Elmina College establishes a meaningful dialogue with African modernity – its expression and its historical references. An international boarding high school, the project is set within landscaped gardens on a 116 acre site. It comprises teaching facilities, an Olympic size swimming pool, sports centre, library, auditorium, and student and staff residences. Drawing on local climatic and cultural conditions, the design concept has been informed by the ecology of the forest carpet – where the ground plane offers a distinct micro-climate that is sheltered from the harsh equatorial sun. Also borrowing from the notion of a Maghreb citadel, the college is conceived as a large elevated quad – a landscaped superstructure – that contains a set of buildings and spaces. Cut-outs within the superstructure offer the opportunity to add to the project as it expands and evolves into the future.
The site is located within the forest belt in a celebrated part of Ghana that is not only home to a historic slave fort – visited by President Obama – but also has a longstanding educational legacy of excellence, enhanced by exchange programmes with Eton College in the UK and known to have fostered a number of West Africa’s eminent intellectuals. This pedigree of excellence and progressive international dialogue is reflected in the uncompromising contemporaneity of the scheme. A cast concrete plate, the superstructure, is lifted by ten metres and punctured by a series of apertures and microclimates – like a giant roof with cut-outs containing buildings. The architecture, itself, recedes to allow landscape and context to dominate, while encouraging a blurring of inside and outside.