The Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) is a design experiment that links recycling with making to empower Africans to make inclusive futures. To design and prototype the AMP platform, a “transformal” approach was used, which mediates “formal” global systems and networks with locally adaptive “informal” modes of production and distribution. AMP has three components that function together: the spacecraft, or makerspace kiosk; maker toolkits or add-ons, which are customizable to support what makers want to make; and a mobile app that amplifies makers’ capacity through information sharing. The spacecraft has a modular construction system that is light, mobile, and expandable, featuring prefabricated (recycled) steel semi-octet trusses that can be assembled, disassembled, and reassembled as needed. Material (pieces of iron rods) used for fabricating the spacecraft can be gathered from scrap building materials. Basic fabrication diagrams, instructions, and digital 3D models for the AMP spacecraft are available at http://qamp.net/spacecraft/.
African cities hold kernels of local knowledge and practices for global learning. This demands rethinking not only models of urban innovation—to integrate more diversity and a range of expertise—but also operations: how to embark everyone, democratically, in co-creation of their city? Through locally driven design and making opportunities, AMP aims to address urban resilience and community empowerment. This open-source, community-based project enables grassroots makers in resource-poor environments to (1) gather resources and tools, (2) learn by doing and from others, (3) produce more and better items, (4) trade to generate steady income, and (5) amplify their reputations as makers.
The AMP project, started in 2013, emphasizes the value of local expertise and participation in the design and making of things. Over several years, members of the Agbogbloshie scrap-dealer and maker community participated in maker workshops to drive “interclass innovation,” creating a space to learn from and collaborate with peers from different economic, ethnic, tribal, and religious backgrounds. More than 750 grassroots makers and 750 students and young professionals in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields from Africa, Europe, and North America collaborated to research, codesign, and prototype AMP as well as experiment with materials sourced from the scrapyard to develop potentially saleable products.
Experienced as a community center, a vocational school, a means to upward social mobility and building trust, and a curious object in an open-air manufactory, the Agbogbloshie spacecraft prototype led to the design and fabrication of a sturdy, easily replicated (by roadside welders), modular, and customizable kiosk—a familiar architecture typology in African cities and an affordable class of deployable architecture that empowers micro-entrepreneurship.