Paul Robinson writes:
Professor Ken Ndomhina picked us up in his SUV and we drove through Fourah Bay College, Freetown to the Faculty of Architecture building of the University of Sierra Leone. My colleague, Iain Jackson, had been invited to give a lecture on the architecture of Fry and Drew in Western Africa. We parked up outside a two storey, white and green building with interesting post-modern ornament that included fluted ionic columns which captured swirling red dust in their profiles.
When this Architecture School opened four years ago, twenty-one students enrolled, and the first cohort is about to graduate. The school now boasts around 150 students across four year groups.
Creating a new School of Architecture is a wonderful opportunity – the chance to ‘start again’ and to develop a new programme from scratch is very special. Equally the challenges are great – not least recruiting staff as there are only 25 accredited architects in the whole country.
Yet progress is being made. Once the lecture was complete, we enjoyed light refreshments and conversation with local staff who had been trained far and wide in Cyprus, Morocco and England. They had returned ‘home’ to be involved with this exciting and growing project. The School is preparing for Commonwealth Association of Architects accreditation. It has a hands-on approach to teaching with many 1:1 scale building experiments and model-making, supplemented by history, environmental design, and building technology.
Although change is slow the University of Sierra Leone architectural department vision is strong: to see men and women from Sierra Leone, trained as architects to positively impact the developing built environment of the nation. And to establish the role of architect within their communities. Knowing this, it made it a thrilling privilege to pose with this next generation for a celebratory photograph once the event ended.