05
Mon, Dec

In praise of pioneer architects

The Supreme Court of Ghana buildings and the Old Parliament House were designed by British architects

The month of July has become very important in Ghana's history.  Ghana attained a republican status on July 1, 1960.

Celebration of this important day has undergone metamorphoses over the years and currently sees the recognition and honouring of senior citizens as the most important part of the celebration. 

 In line with that, this article will be in praise of pioneer architects and those who immensely contributed to establish architectural practice in Ghana. 

 Another goal of this article is also to praise some pioneer architects and others, who have contributed immensely towards the growth of the profession and are still alive and not wait for their demise before writing long tributes in their honour.  

The question of who is an architect has already been dealt with in a previous article.  Similarly, the beginnings of the School of Architecture, Building Technology and Planning has also been mentioned but today, it will be necessary to mention that the British architects, Charles Hobbis and Tafi Evans, were two of the original pioneers charged with the establishment of the school.  

They were joined by Professor Lutz Christians (from Germany) and Miles Danby also from the United Kingdom.  John Lloyd and the team from the Architectural Association also arrived on the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) campus between 1963 and 1964.  

Others who joined the school included a young American lady, Labelle Prussin who wrote the first book on architecture in Ghana "Architecture of Northern Ghana".  

She was with the Housing and Planning Department of the Faculty of Architecture and later became a world renowned Professor of Architecture in the USA. 

 She was also involved with the design of the housing units for those who were displaced as a result of the creation of the Volta Lake due to the construction of the Akosombo Dam.  

Training 

During those early years, Ghanaians who were interested in becoming architects took correspondence courses from overseas and a few actually travelled to the United Kingdom and the USA, as well as other foreign countries to study.  The British-trained early Ghanaian architects include Clarke, Dawson, Frimpong, John Owusu-Addo, P. N. K. Turkson, O. T. Agyemang and Martin Adu Donkor, Col. Togobo and Martin Adu Bedu.  The American-trained architects included V. Adegbite, A. Asuako, K. Kyei and W. Asamoah.  

 Most of them were founder members of the first professional body in Ghana, the Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA) in 1963 and some of them became external examiners at the Department of Architecture at the KNUST.  Some of these pioneers have unfortunately passed on.

Politics has always played a very crucial role in the development of architecture.  Thus, while the British ruled Ghana, all building projects built in the colony were designed by British architects. These included the buildings of the University of Ghana, Legon, designed by a British architectural firm based in Cyprus, hence the classical and "Mediterranean look".  

The Supreme Court of Ghana buildings, the Old Parliament House and the General Post Office in Accra were similarly designed by British architects as well but interestingly, the former Ambassador Hotel (which was demolished for the construction of the present Movenpick Hotel) in Accra and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, were both designed by Paton, who was actually a licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.  

Some of the British architectural firms which practised in Ghana included James Cubitt, Scott and Partners who designed the Mechanical Engineering workshop building of the KNUST, Kenneth Scott and Partners and Nickson and Boris.  

Jane Drew and Max Fry were also two British architects who practised in Ghana and designed the buildings of Prempeh College and Opoku Ware School, both in Kumasi as well other buildings at Bechem Teacher Training College and elsewhere.  They are often referred to as pioneer practitioners of Tropical Architecture even though no such course was taught in their school days and they experimented a lot on their own.  

Yugoslav architects

The advent of the Nkrumah regime in the 1950s, not surprisingly, saw the arrival of architects and engineers from former Yugoslavia whose President, Josep Bronz Tito, was a good friend of Dr Kwame Nkrumah.  These professionals were involved in the design of Unity Hall, the eight-storey annex blocks of the Independence, Republic, Queen's and University (Katanga) Halls of residence, the Vice Chancellor's Lodge and the Senior Staff Club at the KNUST.  

It is worth mentioning that the international style or modernism approach to architecture was in vogue during those times and not surprisingly, the buildings designed by the architects from both the West and East satisfied requirements of the style.  

Kwame Nkrumah also appointed Victor Adegbite as the Chief Architect of the newly created Tema Development Corporation (TDC) to develop the satellite city of Tema.  

Max Bond, filled with the idealism and enthusiasm of working in a free African nation also arrived from the United States of America (USA) to design the Bolgatanga Regional Library, one of the best designs in Ghana. 

 He returned to the USA after the 1966 coup d'etat and taught in architecture schools in New York as well as designing the Martin Luther King Centre in Atlanta, Georgia and the new African American Museum in Washington DC.  He died about two years ago.  Need I add that Victor Adegbite also left for the USA after the same coup d'etat.

John Owusu Addo became a Professor in the Department of Architecture and also the first Ghanaian to head the Department of Architecture at the KNUST.  He succeeded Professor Lutz Christians who returned to his native Germany in the early 1970s and passed away a few years ago.  

The late Professors Anthony D. C. Hyland and William (Bill) Hill also taught in the Department of Architecture for nearly two decades.  

Bible of Costruction Students

Hannah Schreckenback was a German architect who after working with the Public Works Department (PWD) and later AESC for several years, joined the Department of Architecture at the KNUST in the 1970s.  She co-authored a construction book which to date remains the "bible" of construction for students.  It is very necessary to mention Mr Yaw Asante, the only non architect to head the Department of Architecture at the KNUST.  His tenure of office saw the first attempt to add to the existing structures in the department and this was before the term "internally generated funds" became popular in Ghana.  This is the building now used as the sixth-year architectural design studio for the M. Arch II programme which has replaced the former Post Graduate Diploma .