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Killian Doherty on Film Project Documenting Liberian town of Yekepa as a Vehicle to Explore Political Ecologies and Development

Killian Doherty is an architect from Northern Ireland and runs Architectural Field Office, a small collaborative practice. His research interests lie within the exploration of fragmented sites, settlements, and cities at specific thresholds of racial, ethnic, or religious conflict. He has worked on a number of post-conflict reconstruction projects in Sierra Leone and Rwanda. He is registered for a PhD by Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) where he is working with an indigenous community in Rwanda and trying to work through the architect as social spatial practitioner, as opposed to designer of buildings. He is currently a Visiting Scholar with the Center for Public Interest Design through June 2017.

Doherty will be discussing a film that he is working on that documents a settlement built in northern Liberia in the early 1960s by a Swedish mining company to accommodate workers at a nearby iron ore mine. Within only a few years this housing program had transformed into a fully functioning town called Yekepa. Built along Scandinavian lines but located in the remote highlands of Liberia, Yekepa soon became a symbol of the utopian promises attached to the West’s investment in the natural resources of a developing nation.

But as the iron-ore reserves became depleted, Yekepa fell into disrepair, a ghost town haunted by the memories of past prosperity. Now partly repopulated by workers of another mining firm, Yekepa has returned to life, but its fortunes are starkly dependent on the price of iron-ore on the world market.

Doherty and filmmaker Edward Lawrenson visited Yekepa to chronicle its unusual history and uncertain future. Having spoken to past and present residents of Yekepa – both in Liberia and in Sweden – they are making a documentary about the town. Doherty will be discussing the film as a vehicle to explore themes of political ecologies and development at the heart of his design work.

CPID Talks
Center for Public Interest Design
Shattuck Hall Room 217
SW Broadway & Hall Streets
Portland, Oregon

Free and open to the public.