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An Architectural History of Ghana


Achimota School Administration Building

Architecture in the Gold Coast, now Ghana, from the historic past, comprises of traditional buildings of various designs and construction on one hand, and on the other hand by European, Asian, and Middle East typologies, such as castles, forts, roads, railways, churches, schools, hospitals, residential buildings, et cetera. Colonization of the country (1843) accelerated the physical development of the country. For example, the construction of the Takoradi Harbor, Achimota School, and the Korle-Bu hospital by Governor Guggisberg, a surveyor, marks a significant watershed in the country’s socio-economic development. Expatriate Engineers and Artisans dominated the construction industry especially following the establishment of the Public Works Department (P.W.D.). As the agitation for independence gathered pace, the British decided to expand schools and colleges to produce the anticipated expertise to run the affairs of a free country. New secondary schools and colleges were built and old ones refurbished and expanded. The need for architects and engineers increased and scholarships were awarded to deserving students to pursue courses in Europe and America most of who returned back to Ghana to take up positions in the public and private sectors.

The missionaries were not left out in the rapid expansion of schools and colleges. The Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Catholics have been traditional partners in development throughout the history of the country. They built and managed a wide number of secondary schools and recent private universities in the country.


Technical Education was to produce foremen to spearhead the construction industry. To this end, a Survey School was established in Accra (an Engineering School established as part of Achimota School). The Takoradi Secondary Technical School, polytechnics and technical schools were established by the colonial power. Draughtsmanship and technical drawings were taught at P.W.D. Training School to produce draughts men who eventually were promoted as building inspectors. A few architects and engineers were trained in Great Britain. Notable among the pioneer Ghanaian architects were architect Dawson, Peter Turkson (architect-planner) and T.S. Clerk. Under colonial rule, expatriate firms of architects and engineers were established in the country to support the colonial government’s accelerated plan of development. Consulting firms, namely Fry, Drew, Drake and Lasdun; Nickson and Borriss; Architects Co-partners; OveArup were among firms established too. Notable expatriate construction companies at the time included Taylor Woodrow, Cecil Gee and Sir Thomas Halrow.



Building of castles and Forts by West European countries occurred along the Guinea coast to foster trade between West Africa and Europe, initially. Later, the route became known as the triangle namely from the Europe carrying goods to West Africa, where slaves were transported to the Americas and back to Europe carrying tobacco and cotton. Architects and engineers from the various countries spearheaded the design and construction of these edifices. The 19thcentury ended with the partition of Africa after the Berlin conference of 1884. British rule had started in the Gold Coast with the treaty of 1843. Formal Education was introduced with the construction of churches, schools and colleges by the missionaries, among them were Abetifi Presby, Akropong Prebyterian Training College.


The British expanded their rule to cover the Ashanti and the protectorate of the Northern territories military establishments were carried out by the colonial masters in the capital, Accra, Takoradi, Kumasi, Kintampo, Tamale, and Ho. These barracks had distinctive features and were designed by the army corps of engineers, mainly Europeans.
Trade and commercial buildings were put up throughout the country by trading companies from Europe. Cocoa had been introduced into the country by 1874 to further boost the mining and the timber industries. Army engineers, with their civilian counterparts, provided engineering services throughout the Gold Coast. Significant infrastructural development took place after the First World War particularly under governor Gordon Guggisberg, who among other projects, provided a survey of the Gold Coast colony- the Takoradi Harbor, Achimota School and the Korle-Bu hospital among others. The P.W.D with mainly expatriate engineers carried out the design of public buildings such as government offices, bungalows, schools, and colleges. There were hardly any architects in the colonies.
Technical education was given close attention later but was concentrated on the training of middle level man power. The Takoradi Secondary Technical School, polytechnics and technical institutes were established in the colony. An engineering college was established in Achimota, offering degree courses of the University of London. The College of Technology was established in 1952 and the College of Engineering at Achimota was later transferred from Achimota to Kumasi. The training of Ghanaian architects in Europe and America began in the 1950’s.
Among the pre-independence indigenous architects were T.S Clerk, Peter Turkson and Dawson, Victor Adebgte, John Owusu Addo, W. S. Asamoah, Amate, O. T Agyemang, Togobo and Asuako. Apart from John Owusu Addo, now in his eighties, the rest worked in the public sector initially. The University of the Gold Coast, built in the 1940’s, was designed by a British architect who had no indigenous Architect on his team. They had their offices in the United Kingdom.


The colonial government encouraged architectural and engineering firms, mainly from Great Britain to establish consultancy firms in the country about a decade before Independence. James Cubitt and Kenneth Scott operated alongside Fry, Drew& Drake and Lasdun; Arthur Linsday; Nickson and Borris; Gillas Reybourne and OveArup. Trading Companies employed these firms to design and construct departmental stores and educational facilities such as Achimota School. Prof. Owusu-Addo, a British-trained architect, supervised the construction of the Kumasi Stadium designed by Kenneth Scott and Associates. Housing was given special attention by the colonial power especially after the 1939 earthquake. However, Ghana’s first president’s estate houses, under Kwame Nkrumah, were built in Accra and Kumasi by the State Housing Corporation, later to be headed by Victor Adegbite (an American-trained Architect). The need for more architects became urgent as new schools were built and existing ones expanded. Housing was given a further boost with the establishment of Roof Loan scheme, First Ghana Building Society and Co-Operative housing. Some of the expatriate consultants continue to operate in the country till today.


Post-independence Ghana, beginning in March 1957, was characterized by massive socio-economic and industrial development. Several secondary schools and training colleges were built in the countryside. The industrial city with a Harbor was built at Tema and connected to Accra by a 20 mile motorway. Hotels were to be built in Tema, Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi. Housing was given priority attention by the Housing Co-operation.


Charles I Hobbies and a team of architects mainly British were established at the College of Technology in 1958. The first batch of students included 2 females. A group of 11 students, including 8 Architects, were sent to the U.K. for graduate studies at the Architectural Association School in London, Nottingham and Birmingham respectively. The School of Architecture at K.N.U.S.T (Kumasi) was given a huge boost with the visit by Bucky Minster Fuller, renowned for his Geodesic Domes. A fruitful exchange of staff and students developed between the A.A. and the School of Architecture at Kumasi. In 1961 the college of Technology became a fully-fledged university and the School of Architecture became a Commonwealth-Accredited faculty awarding degrees and Post-graduate Diplomas. Meanwhile, architects trained in other parts of the world returned to Ghana. Significant among these were Don Arthur, Welbek, Osae-Addo and Dr. Choway. The infusion of architects trained overseas with the locally trained Ghanaian creates the crucial dynamism needed for rapid development.


Post-independence Ghana, beginning in March 1957, was characterized by massive socio-economic and industrial development. Several secondary schools and training colleges were built in the countryside. The industrial city with a Harbor was built at Tema and connected to Accra by a 20 mile motorway. Hotels were to be built in Tema, Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi. Housing was given priority attention by the Housing Co-operation.


The first indigenous firm of architects in the country was Associated Consultants comprising of engineers and two locally trained architects who had graduated with Masters Degrees in architecture at the K.N.U.S.T in persons of Architect D.S.K. KpodoTay and S.G. T. Kofi (deceased). They were to be followed by Plan Architects, its founder, Architect E.O. Adjettey a product of K.N.U.S.T, who had received post-graduate education in Planning in Edinburgh,Scotland. Though most of the expatriates left the country after the 1972 Aliens Compliance Order, there still remained in the country some expatriates forging partnership with indigenous architects. Ghanaian architects are now found in universities teaching, doing research, and consulting. The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (S.S.N.I.T.) and Development Offices at the various Universities have indigenous architects holding exclusive positions and with the discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities, architects have a brighter future. The training of Architects in the country is no longer the monopoly on K.N.U.S.T. as some established universities have started the training of architects.

Architectural History of Ghana, Besease Shrine, Ashanti Region

Architectural History of Ghana, Typical Ceiling of A Mud Hut, Ghana

Balme Library, University of Ghana

Mongori, Northern Region

Sirigu Huts, Northern Region, Ghana

Supreme High Court, Ghana