Ghanaian houses in earlier times were influenced by tradition and culture, as well as through the availability of building materials.
In the past, Ghanaian families were mainly governed by an extended family system. It wasn’t only about one’s immediate family but also more about helping out with other extended relatives such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc. There was a stronger sense of community and this was seen in the building and architectural styles used during that period.
For instance, most homes were built in a courtyard style, known by the locals as ‘compound houses’. These houses were typically enclosed in a courtyard (compound), accommodating different members of an extended family. In these compounds, families would cook, play and interact with each other. This showed a sense of togetherness and an extension of the Ghanaian culture.
Another form of housing was the round mud house, which had various rooms that housed different members of an extended family.
As the family system evolved, housing styles and architecture in Ghana also followed suit. Ghanaians have grown to become more individualistic and accordingly, family systems have become more nuclear.
This growth and expansion has caused most Ghanaians to move to the urban areas and cities in search of better opportunities. Others have moved abroad for further education, in search of greener pastures or just to explore. This migration has brought about an interesting mix and blend in culture and traditions, subsequently extending into modern architecture and building styles.
For those who migrate to the urban areas, they try to keep up with the city lifestyle while trying to remain economical. This has led to the proliferation of slums and shacks as places of abode. These slums, however, are built in the ‘compound’ house styles, locally referred to as “face-me-I–face-you”, and seem closer to what buildings looked like traditionally. As these areas get more and more congested, public housing also tends to spring up in their own style to satisfy the growing need.
However, for those Ghanaians who return from their sojourn, they also look to build houses that mimic the likeness of their foreign counterparts. This has resulted in the springing up of townhouses and apartments.
Construction contracts that are awarded to various companies also try to meet international standards and hence also infuse a lot of foreign influence and modern technology into their building and architectural styles.
Nonetheless, some buildings, like the proposed ‘Hope City’ project, still try to maintain and infuse a bit of Ghanaian culture and tradition in modern architecture. ‘Hope City’s’ design has been modelled like that of the old courtyard housing system.
This building is expected to comprise of six towers linked together by bridges and also include shared amenities, therefore being interconnected by a common space, where people meet and communicate. Hence this would help promote that sense of community and togetherness that once stood as the pride of the Ghanaian culture and the main influence in its architecture.
Due to all these influences and new standards and improvements in technology and also due to the growing need of modernization, Ghanaian architecture seems to have no solid style of its own but rather a mix of various adopted styles.