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Architecture school for me was an odyssey of self-discovery. Although this was not apparent to many, it was fraught with more falls than rises, more failures than triumphs. Of course, I had been warned by several well meaning friends and God sent prophets(if only I had listened). As is usual with human nature of my kind, the more I was told how challenging it was, the more I wanted it( how foolish indeed).

“ The architecture curriculum is a perplexing and unruly beast, involving long hours, dense texts, and frequently obtuse instruction”. (101 things I learnt in architecture school by Matthew Frederick)

When I read those words for the first time in my fourth year (final undergraduate year), they literally jumped at me. They hugged and consoled me. Literally!!! It felt as if for all the while, I had been looking for words to throw at architecture and could hardly find them- and finally, here they were. My best friends for as long as I could hold on. Alas, I was not alone!

The truth is, I always found myself in the middle of a design task, to have bitten more than I could chew and yet HAD TO chew. In the end, after barely finishing despite the many sleepless nights I would swear not to do this to myself ever again. Next time, I would go a simpler easier to handle path, involving fewer nuanced and convoluted thought patterns. Yet, “history repeats itself, first as farce, then as disaster”. Seriously, I just didn’t get it- what is wrong with me? I would often ask. It was as if the genie of self-torment was out to get me. I know this may sound hard to believe but I promise you I had nothing to do with it. I was powerless against this dude. What was I to do? Like a sheep led to the slaughter- I could only comply. In truth, my genie is quite different from any depicted in Arabian folklore. He lives in no lamp, needs to beckoning to appear, and gives you no chance to make wishes. Appearing at will, he determines what he thinks is best for you and makes you do it- believe it or not.

When my final post graduate year arrived, I promised myself (again) to be “reasonable”, in my choice of a thesis topic. Work close to home and finish: well, cool and easy. However, as genie would have it, I ended up travelling several kilometres to the rural parts of northern Ghana and ended up living in a primitive mud hut for days. The rest is history. At this point, i implore you, please don’t judge me. I tried really hard. Before choosing my topic, I had arranged with a friend Kuukuwa Manful, to have us do a joint project- in the full hope of transferring genie to her of course. Little did I know she had seven genies to contend with on her own and so under the guise of shifting interest, I flee as quickly as I could, as far from her as I could.
Soon enough my love for everything nature got the better of me and I ended up with a Biomimetic Nature Observatory- a “secret” monastic haven( wonder if there is such a thing) for scientists and designers to do collaborative research. In reality though, it was all genie’s fault. When asked to submit a synopsis, i wrote something like this:

Humans have had a very special relationship with nature, learning from it, using it and copying it for various purposes; architecture, art, etc (Antonniades, 1990). In recent years, this relationship has been severed by human life style. According to the global biodiversity outlook, 130 species of plants and animals become extinct each day,1000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.  Biomimicry, a recent branch in science and design “is an approach that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” (biomimicry 3.8 institute, 2008).An example is a solar cell, based on a tree leaf.

The thesis is predicated on the premise that, nature (plants and animals) has learnt to adapt and to exist in harmony with the ecologies they inhabit. Hence nature holds valuable lessons that must be researched. At the heart of this thesis therefore is the design of a biomimetic nature observatory, a research “monastery” to be situated in Mole national park, a site rich in biodiversity and which provides unique opportunities for learning, where nature is the teacher.

By pulling strands from, biomimicry, vernacular architecture and parametric thought, each of the components is conceived of as a cluster, with the basic unit of each cluster being a dome. Each dome is made up essentially of a double layer of clay tiles. As a source of inspiration for the scientists who would occupy and work in these spaces, various biomimetic technologies such as self-cleansing exterior walls, self-healing concrete, fog harvesting fabric are employed in the design of the observatory.

In reality though, all I wanted was a hideout, far away in the bush where smart people could fall in love and make babies-the next generation of smarties. But of course I could not tell this to the professors 😉

Portfolio Emmanuel K. Ofori-Sarpong_Page_08


Portfolio Emmanuel K. Ofori-Sarpong_Page_09


Always remember