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Competition: Land art installations, Ghana

An open international contest has been launched for a series of USD $3,000 site-specific art installations in Abetenim, Ghana (Deadline: 31 January)

Organised by US charity NKA Foundation, the anonymous contest seeks ‘truly unique’ proposals for new large-scale, site-specific and responsive public art installations in a rural location. The 40 best designs will be selected for construction in a series of volunteer-led workshops held between September 2017 and March 2019.

The Land Art competition – open to architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers, urbanists and students – is part of the foundation’s ongoing Abetenim Arts Village project. Launched in 2009, the social-housing complex provides sustainable accommodation for creative people in the region.



Abetenim Arts Village

According to the brief: ‘The submitted entries can be functional or non-functional works but must aim at creating a truly unique experience that becomes emblematic of what an arts village is and how it needs to function as a place.

‘[Forty] of the submitted proposals will be selected for creation on site and to be exhibited as site-specific public art installations that will altogether become a part of the Abetenim Arts Village in Ghana.’

The arts village is around 40 km south-east of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, and currently hosts a theatre, workshops and several dwellings, all constructed by international volunteers harnessing local labour and materials. The village is situated in Ghana’s Ashanti Region which is home to more than 3.6 million people and famous for its gold and cocoa exports.

NKA Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Oklahoma City, founded 11 years ago to help isolated communities in Africa. It has been running projects in Ghana, Mali and Tanzania since 2008.

Earlier this year the foundation held a competition seeking ‘sustainable and cost-efficient’ concepts for a range of standalone school structures. The nine winning teams – representing Italy, France, Poland, Spain, Australia and Greece – will construct their structures during a series of volunteer-led workshops in Abetenim this spring.



Handmade House Ghana by Louis Mayes, one of several winners of NKA’s Earth Architecture Competition

London Metropolitan University architecture undergraduate Louis Mayes also won a contest for a new mud hut in the village last year. His $7,194 Handmade House Ghana project (pictured) was constructed with help from Karakusevic Carson Architects, Hopkins Architects and Cottrell & Vermeulen Architects.

Proposals for the Land Art Competition should respond to the surrounding landscape and may harness natural elements such as the wind. They should be constructed from local materials such as soil, rock, wood and water. Schemes will be judged on their functionality, visual appearance, use of materials, budget, climatic response and construction technique.

Digital submissions must be uploaded to the foundation’s online forum and should contain a 200-word design statement alongside an A1-sized presentation board in high-resolution JPG format. Participating teams must also nominate a leader who will lead any workshop to construct their scheme.

The overall winner will receive USD $1,000 while a second place prize of $700 and third prize of $400 will also be awarded. There will be a further seven honourable mentions while the top 40 entries will all be invited to construct their schemes in Abetenim.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 31 January.


Registration for individuals is $40
Registration for teams is $50

Contact details

Nka Foundation
Box Up 1115
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)

Tel: +233 (0) 246 422 934

View the competition website for more information

Handmade House Ghana

Singing Ringing Tree case study: Q&A with Anna Liu

The co-founder of Tonkin Liu discusses lessons learned designing a responsive public art installation for Burnley, England

Tonkin Liu

Tonkin Liu

Anna Liu

How did your Singing Ringing Tree project create a new site-specific art installation for Burnley?

By focusing on the most extraordinary quality of the site, which was the strong wind, and then transforming this quality into something new, which was sound. We played for a long time with clay whistles, plumbing pipes, looked for lateral leaps from wind to sound back to wind. The fact that the site was on the top of the hill was also a very striking characteristic; we were struck by how utterly alone this artwork would be on the horizon. We also made experiments with children from a primary school in Burnley, cutting different lengths pipes and different slots in the pipes, and taking them out for sound tests in the windy school yard.

Burnley, England

Burnley, England

Source: Image by Mike Tonkin

Singing Ringing Tree by Tonkin Liu

Which material, structural and other architectural techniques are available to architects seeking a similarly effective outcome?

An artwork is ultimately a social place, marking a place in the land. This is a place people can talk about, a place where people meet, and a place people talk about meeting at. We were interested in finding a story. In terms of techniques, what we enjoyed was transforming very ordinary looking tubes into an entity that has mass as well as visual lightness. For a public artwork, the material must be robust, the structure indestructible, and it should require little or no maintenance. The impact of its presence must be felt. Whether it is the sculptural form or the colour or reflectivity of the material, the artwork must enter into a vivacious dialogue with its space, its light, views and visitors.

Burnley, England

Burnley, England

Singing Ringing Tree by Tonkin Liu

What issues might be important when designing public art installations for a rural site such as the Abetenim Arts Village in Ghana?

Find the essence of the rural community’s spirit and values, its anxieties and aspirations. Is it important that people meet more often to share their knowledge in farming? Is it important that they are put on the world map by making an impact with this artwork? Observe keenly and intently. Being an outsider has many advantages. You can observe with uncluttered eyes the habits, rituals, and relationships between landscape and buildings, taking nothing for granted. Find the tension between ancient and contemporary craft and bring them together through the artwork. Through an artwork’s making and coming into being, it takes part in the rituals of a place, and takes root in that place.

Burnley, England

Burnley, England

Source: Image by John Lyons

Singing Ringing Tree by Tonkin Liu