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Architecture

Samuel Opare Larbi

Architect, Contributor

I was born about seventy-five years ago. In 1959, I entered the Kumasi College of Technology, now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to pursue a four year course in architecture leading to Part I of the Royal Institute of British Architects. I was in the second batch of students to be admitted for this course. We were all Ghanaians but our lecturers comprised mainly British, two from the famous Architectural Association School in London. My favorite subjects were construction, surveying and architectural science. History, freehand sketches and measured drawings excited our imagination.

After graduating with Part I of the R.I.B.A exams in June 1962 I was selected to represent my school in a student exchange program to West Germany. We had quite an exciting time in Germany visiting the Alps, factories, cities and universities. I was finally attached to the office of Prof. Peter Poelzig of the Technical University (TU) of West Berlin. Berlin was memorable seeing at first hand, the Congress Hall (now demolished), the 1936 Olympic stadium, the nearby Le Corbusier block of flats (The Habitat) and other buildings by other famous architects like Van de Broek, Mies Vander Rohe and Oscar Niemeyer among others at the Berlin Building Exhibition. The Philharmonic Building by Prof. Schaun was nearing completion.

ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION SCHOOL (AA)

LONDON, 1963-1968

After Berlin, I returned to Ghana in November 1962. I was employed by my Alma Mater, K.N.U.S.T and attached to the Building Research Unit, under General Dicks and Fred Ablorh, a renowned sociologist. The social survey of the Volta dam was carried out. The survey formed the basis of resettling over the 80 thousand people who were eventually replaced by the lake formed by the Hydro Dam at Akosombo. Many years later I still remember the interview we had with the peasant farmers whose circumstances were soon to be altered. This was a catastrophe! In September 1963, I arrived at the Bedford Square, the home of the Architectural Association and its school of architecture. There were eight of us from K.N.U.S.T studying architecture that stayed in London. Our objective was to qualify for the Coveli A.A.Dipolma which exempted us from the Part ll of the R.I.B.A. In the end, in addition to the above, an extra year at the A. A. School of Tropical Studies, under Koenigsberger, awarded us certificates in Tropical architecture and Educational Building Planning and Design. The A. A. School at Bedford Square, the centre of cosmopolitan London was indeed an international hub of architecture in its entire splendor. There were great teachers and jurors come from far and near. Students from all over the world jostled for scarce studio space. Group studies brought together students with diverse cultures and experience. During the period I was at the A.A, Paul Oliver, the architectural historian was there. Peter Cooke, Warren Chalk, Ron Heron and Cedc Rnile were proposing the canes of plug cities. Among others Jane Drew was the pillar in the tropical school. Studies of significant buildings, such as the Mill Bank Tower and the Economist offices in ST. James were studied in depth. The A.A. arranged short term attachments to several architectural firms in London for its students. Thus I had the opportunity of working with Chamberlain Pouell and Bon on the Bantrilar Project, Robert Mathew Johnson Marchall and partners and the New University of Bath, Yorke Rushberg and Mandahl on the University of Warwick in Coventry. Following a memorable graduation, I had a short spell at the Building Research Establishment at Garston before returning to Ghana in May 1979, carrying with me memories of Sir Winston Churchill, Macmillan and Harold Wilson, St Paul’s cathedral, the Nash crescent and Regent anal and Park, Bath, Canterbury Cathedral and the parks.

RETURN TO K.N.U.S.T.

Kumasi, 1970

The K.N.U.S.T offered me a teaching appointment in 1969. On my return to Ghana I operated an artificial sky and wind tunnel and carried a model of teaching and research programs. My schedule included lectures in building series, architectural science and design to both graduate and undergraduate years. In addition to teaching, I was at various times studio and eventually year master to the final year and Post-Graduate classes. Additionally, I was also in charge of the projects office and it was during my term at the project office that working drawings were produced for the Bank of Ghana Cedi house in Accra, the architect being Prof. Owusu Addo. The school of Basic science was designed and constructed under my guidance as a year master for PG1 in 1975. I was seconded to the National Cultural Center, Kumasi where I produced the master plan and undertook some major projects Quashie Idun Hall, the open air theatre and the Admin and conference block.

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

My practice of architecture spans 43 years and still counting. In 1973, I joined the architectural practice Kobaku and Associates and became the third partner to date. The two other partners are Architects Akude and Kobia-Amanfi, both of whom were my classmates at the AA. They run our Accra office and I the Kumasi office. The practice has produced some notable buildings in the country, namely Gulf House in Accra. In designing, I view each project as unique and approach it as such. My designs suit the needs of the clients, the site characteristics and our tropical climate. The interiors maximize on natural lighting and ventilation. I have had a long-standing interest in educational and health buildings, personally developing typologies for the public school systems. In addition to the subsequent projects listed, I have designed and supervised the construction of a wide range of houses. I have a great interest in housing, particularly low-cost housing and over the years in my quiet moments I have developed an extensive archive of various typologies. It is my dream to develop these in the near future.

Samuel Opare Larbi, Bank of Ghana, Kumasi I

Samuel Opare Larbi, Bank of Ghana, Kumasi

Samuel Opare Larbi, Gulf House, Accra

Samuel Opare Larbi, KNUST Library