Professor John Owusu Addo is regarded as the repository of historical facts about the evolution of Architectural education in Ghana. He was trained as a teacher but his love for arts coupled with the desire to know more about architecture led him to pursue a career in it. The result was he becoming the sixth registered architect in Ghana and the first Ghanaian Head of Department of the department of Architecture, of the now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology [KNUST].
John was born on 30th May, 1928 in Akwadum in the Eastern Region of Ghana as the second child of his mother and a son to a 60-year old man. He hails from Koforidua in the Eastern Region, where his mother was from. Around the year 1931, the Methodist church had started at Akwadum and his father been one of the first converts was asked to bring his children to school. John was the most suitable of his siblings at that time.
The first school John attended was the Akwadum Methodist School at the age of six in 1934. When he finished class 4, he moved to Koforidua Methodist School where he stayed with his sister and her husband. He finished Standard 7 with a distinction. At the age of 13, John lost his father and his brother-in-law had the financial muscle to only support him to Teacher Training college. He went to Wesley Training College between 1944 to 1947 and was encouraged to read arts or go to arts school when he was in 4th year at Wesley College.
John sat for the entrance exams to the arts school which he passed and went to Achimota school to pursue arts. Whilst in Achimota, he read about architecture but had little knowledge what it entailed. He continued to finish the arts course in 1950.
John eventually passed the London Matriculation Exams in 1951 and got his first station at St. Joseph’s Training College [now College of Education], Bechem-Brong Ahafo. In 1952, he was transferred to the Kumasi College of Science and Technology [now KNUST]. Whilst working there, his interest in Architecture got triggered again by some building projects at that time on the Okodie road and the Engineering workshop at the academic area of the school campus. By divine luck, John chanced on an advertisement on an admission to read architecture in the Gold Coast gazette; he applied and was invited for an interview which led him to be one of the selected three to study architecture at Reagent Street Polytechnic [now University of Westminster].
After his architecture studies, he worked with Architect Kenneth Mackenzie Scott in his London office. Upon returning to his homeland Ghana, John was appointed to work with the Public Works Department [PWD]. However, he declined this appointment because no provision was made for his accommodation and salary was less than 18 pounds per month, which he deemed inadequate. He then reached out to Kenneth Scott to be employed in his Accra office and got a job there from 1959 to 1961.
After working for a while upon his return, John got an invitation from the Registrar of the Kumasi College of Science and Technology to serve as a senior Architect at their Development Office. He accepted the offer after the school agreed to match his offer of 120 pounds from Kenneth Scott in 1961. He was offered the opportunity to teach in addition at the Department of Architecture but declined stating he had little experience at that time. At the Development Office with a team of three Yugoslav Architects [technical aides from Yugoslavia to Kwame Nkrumah], John was involved in projects on the school campus such as 2 houses on ridge road, Unity Hall Students’ residence etc and few private houses outside the school campus.
In 1963, he embarked on an exchange program at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London where he did part-time studio teaching and a tropical architecture course. In 1964, John returned to Ghana and was appointed Associate Professor and Chief Architect at the Development Office of the school whilst teaching at the department at the same time. John, now a professor declined the opportunity to head the Department of Architecture with his reason been lack of experience, hence his preference to understudy the head of department at that time. In 1974, Professor John Owusu Addo was appointed the Head of Architecture Department at KNUST landing the tag of the first Ghanaian head of the department. He later became the Dean of the Faculty in 1978 and in 1980, was elected the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university until 1982.
Professor Owusu Addo left the KNUST for a sabbatical leave to the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Enugu State, where he spent most of his time attending meetings [because he was the most senior in the faculty] instead of what he wanted, that is teaching. He left Nsukka after one year and responded to an invitation from the Vice Chancellor of Imo State University in Owerri. At Imo State, Professor Owusu Addo drew up a post-graduate programme for the university. In 1986, he returned to KNUST, taught for additional 2 years and retired formally in 1988; after which he was given a 5-year contract to stay on.
Professor John Owusu Addo spent most of his professional life in Academia but was able to work on certain notable projects like the Cedi House, supervised Construction of Accra International Conference Centre, Bomso Clinic, Asuoyeboah SSNIT Residential flats, Otumfour’s Residence [Manhyia-Kumasi] and Unity Hall, KNUST.
As a golfer and with his passion for the sport, Professor Owusu Addo acquired a parcel of land close to the Kumasi Golf Club where he put up his retirement homethat [ Owusu Addo Residence read more] with the intention of having his home a walking distance away from the Golf Club.
Great man and a doyen of architecture in Africa.
My prof at Imo State University, Okigwe.