra, surveying the city’s infrastructure

Langhorst said she enjoys her work and the people she meets providing tours, but she said she worries some people may try and undermine her efforts to bring change to Accra’s approach to urban planning and preserving its architecture because she is not Ghanaian.

“ Somehow it is very strange that a German historian shows people around in a West African capital. I come from a country where cultural heritage and sustainable urban design is very much valued, protected and enforced so I want to really enthuse people to appreciate Accra.”

Even when faced with detractors, Langhorst said she believes her work along with dedicated efforts of local architects and urban planners, will lead Accra to becoming a more resilient city and overcome its aging and failing infrastructure.