Seven years after departing Sekondi-Takoradi for Belgorod, Russia, Abdul Azeez Tanko Nuhu returned with a degree in architecture. More than just the degree, Abdul also brought back with him an impressive design of a new edifice for Takoradi – a modern library, the sort his own nation is yet to see.
The design looks like a bold and futuristic project that only the government of Ghana would have commissioned.
It is not.
Abdul Azeez dreamt it all up by himself and executed it as part of his thesis for a degree in architecture from the Belgorod State Technological University in Russia.
Born and Raised in Sekondi
“I was born and raised in Sekondi. I am from Sekondi Zongo,” says Abdul Azeez from his University dormitory in Russia. I called him early in August 2022 on the phone to speak to him about his architectural design after he posted it on social media.
Designing an eye-popping complex for a city is not something a graduating architecture student does every year, especially across continents. I wanted to know what inspired the young man’s idea and design.
“There were five of us children with my single mother. Because she was a very busy woman, she would often take us to the library in Sekondi and leave us there to read and study all day long. So basically, the Sekondi Library was like my second home; I was always there,” Abdul Azeez told me, as he recalls his childhood with an unusual sense of ease.
Having been a former resident of Sekondi-Takoradi myself, I told Abdul Azeez that his manner was reminiscent of the culture I knew in the twin city of Sekondi-Takoradi.
Two Boys from the Twin City
What was supposed to be a formal interview became a far more friendly conversation, especially as I changed from speaking English to our common Fante language.
Inevitably, Abdul Azeez wanted to know about Absolute Radio, the book I had just written about private broadcasting, how it occurred in the twin city and generated unprecedented human resource development country-wide.
“I remember spending many hours at the Sekondi Library myself, so I can picture the experience you are describing,” I told Abdul Azeez, in an attempt to bring us both back to the main subject.
“I eventually came here (to Belgorod) to study architecture,” said Abdul Azeez, resuming his story.
“I started out without knowing much about architecture, but I practiced a lot on my own. Anytime I designed a project, I always designed it for Sekondi or Takoradi,” recalls the new architect, adding “I designed a school, a mosque and a community centre.”
Before he started taking architecture lessons, he studied for a whole year in order to become fluent in speaking, writing and understanding Russian.
A Design to Fill a Need
“The guidance I received for my final year thesis was to design a project to solve a problem or fill a need in my country. I thought about it, did some research and decided to design the library. I also decided that the library should be situated in Takoradi, because Sekondi still has the old library where I used to read and study,” said Abdul Azeez.
He adds, “the library is big and sits inside a complex to serve a lot of people. Takoradi is busier and has a lot more population so it is more suitable there. I designed it as a regional library, so that even people in surrounding towns and villages can use it. All the big public transport stations and all the roads from these communities lead to Takoradi.”
Unsurprisingly, Abdul Azeez calls the new library, “Takoradi Library.”
A Design With the Sound of Bombs and Guns
I asked Abdul Azeez how long it took him to design the new Library. He reflected a bit and said “It took about five months of work. It was a challenge, but I enjoyed it,” he said.
“What I really remember though is the sounds of the war in Ukraine during all the time that I was working on the design,” said Abdul Azeez.
I was confused and asked Abdul Azeez to explain. It turns out Belgorod is only 40 kilometres north of the border with Ukraine. The city sits on the supply route for Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
“I always see military planes and helicopters flying around and there is a constant sound of bombs going off,” he explained.
Abdul Azeez shared with me on WhatsApp some videos he took of military planes flying close to his school and residence. The hostile noise captured on a mobile phone revealed enough about the horrors of war.
The fact that it formed the soundtrack during his research and design was all the more haunting.
“The noise was constant and often, I am not able to sleep at all. It is very scary,” said Abdul Azeez.
Will the Library Ever Be Built?
Abdul Azeez submitted and defended his thesis by the time I interviewed him. Three days after the interview, he left Russia to return to Ghana and to his hometown of Sekondi-Takoradi with his heroic design.
The five storey building sits in a complex that is 4.2 acres. It features a public park, an area for sports, a fountain and a large parking lot for cars.
The building has has a cafe, stores, office space as well as an Art and Photo studio.
Each floor of the library is assigned to specific age groups. Floors 1 and 2 are for the youngest ages and for all other groups. Floor 3 is for teenagers while Floors 4 and are for adults.
“Spending so much time at the small library in Sekondi as a child taught me the importance of study and discipline. I think I was protected from getting involved in bad company because of spending so much time in the library. That appreciation helped me to design this new library for the Twin City,” reflects Abdul Azeez.
The gaping question as Abdul Azeez resettles home is, will the library he designed ever be built?
That is a whole different question he hopes could be answered affirmatively in the near future.
For the moment, Abdul Azeez, ever hopeful and easy-mannered, looks forward to seeing his design constructed one day in the twin city that nurtured him.
Phillip Nyakpo is the author of Absolute Radio, an inspiring true story that examines the foundation of Ghana’s private broadcasting industry. The book is now available worldwide in Paperback, Kindle, eBook and Audiobook. Phillip writes a blog regularly on www.nyakpo.com.au