ADS9: Aura - A Call for An Open Architecture

Shawn Adams

Shawn Adams is a member of the New Architecture Writers and is the Co-founder of POoR, a collective that focuses on the development of communities through the elevation of young people. Shawn has written for various magazines including VICE and was recently interviewed by the Guardian to speak about being a young Black aspiring architect.

In 2019, he was awarded the RIBA Wren Insurance Scholarship and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust Bursary. An Alumni of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, Shawn cares deeply about creating a voice for under-represented people and endeavors to become an architect who supports marginalized communities.

Shawn currently resides in his family home in South West London. He has a passion for community-orientated architecture and believes that architects should be listeners and observers. His final year design project title 'Plinths and Tapestry' proposes five spaces to the southeast of Agbogbloshie, Ghana.


POoR Collective

New Architecture Writers


History and Theory

Visit the new RCA Architecture folio website

Degree Details

School of Architecture

Plinths and Tapestry proposes five spaces to the southeast of Agbogbloshie, Ghana. Comprising 14 plinths and three canopies made from- electronic waste, these interventions challenge the stigmas attached to materials and create new spatial opportunities for the local community. Ranging from 5-60 sqm, these plinths frame and elevate simple acts of daily life, respite, and togetherness. The three canopies employ various retired components to form a series of electronic tapestries. Spanning 20-40 metres these three structures are held 3-5 metres above the plinths by Asante umbrella-like systems. The proposed platforms and sheltering canopies meticulously define a set of ground conditions and material tectonic. By manipulating the existing ground condition these architectural pieces cut through the landscape to create areas for ceremonial rituals, religious practices, and everyday activities. Plinths are not only a way to simply raise people off of the ground but are an architectural form that redefines and renegotiate how the ground is made inhabitable. This is a project where experiencing areas of raw uncontaminated earth or the touch of your bare body on the intricacies and smoothness of cast electronic components becomes an enormous act of generosity and care. 

Agbogbloshie is a 20-acre material graveyard where African men – who have donned the title “Burner Boys”- see the inherent worth of e-waste. In the Western world, electronics often only serve one purpose. Once they stop functioning as intended, they are usually thrown out. They are no longer of value. However, on this former wetland, electronic items connect people, their environment, and everyday practices. Ranging from 600mm to 5 metres in height, the five spaces question how we can look beyond the conventions of value, beyond its monetary and necessity definitions, and recast it through the gaze of the Burner Boys to offer respite from their otherwise precarious form of life.

Plinths and Tapestry employs a unique formal, spatial, and material language that draws, on the one hand, from its etymological roots in Ghanaian culture (e.g. Ashanti gold weights and umbrellas); and on the other hand, from the global and highly personal remnants of electronic waste. It is a design investigation that places itself outside of the main canon of architecture. It asks: how by reconsidering the worth of materials, can practices, rituals, and everyday activities be spatialised? In the project, the role of the architect is as a listener and learner that advises on loose systems of construction which can be adapted by the residents. It is this process of engagement that allows for new values to be formed. Ultimately, at the project's heart sits the ambition to reinstall how materials are perceived and to provide spaces for new values to emerge. 

Plinth - Plinth which frames a section of clear ground

Site Plan - 14 plinths and 3 canopies

Plinth Steps - Charred ground condition of burning area

Rocket Stove - Adhoc burning of plastic components

Site Plan - Plinths and canopies without context

Religious Plinth - Stepped detail

Ceremony space - Plinth, canopy and burning area

Material Composition - Computer fans, motherboards and capacitors

Canopy - Disruptions in the ground

Site Overview - 5 spaces to the southeast of Agbogbloshie


Line drawings and high res collages

Site Plan - The project proposes an artificial piece of architecture which renegotiate the ground condition

Ceremony Space Plan - Using the form of Asante Umbrella – an important emblem within Ghanaian culture - four umbrella structures ranging from 3-5 metres hold up an electronic waste canopy while eight plinths puncture the ground below

Canopy Section

Meeting Area Plan

Plinth Plan

Religious Plinth - Facing North East, this plinth acts as a compass and space for religious activities. 8 steps elevate the Burner Boy community 1.6 metres above the ground. The proposal allows for up to 30 people to pray together with one of the Burner Boys leading prayer at the front.

Religious Plinth - Iron and motherboards fragments delineating the spaces for prayer. The e-waste divides the plinth into 1.2 × 1.8 m segments which match the dimensions of a traditional prayer mat

02 1 Plinth Section

02 2 Frame Plinth Section with Context v7

03 Frame Plinth Detail

04 Plinth Detail

05 Initiation Space Detail

African Print Images

00 5 12 Collage of African Print v2

00 6 E waste Model

01 E waste Model Kente

01 Iron

02 Aluminum

03 Electronic Tapestry Line Drawing

04 Electronic Tapestry Model

05 IMG 0202 ww2

06 IMG 0202 JPG

07 IMG 0202 2 JPG

09 IMG 5325

Gold Weights - Weights made used as a measuring system by the Akan people of West Africa

Frame Plinth Development – Development of form

Plinth and Canopy - Plan exploration

Ceremony Plinth - Design development

Ceremony Space - Plan Development

Ceremony Space - Tensile Canopy

03 Initiation Area Plan 051 copia

Asante Umbrella - Form analysis

A Week in a Toxic Dump

Welcome to Sodom

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