Architect: Augustus Richardson | Mobius Architecture, Accra
Materials: Concrete, Stone & Wood
Augustus Richardson belongs to a generation of emerging architects who see in architecture the power for social and infrastructural transformation. Based in Accra, Richardson reveals how the architectural landscape of Ghana teems with opportunities for emerging architects, especially those who hold the radical vision to engage in Architecture that triggers positive change. Recognizing the vast potential that Ghana holds in this day of architectural revolution, Richardson helps us to understand those points where traditional art forms and materials converge with modern techniques to create sustainability and flexibility. In his view, Ghana’s future is bright, particularly when shot through the optics of architecture. Augustus Richardson speaks on design, Mobius Architecture, his firm with Samuel Adabie, and one of their latest projects, The Bridge.
Design233: What is your educational background?
Augustus Richardson: I went to North Ridge Lyceum; the basis of a lot of the things I do were conceived there. As young as you are, your beginnings are critical; they hold the key to what you will be in the future. I then went on to PRESEC* and subsequently, TECH** for my B.Sc. and PgDIP. in Architecture.
D233: What is your practice’s working philosophy?
AR: My philosophy hangs on the will to create an environment where people will mostly thrive and sustainable designs. Sam and I did not want the situation where the organization will die; we craved survival and sustainability. That said, we wanted our love and passion for architecture to be about the future not about us.
Sam came up with the concept Mobius. Derived from the Mobius strip, the mathematical equation for sustainability, mobius was both a metaphor for sustainability and flexibility!
I had a student once ask who a good architect was, and my response was: a good architect = god architect. Firstly, designs are from the Creator. To be a good designer, one must emulate nature and try to understand the principles he uses.
The spirit of Mobius revolves around what Ross Lovegrove eruditely calls “Fat-free design.” and this is what we believe in. Another keen aspect of our mantra is Functionality. It is the crux and crust of our designs. Whatever we design must have use and utility. It is always an odyssey to create a design. Our responsibility as “fat free architects” is to try to answer questions that incite radical designs and motivate critical questions and inquiries. This is the philosophy of Mobius.
D233: What is the name of this project?
AR:The Bridge—defying gravity, cantilevered spaces. The core energy of the building is to fashion a point where you can stand and see it all. Philosophically, it is the merger of geometries, light, and volumes. I think a building must be intelligent, and one must not show its inner workings.
The site had an existing building on it which the client wanted renovated. It covered the entire site, leaving very little room for landscaping. We decided to introduce nature into the plan by working in some landscaping. That whole link to nature is an ideal I push for because I believe one should not be hemmed in on the inside.
Subsequently, my client was given the opportunity to see the existing building model against the current design. As a designer, there are moments when you have to stick to your grounds, despite the limitations of doing so.
D233: Being one of youngest architects in the country what experiences do you bring on board in setting up your own practice? What steps have you taken to get to this point?
AR: Necessity is the mother of invention. If there isn’t the necessity it becomes vulgar. Everybody has challenges because the whole practice of architecture is a very challenging one. Nevertheless one not only works with teams on site but works with the earth and gravity. There is, however, always a challenge to come up with any form of design. Particularly, if you relate it to the Ghanaian ethos it is always challenging to get Ghanaians to embrace this concept. Questions about security, viability, and beauty are common in designing strategies. I have always not been interested in burglar proofing, cages which I equate to imprisonment. Our work challenges our current lifestyle pushing us to ask ourselves "How else can we live?".
D233: You are a skillful pianist, a maestro. Does music find its way into your work as an architect?
AR:A sibling of seven, my twin brother, Julius, and I were the lucky ones to be born at a time when dad could afford to buy a piano. Our piano teacher Mr. Eric Berkoh was a great mentor who brought a lot of strength and character to us. As far back as in class four, I do not know why, but said I wanted to be an architect. I was very good at designing and very artistic too. I could sketch really well, an attribute which would develop into a specialty.
D233: What is your message to fledgling and aspiring designers?
AR: The future is bright because there is a lot that requires our input. We need to be heard and we are heard through our buildings. We are still pushing our visions in spite of the myriad obstacles that beset us. Economics will show that Ghana is the place to be currently. I believe I am in the right place at the right time. There will be a bright future when Architects begin to insist and push for their visions to materialize, especially in our setting in Ghana where people think we do not think conceptually. However, we do think conceptually! There is a growing middle class, who are brilliant people and we believe in them. We believe that our buildings will speak to the right kind of people.
My slice of advice is that everybody is unique: We are wonderfully and fearfully created and as designers, our works need to embrace this notion. Design like you give a damn! Try and create buildings that have meaning and character. People think that they are building for themselves alone but you have to think about your neighbours. Create sociable buildings that respect your neighbours. We must enjoy a bit of heaven on earth through buildings and must be able to navigate the question “What is our greatest fear?”