Meet Stephen Andoh, a project manager and native of Ghana, West Africa. He joined Axis in 2010, and often explores how sociocultural factors influence the built environment. Stephen is also in the process of building a house – one that is 6,000 miles away. Here’s what he had to say about Ghanian architecture and sustainable design practices.
What drew you to the architecture profession?
I grew up on the Kwame Nkrumah University campus, since both my parents worked for the university. As a kid in grade school, I was awestruck by a scale model of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome that had been erected on the grounds of the university. My father also had his house designed by one of the university professors when I was in high school, and I followed the design and construction process with keen interest.
You are a LEED certified architect. How would you compare sustainable design in Ghana to projects in the States?
A lot of buildings incorporate some element(s) of sustainable design by default. Traditional house forms in Ghana are dictated very much by socioculture and climate. Most living spaces in traditional homes are sheltered by deep roof overhangs, have high ceilings and large windows, and open into interior courtyards. For the most part, these features eliminate the need for mechanical ventilation in an otherwise hot and humid climate.
You’re currently building a house in Ghana. Could you describe what it’s like to design and build a home in Ghana while living in Indianapolis?
I am building a four-bedroom house designed around an interior courtyard, with passive cooling strategies in mind. Since I can spend only a few weeks out of the year in Ghana, I have had to rely on artisans and tradesmen – with whom I have built relationships over the past years – to supervise construction. I spend most of my morning commute on the phone, speaking with my “superintendent,” who happens to be a master carpenter. I am therefore appraised of construction progress almost daily. It is very important to discern the level of expertise or competence of the local builders, and to specify materials and construction methods with which they are familiar.
How many colleges in Ghana offer architecture courses? Why did you choose Kwame Nkrumah over another school?
Kwame Nkrumah University is the only university in Ghana with a college of architecture. The college of architecture was established in 1958, not long after Ghana gained independence from the British. It is one of the few internationally accredited architecture schools in West Africa.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Listen very carefully to your clients, and help them achieve their visions or goals.