History of the Institute

THE FOUNDING OF THE GHANA INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS (GIA)- – Arc. Victor Adegbite

As contained in the inaugural speech delivered by our great and late Mr. T. S. Clerk, the first President of the GIA, at the inauguration of the GIA, at the University of Ghana, Legon, at 8:30 p.m., on Friday, 11th December 1964, there already was in existence an architectural body known as the Gold Coast Society of Architects, founded in August 1954 before my arrival in the country, then the Gold Coast in February 1956 after my Architectural and Planning and Housing education in the United States, and Colombia, in South America.

As the country’s professional body of Architects, I respectfully sought membership, and loyally made an input as required of a member. I recall such members as Mr. G. S. Knight, President 1957, Mr. Arthur Lindsay, Vice President and Public Relations Officer 1957 and Architect of the T.U.C. Building, Mr. K. C. Twists, Secretary, 1957, Mr. L. P. Williams, Treasurer, 1957, Mr. Thresher, Mr. Ireland, Mr. Thurston, Mr. Trevallion, Mr. James Hensman, Mr. Battliwala, Mr. T. S. Clerk, Mr. Kenneth Scott, Mr. Robinson, the resident Architects of Fry and Drew, Mr. Arthur Lindsay’ s partner. Meetings were held at the then International Club, where business was coupled with purchases of rounds of beer and roasted peanuts at the table.

It was very amusing to observe people refusing beer rounds from others with whom they were not in amity, and those people too refusing the rounds of beer from people who have refused their rounds. Old T. S. Clerk and I accepted everybody’s round, and so everybody accepted our rounds of purchase too. This International Club under reference was located in Mr. Yaw Boahene’s Building on either Crew or Knutsford Avenue. Having attended these meetings regularly and loyally for a while I started to observe that the orientation of this great professional body was more of a social nature as the name implied, than the Institutes of Architects I had known elsewhere. What did it for me was the extension of the petty quibbles even among their wives. I got a taste of this uncalled for disharmony when I was appointed the Architect for the then C.P.P. Headquarters and the Farmer’s Building in Accra in 1957/8. The G.S.A. out of the blue protested in a letter to the Minister of Works and Housing, with a threat to expel me from the ranks of the G.S.A., because I had accepted work from a political party. Mr. E.K. Bensah was then the Minister of Housing with the late Mr. D.K. Dawson as Director of Rural Housing in the same Ministry.

They invited me to the Ministry to hear my side of the problem. Having explained my position in the whole matter, I was left alone to proceed with my work which was found to be not only in the interest of the country, but a real challenge to a young U.S. trained Ghanaian Architect in the setting of a newly independent country. Later the G.S.A., under the late T. S. Clerk as President, appointed me a member of I think a three-man committee to sit on an arbitration case between Mr. Arthur Lindsay and his partner when they were dissolving their partnership. The problem was that Mr. Lindsay, the senior partner of the firm of Arthur Lindsay had made as conditions of dissolution the following:

(a) That his partner should not accept work from a list of 22 or 50 clients including the Methodist Mission, and

(b) That his partner should not practice within 22 miles radius of his, Arthur Lindsay’s practice. Some kind of dissolution conditions indeed! However, in the name of posterity, goodness, and fair play in my opinion, I thought the conditions were irrational, and voted against it to save his partner. This, however, triggered off some more problems for me in the G.S.A., but I continued my membership zealously and loyally. Finally, I attended a party in connection with the G.S.A. activities at the Frew House behind the Ridge Hospital Accra. It was a very nice party which I enjoyed, but there again from the absence of certain prominent colleagues, one could sense the same negative trend of relationship and communication in the G.S.A.

The above, coupled with the way the G.S.A. was doing its thing as can be seen from the attached two historic letters dated February 17, 1957 and February 20, 1957, respectively, I started thinking, and discussing seriously and sincerely the possibility of founding an Institute of Architects which was oriented towards the Architecture, its practice, and education, in a newly independent and developing African country, Ghana. I was indeed thrilled and strengthened in my thoughts as all the Ghanaian Architects I had discussions with showed great enthusiasm, and indicated that it was a matter which had been agitating their minds for a while too.

Thus, it happened that I was serving on a two-man committee with Professor I. Prasad, a U.N. expert in Ghana at the time, to study and submit a proposal for a graduate curriculum at the Faculty of Architecture, KNUST, Kumasi. In the cause of our work, Dr. R. P. Baffuor, the then Vice-Chancellor asked me if Ghanaian Architects had been considering the possibility of setting up a Ghana Institute of Architects oriented towards a positive input in Ghanaian architectural practice and education in the light of the new concepts in nation building. I answered, yes sir, and that it had been a matter agitating the minds of the few Ghanaian Architects. They were: Mr. D.K. Dawson, Mr. T.S. Clerk, Mr. J.S.K. Frimpong, Mr. P.N.K., Turkson, Prof. J. Owusu-Addo, Mr. O.T. Agyeman, Mr. A. K. Amartey, Mr. E.K. Asuako, Mr. W.S. Asamoah, Mr. Adu-Donkor, Mr. K.G. Kyei, Mr. C. Togobo, and Mr. E. Kinsley Osei. Then in his usual pleasant and positive way, Dr. Baffuor gave me a word of encouragement to attempt to get something started regardless of our number.

I saw this as a challenge, and a sure support of the KNUST. When I got back to Accra, I pursued the discussions with the Ghanaian architects around Accra, and we convened a meeting for the founding of the G.l.A. on November 9, 1962, in my office. Indeed, I considered myself extremely honored and privileged to have been allowed by my colleagues to chair that historic occasion, and to state the purpose of the meeting, as contained in the first minutes, and as published in the Newsletter of the Ghana Institute of Architects, Vol. 1, No. 1, dated April 1970, Editor: K. G. Kyei.