Hood Century and Limbo Accra reflect on a new Black spatial reality

Hood Century and Limbo Accra reflect on a new Black spatial reality

In a new series of profiles, we follow Ghanaian spatial design studio Limbo Accra on a journey that explores its collaborations. Limbo Accra’s rich network developed through global partnerships that founder Dominique Petit-Frère nurtured with leading urban space-makers and architectural enthusiasts. The series discusses critical issues of our time, such as design intention, intergenerationality, creativity and change through Africa and its diaspora. First up, the spotlight turns to Jerald ‘Coop’ Cooper of online platform Hood Century

Hood Century is an online platform founded by Jerald ‘Coop’ Cooper in 2019. The project, blending Black culture and modernist architecture, was conceived as a space dedicated to documenting midcentury finds from Coop’s childhood neighbourhood in Cincinnati. In so doing, the platform soon became a springboard to unpack myriad themes, exploring the intersection between archive, education and activism in urban preservation.

Coop and Dominique Petit-Frère, founder of pioneering Ghana-based spatial practice Limbo Accra, connected through their shared interest in the built environment and how it is experienced through the lens and perspective of Africa and its diaspora. The fruit of their collaboration takes form in a new architectural initiative gearing up to unfold in Accra at the end of the year.

As a Black person, Coop has often felt disillusioned when navigating design spaces. ‘We love architecture and design, but we want to feel like we can participate,’ he says. ‘Why is the dominant way of presenting [art] in a white gallery? What if Black art was never made for that space?’

It is a point Petit-Frère can relate to: ‘A lot of it wasn’t. From my practice in Ghana, which focuses on activating incomplete architecture, I found that many of these works are structural units that need to take up space.’

Hood Century architecture references
Church in Cincinnati, OH. Photography: Hood Century

When it comes to penetrating architecture and design spaces, for Coop ‘it’s all in the language’. He maintains that a lack of access to the language surrounding design compounds over generations into an ‘inherited design knowledge’ gap and ‘radical change’ is needed to disrupt this cycle. Acting as an antidote, Hood Century, highlights the places where Black culture and modernist urban experiences intersect. When people intentionally travel to the sites that Coop has pinpointed, ‘the community will activate itself’, he says.

In this way, he not only documents design, but makes it accessible and endeavours to democratise it for communities both online and offline. The same ethos shapes this upcoming collaboration between him and Limbo Accra – a shared investigation into midcentury sites in Africa, through a guide to ‘must see architectural attractions’. The collaboration will launch in Accra this December, with an exhibition and preservation initiative.

Hood Century photo essay
Shades of blue in Gardena, CA. Photography: Hood Century

The documentation process that is so integral to Hood Century speaks to another passion of Coop’s – the notion of the archive. ‘It is the most important thing to a Black family,’ he explains, adding that by documenting the stories of our surroundings, we become active informants to future generations. ‘My uncle took pictures of the same things that I’m photographing,’ he says. Now, living in the same neighbourhood his father grew up in, Coop feels this sense of shared history through urban space in many ways: ‘He used to shine shoes at the baseball stadium – exactly where my studio is. I walk through, and feel his energy in the street.’

Despite feeling recharged by this ancestral energy, Coop also speaks of a pain from infrastructural racism that people of his father’s generation faced, and many Black communities continue to face in light of rapid urban development. While the journey to unearthing these traumas is far from over, through Hood Century, Coop continues to encourage us to decolonise our minds, to challenge the language used in design and to ask ourselves: ‘How do we tangibly document and cultivate design perspectives led by Africans and African diasporans, for future generations?’

This question and more will continue to be explored in this new series of profiles by Wallpaper* and Limbo Accra. Watch this space. §

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