KCC after renovation, front view towards entrance and view of open court. © Author, 2023.
A Tropical Modern Architect

Prof. John Owusu Addo






John Owusu Addo, Architectural education and practice, Tropical architecture, modern architecture, KNUST


Professor John Owusu Addo is a Ghanaian tropical modern architect and a pioneer in architectural education and practice in the nation-building of Ghana and other Commonwealth countries. His contributions to the modern architecture discourse seem to be overshadowed by the cohort of architects of both Western and Socialist origin who practiced in Africa during the decolonization era. The Community Center at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) campus in Kumasi-Ghana was designed by him; it represents a classic example of ‘unknown’ heritage within the narrative. This short essay examines both primary and secondary data, including unpublished interviews, master series events, articles, and papers to contextualize Prof. Owusu Addo as an exemplary protagonist to be explored for the benefit of tropical modern architects, especially in African settings.

How to Cite

Kwabi, P. C. (2023). A Tropical Modern Architect: Prof. John Owusu Addo. Docomomo Journal, (69), 29–34. https://doi.org/10.52200/docomomo.69.03




Author Biography

Prince Charles Kwabi, University of Queensland

Has a combined 15-year working experience as a certified Architect (AGIA), a Project Management Professional (PMP-PMI) and a Chartered Builder (ICIOB). Currently, he is a Higher Degree Researcher with the School of Architecture in the University of Queensland, Australia. As an Architectural Design Engineer, he is affiliated with Ghana Multi-Country Office (GHMCO) of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). His research interest lies in British West Africa, tropical architecture, sustainable / green buildings and educational facilities. He enjoys spending quality time with his family, engaging in DIY activities and taking pictures of neighbourhoods on long walks.


ADDO, O. J., & BOND, M. (1966). Aspiration. Architectural Association - ARENA

AfricaBZ, (2022, June 5). KNUST Community Centre, Kumasi, Ghana. https://gh.africabz.com/ashanti/knust-community-centre-302645

AP Editorial, (2018). Evolution of Architectural Education and Practice in Ghana. https://archpose.com/evolution-of-architectural-education-and-practice-in-ghana-01/

A face-to-face interview (oral history) rolled out in three segments by Archpose at Prof. Owusu Addo’s residence in Kumasi, Ghana.

BBC African Service, London (1970, December 20 to 24). University Report, No. 127 p 4.


BOATENG, I. (2023, August 18). Prof. Addo: His Academic Career in Nigeria.

Unpublished ‘informal’ short phone conversation with Prof. Owusu Addo.

BOSUMPRAH, C., & ESSAH N. Y. (2014). Prof. Addo: His life and work. Personal communication [Face-to-Face interview].

DERBAN, K. (2022, March 11). John Owusu Addo. https://design233.com/articles/john-owusu-addo

ELLEH, N. (1997). African Architecture: Evolution & Transformation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

GIA, (2019, March 27). Master Series 4 “My architectural Journey” by Professor John Owusu Addo. Proceedings of Master Series conference held at KNUST Staff Club House and organised by Ghana Institute of Architects (unpublished). See twitter thread at https://twitter.com/ghanaarchitects/status/1110711560547254272

HERZ, M., FOCKETYN, H., SCHRÖDER, I., JAMROZIK, J., BAAN, I., & WEBSTER, A. (2015). African Modernism: the architecture of independence: Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia. Park Books.

JACKSON, I. (2022, August 7). In Trust for the People. https://www.design233.com/articles/in-trust-for-the-people

KWABI, P. C. (2023, May 19). Prof. Addo: KNUST Community Centre. Personal communication [Face-to-Face interview].

MANFUL, K. (2016). Early Ghanaian architects. In A. Tostoes & Z. Ferreira (Eds.), Adaptive Reuse: The modern movement towards the future. Docomomo International Conference 14. 414 – 419.

ROUX, H. L. (2004). Modern Architecture in Post-Colonial Ghana and Nigeria. Architectural History, 47, 361–392. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0066622X00001805.

STANEK, L. (2015). Architects from Socialist Countries in Ghana (1957–67): Modern Architecture and Mundialization. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historian, 74(4), 416–442. https://doi.org/10.1525/jsah.2015.74.4.416.

UDUKU, O. (2017). West African Modernism and Change. In Time Frames: Conservation Policies for Twentieth-Century Architectural Heritage, 355-364. Taylor & Francis.

UDUKU, O. (2006). Modernist architecture and ‘the tropical’ in West Africa: The tropical architecture movement in West Africa, 1948–1970. Habitat International, 30(3), 396-411.