As Ghana’s capital, Accra is home to structures from Victorian days, scientific impressions from the socialist era, and modern architecture – not to mention the vibrant kiosk-clustered neighbourhoods. Take a tour of the capital’s hidden spots that even locals don’t know about with our ultimate insider’s guide.
Start by taking in Villaggio Vista adjacent to the Tetteh Quarshie interchange. Here, the architects from Allford Hall Monaghan Morris were inspired by the pattern of kente. This unique and distinctive aesthetic gives way to sustainable measures which include the use of narrow, tall, and recessed windows to cut down solar gain.
Book yourself into one of the 36 apartments here and check out their two connecting buildings. Do some swimming or venture out into the city and make new friends while learning one or two of the about 250 Ghanaian languages and dialects in a cool bar, where waakye is served and akpeteshie cocktails are enjoyed all night long.
Architect Joe Osae-Addo’s Innonative House costs $50,000, but it’s one of the most beautiful eco-friendly houses in Africa. Timber and adobe mud blocks found in the surroundings were materials for crafting the no air-conditioning building, which also has sliding slatted-wood screens and floor to ceiling jalousie windows for cross ventilation. The renowned designer and his family live in this house, raised three feet off the ground for the breeze to provide a natural cooling function. There is wiring to the national grid for electricity, and then solar panels connected for backup and water heating water.
When it comes to architecture, Udo Kultermann noted in his book New Directions in African Architecture that because a lot of African designers are educated in Europe or America, a lot of modern design in Africa is determined by European and American models. Nonetheless, places like Accra’s Jamestown district still have some gems including the Ga cultural homes and shrines. James Barnor also set up his Jamestown photography studio, Ever Young, here in the 1950s – but before that, there was Deo Gratias, the first ever photo studio in Jamestown and Ghana, opened in 1922.
Fans of architecture will appreciate a post-lunch stroll to admire Kempinski Hotel‘s stunning design, based on the delineation of compound houses commonly built by kings across West Africa, with the residences distributed around a central courtyard with shaded seating partitions, galleries and a performance pavilion. US architects PageSoutherlandPage managed to construct 269 rooms in this luxurious destination.
Further afield, Accra’s “Airport City” is a large business district around the airport which turns heads all over the capital. This is where office and retail projects designed by Mario Cucinella Architects attract investors in banking, oil and gas, telecom and start ups. Tired of vehicular traffic? Take a short ride west to Tills Beach near Kokrobite where the beautiful white sands kiss your feet. Play golf or volley and join in for their BBQ parties at night.
Back in town, for a showroom and gallery experience in a single space, visit La Maison at Icon House in Airport City and 6th Street in Osu. More than 40 design, home accessories, furnishings and decorative artifact brands are available as curated by Nada Moukarzel, who has lived in Ghana for the past 18 years. The African-themed ornaments here are mostly made by local artists. There are also tulip vases, charming chandeliers from Damascus and chinaware as part of the extensive collection.
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