The award-winning, egalitarian architect, known for his community-driven projects and visionary sensibilities, including The National Museum of African American History and Culture, recently signed on to build 101 hospitals in Ghana and broke ground on the project this August. The District Hospitals are part of a nationwide healthcare infrastructure initiative, first announced in April 2020. The initiative involves the construction of 111 new healthcare facilities including 101 district hospitals, a pair of psychiatric hospitals, seven regional hospitals, and the redevelopment of an existing psychiatric hospital in the capital city of Accra.
Born in Tanzania, David Adjaye’s father was a diplomat and their family lived and traveled across Africa and the Middle East throughout his childhood. David was influenced by the architecture he saw growing up, as well as experiencing the needs of his brother, who was partially paralyzed and wheelchair-bound and faced various inequities at his specialized school.
“Unlike people who may have had an education or a stable upbringing in one or two places, I was forced from a very early age to negotiate a wide variety of ethnicities, religions, and cultural constructions. By the time I was 13, I thought that was normal, and that was how the world was. It gave me a kind of edge in an international global world, which we find increasingly in the 21st century,” Adjaye was quoted by Smithsonian Magazine.
David’s travels inspired one of his first prolific projects, Adjaye Africa Architecture: A Photographic Survey of Metropolitan Architecture, a book that took him across fifty-four major African cities and over ten years to create. Amongst his many architectural accomplishments, Adjaye has also designed textiles, recorded music and as alluded in his title, “Sir,” was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017.
The hospitals are inspired by an Adinkra symbol of the Denkyem (an African Dwarf crocodile) which represents cleverness and the ability to thrive in varied and sometimes challenging conditions. Materials including interlocking earth bricks made from locally sourced mud that are nontoxic, sound resistant, insect resistant, and fire resistant, will be used to build the structures.
“By approaching the hospital as more than just a place for the provision of medical services,” Adjaye explains, “the design scheme aims to unlock the potential of this ambitious initiative by repositioning the hospital as a piece of community infrastructure that embodies sustainability, efficiency, and provides green spaces to facilitate healing.”