THE BEGINNING OF THE ROAD
The history of the Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA) commenced from the prior existence of the Gold Coast Society of Architects (GCSA), that was founded in July 1954. A letter dated in May 1954 and written by Mr. Arthur Lindsay, the Honorary Secretary had invited all practicing architects in the Gold Coast to come together. As a follow up to that meeting, the Gold Coast Society of Architects (GCSA) was inaugurated in 1954.Fourteen Architects were present at that meeting. They were: G.S Knight (President), Arthur Lindsay (Hon. Secretary), B.A.W Trevallion, (Hon. Treasurer), Kenneth M. Scott (Hon. Public Relations Officer), E.W Williamson, A. Williamson, Max Garlach, G.C Harris, A.K Sulton, M.R. Griffiths, K. Wood, H. J. Pine, G.P Smith and L.P Williams.With the attainment of the Independence of Ghana, the Gold Coast prefix was changed to the Ghana prefix of the Society of Architects. It must be brought home clearly that the GSA could not be dislodged easily to come over and join the formation of the G.I.A. That is, the G.I.A was not given the breath of life on a silver platter.
A lot of cunning and strategizing went into bringing any success about. So in-roads had to be made into the existence of that Society to ascertain their inner workings; for they were a tough lot!No architectural body had ever been formed in the country before, and the GCSA therefore, wielded much monopoly in the acquisition of Government as well as private projects. In fact, it was a big force in matters that pertained to the practice of architecture in the country. Seemingly a close-knit Society, and consisting mostly European architects, it required a patriotic Ghanaian, one imbued with selflessness and a good measure of nationalism, to work at marking any dents in the fabric of that Society.The Man of that moment, who measured so expertly and dexterously, to get into the fold of the G.S.A was Mr. Victor Adegbite. From his interactions with them, ‘Vik’ observed that the GSA was more of a social gathering, as it were, than the workings of the Institutes of Architects he had known and seen in his journeying abroad.
Vik had attended some GSA meetings at the International Club that was located on Knutsford Avenue, Accra and found out that it was in no mood to give in to the formation of any worrisome and indigenous Ghana Institute. A case in point was the threat by the GSA to expel Vik from its ranks, because he had been appointed the architect for the Convention People’s Party (CPP) Headquarters project and also the Farmers’ Council building project, all in Accra, in 1957/58. True to their word, the Society wrote a letter to the Ministry of Works and Housing, to expel Vik from the GSA because he had accepted a project from a political party. The case was however amicably resolved.Since the G.S.A was essentially an exclusive Club of expatriates-only who worked in most of the various branches of the Public Works Department (PWD), the indigenous Ghanaian architects initially decided to counter with the formation of the SPACE CLUB, with similar functions as the G.S.A. The indigenes had then freshly returned to their motherland after their training abroad, mostly in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA).Consultations with those “brand-new” Ghanaian architects to form the Institute were positive. So also were the interactions and discussions with Dr. R. P. Baffour, the then Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi. Dr. Baffour advised Vik to go to work and get something started, regardless of the small number of Ghanaian architects who had qualified at that time. Vik felt emboldened and encouraged proceeded with the advice.
He then wrote to the Ghanaian architects around Accra, inviting them to a meeting at his office on 9th November 1962. He was then the Chief Architect of the Ghana National Construction Corporation (GNCC). A number of them attended and Vik was asked to chair that maiden and historic meeting. Present at the deliberations, were O. T. Agyeman, T. S. Clerk, W. S. Asamoah, E.K. Asuako, P.N.K. Turkson and J.S.K. Frimpong.Mr. T.S Clerk was appointed the sole architect at that meeting to draft the first constitution of the Institute. He submitted his proposals at the subsequent meeting. His draft was discussed, approved and adopted. Following the adoption of the draft constitution and its bye-laws, the first officers of the Institute were elected. Those were: T.S. Clerk (President), P.N.K. Turkson, (Vice-President), Victor Adegbite (Hon. Treasurer), O.T. Agyeman (Hon. Secretary), J.S.K Frimpong, John Owusu-Addo, W.S. Asamoah, E.K. Asuako, A.K. Amartey and M. Adu-Donkor as members.With the election of Officers behind them, an appointment was sought to see the Head of the Republic and Father of the Nation, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and to request his consent to be the Patron of the Institute. In their interactions with Osagyefo he did not agree to the proposal.
He however pointed out that as the Head of State he was virtually the Honorary Patron of all the Professional Bodies. So there was no need to request him to be Patron of any particular Institute. That advice was graciously accepted.The participation of the GSA in the affairs and inauguration of the new Institute had to be sought. Nothing was to be taken for granted. The emissaries to broker the deal involved Architects O.T. Agyeman and John Owusu-Addo. These two veteran architects had earlier on done their best in spearheading the merger of the two bodies. Arc. K.G. Kyei was also dispatched to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to contact and seek the input of architectural students participants in the inauguration. None of the two groups showed up. The inaugural ceremony however went ahead as planned. Through indefatigable efforts and adroitness at mediation by Architects O.T. Agyeman and John Owusu-Addo the GIA finally merged with the GSA as well as their funds The joy at that occurrence on the part of the indigenous groups was high. In sum, Architect Victor Adegbite was seen as the one man who did a whole lot more in the conception, discussions, planning, strategizing and in the efforts that culminated in the birth of the Ghana Institute of Architects.
It was speculated at the time that the non-participation of the student architects was due to the fact that they had been won over by their expatriate staff whose sympathies lay more with the GSA than with the budding indigenous Institute.The inauguration of the Institute came off successfully on the 11th of December 1964 as planned at the lecture theatre of the Commonwealth Hall, University of Ghana, Legon, at 8:30 p.m. Hon E.K. Bensah, the Minister of Works and Housing, was the Chairman. He was supported by Nana Kobina Nketia IV, Director, Institute of Art and Culture, Dr. R.P. Baffour, Vice-Chancellor, KNUST and Mr. G.Y. Odoi, Managing Director, Ghana National Construction Corporation. The first Fellowships of the GIA were conferred on Hon E.K. Bensah, Dr. R.P Baffour, Hon. L. K. Apaloo and Mr. G.Y. Odoi. The Ghana Police Band was in attendance and dished out “conc” Hi-life tunes in their pristine state. The mood at the inauguration was sprightly. There was a feeling of Christmas in the offing. Added to this was the fact that the GIA had at long last been inaugurated. There was clearly, a feeling of triumph, of elation, of success.
It was a happy gathering on that December night at Legon! One could discern the high spirits in Vik, especially, as he danced, in full flight, giving out ‘arc-huduous’ exhibitionism of some New Orleans jitterbug intricacies. Arc. K.G Kyei brought the rear with his prekese mixings of highfalutin Highlife variations. The function eventually came to a close at 1.00 a.m. The GIA enjoys the full backing of the Republic of the Republic of Ghana, having recognition also through the ARCHITECTS DECREE, NLCD 357, of 1969. It is also a member of the Commonwealth Association of Architects, the International Union of Architects and the African Union of Architects; and commands the greatest respect and esteem of the architectural world.The Institute has not been found wanting in the political arena of Ghana.
In 1977, for example, the GIA fully took part in support of the withdrawal of services of the Professional Bodies Association of Ghana. Arc K.G. Kyei held aloft the mantle of participation for the Institute, though Col. Courage Togobo was the substantive President. The fact was that as a serving Army officer his participation in a strike against a ruling military regime could have produced some difficulties for him. A tall list of other professional bodies took part in the ‘Great Withdrawal’. Among them were the engineers, doctors, lawyers, surveyors, pharmacist and accountants. Initially the offices of the Ghana Institute of Architects, located then at the Ringway Estates, Accra served as the venue for the meetings. It was later shifted to the office complex of Hon. Harry R. Sawyerr at Osu. In politics then, the G.I.A has paid some dues in the process of modern day Ghanaian political evolution.