The Legon City Lofts is a beautifully crafted piece of architecture that gives a Eurocentric feeling but at the same time responds to the demands of its tropical context; that is effective ventilation, proper daylighting or solar ingress protection and absolutely no opening on the eastern or western façades.
With the ever-increasing land prices in Accra and especially East Legon, Orthner Orthner and Associates decided to fit 5-units of a 2-bedroom loft on 2 plots of land (only one unit remains uncompleted) as an efficient land use strategy. The concept of compact design had been used throughout the macro-planning of the entire site and the micro-planning of the interior spaces. Each unit is a 2-bedroom open plan residence with no corridors as the architects believe in the maximum use of spaces, with each unit coming with a garage and a total floor area of 125sqm.
Externally, the Legon City Lofts have been given a north-south orientation to cut out solar ingress from either the eastern or western façades. The northern and southern façades are full of fenestration to enhance effective cross ventilation and daylighting. This has enabled a conducive indoor air quality and comfortable thermal levels even on a sunny day. The frontage of the entire block has been designed with pockets of vegetation and designated parking lots for each unit. Due to the compact nature of the design, each unit has a designated store at the frontage on the fence for residents to keep their extra items that might not have space inside the house itself or items that are not used on daily basis. In addition, these stores accommodate the outdoor air conditioning units which help prevent the noise that normally accompanies it from getting into the residences.
At the back of the block is a private outdoor terrace for each loft, a common garden with a swimming pool and abundance of vegetation which is shared by the residents. Other plants have been carefully planted to act as screens in addition to the extension of abutting walls to introduce a sense of privacy in the midst of a communal setting at the backyard. By the swimming pool is a common gym, changing area and a sauna for residents of the facility.
Inside the lofts on the ground floor level, there is one of the bedrooms which is ensuite. Upon entry, there is a visitor’s wc which has been accommodated underneath the staircase which ties into the overall idea of compact design and effective use of space. Majority of the ground floor area comprises the open plan system for the living area, dining and kitchen. From the architects, the open kitchen is not for tenants who cook most of the time and if you cook a lot, perhaps the Legon City Loft is not going to be an ideal residence for you.
On the first floor is a common lounge which can be used as a second living area or converted into a guest sleeping area (in one of the lofts) with the use of curtains. The master bedroom on this level is not ensuite because the architects wanted to separate both washroom activities, that is the wc and bathroom to enable both washroom activities occur simultaneously when needed. The bathroom here is referred to as the ‘wellness area’ by the architects because it has a view into a first floor garden which gives a therapeutic effect when using the space.
The facility is made up of a reinforced concrete post and beam structure enveloped with timber cladding and partitions and a bit of sandcrete blocks. From the architects, all the internal partitions are made of timber and plasterboard. Sandcrete blocks have been used only as the abutting walls which separates one unit from the other. All the timber used on the project were procured in Ghana according to the architects with local artisans, but the wind barrier membranes and damp proof membranes for the timber walls were all imported from Europe. The partition walls made of plasterboard are also insulated with earth wool. The roof structure is a mono-pitch at a 3 degrees slope and it is made of oriented strand board (OSB board) covered with layers of bitumen. Solar screens made of metal flat plates gives a structural expressionist feeling at the frontage of the lofts. These solar screen made of metal flat plates also serve as burglar proofing especially where there are windows.
The Legon City Lofts can boast of several measures put in place by the architects to enhance the building’s sustainability. These include large openings which ensures enough daylighting and natural ventilation, effective use of vegetation to ensure a cooler microclimate by reducing heat gain from hard landscaped surfaces. The north-south orientation, fabricated metal flat plate solar screens and the solar panels are also contributing to making the building sustainable.
Locally produced rammed earth construction was used even for the fence wall. In summary, with the exception of lighting fixtures, furniture and insulation materials which were imported; all other materials used for the construction were outsourced locally. This is a huge contributory factor in making the Legon City Lofts a sustainable piece of contemporary architecture.