Bruce Nagel & Partners Architects

E-DOMUS Africa – Housing for Education

Accra, Ghana

Judith DiMaio Architect

  • Judith DiMaio (BN&PA-Design Partner) - Project Architect

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Karen Hobson of Karen Hobson, LTD had a vision and a passion for West Africa and it culture and people. Hobson also had Judith DiMaio, and architect of immense ingenuity and  design talent with whom she had worked on previous projects, in mind when she decided to investigate the potential of building dormitories for the student body at the University of Ghana. Dormitories in Ghana and all of West Africa are hugely overcrowded and the quality of life is veritably untenable.

Thus in 2006 Karen Hobson and Judith DiMaio founded the company E-DomusAfrica with their goal and mission to elevate the quality of life for Ghanaian students through quality design while at the same time providing affordable dormitories.

Hobson was invited to visit the University and with our collaborating partner on the ground in Ghana she visited the University. Subsequently, we developed a schematic design for the campus in an area designated by the University and away from the already built out campus center. The dormitory complex was to be a phased project with the design strategically organized to allow for growth without compromising the original design.

  1. SITE STRATEGY: With the site designated by the University, DiMaio intervened with a broad stroke by aligning  one of the arms of the housing with the campus’s existing secondary axis while the second arm opened up to catch the landscape and provide a sense of expansiveness and playfulness. Due to unimaginable overcrowding, this design stroke was an imperative and a psychological gesture for freedom, space and air. The units were designed to be flexible and accommodate 2 or 4 students.
  2. EXTERIOR WALLS: The walls facing onto the plaza serve a dual purpose: The first was pragmatic and designed as a thick concrete wall pieced with openings to provide for cooling; and the second was design motivated where the thick  wall became dazzling displays of  Ghanaian heritage with the Adinkra symbols cut into the  walls and highlighted in colors. Behind the wall scribed with symbol cut outs was the single loaded corridor leading to the housing units.
  3.  The exterior elevations facing the landscape we glazed and deftly designed to provided multiple screening devices to protect against the sun.
  4.  WALL INSPIRATION: As with many of DiMaio’s designs, she finds her inspiration by reaching backwards (or forwards) in time to draw upon superior design ideas and strategies without literally copying her sources. In this instance, it was the combination of the spectacular enclosing walls pieced with colored glass windows of varying shapes and sizes that Le Corbusier created for his church, Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France.
  5.  RECOGNITION AWARD:  The Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia awarded E-DomusAfrica 3rd  Prize for their Entrepreneurial proposal , Housing for Education, and its approach to design