Ghanaian practice Mustard, headed by Alice Asafu-Adjaye, is part of the 2021 Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory. Following an approach that feels contemporary, yet remains tied to its locale and feels inherently of its place, the young Accra- based studio has plenty in store – from private residences, to museum work. 

Who: Mustard

Mustard was born in 2015, ‘in response to a pressing and increasing need for architecture and design that responds to the natural environment in Africa (Ghana and Nigeria specifically), and in reaction to a growing demand for beautiful spaces and objects with sustainability at its core, by an increasingly discerning clientele in the region’, explains the studio’s founder Alice Asafu-Adjaye. The architect, who trained in the UK before relocating to Accra to set up her practice, draws inspiration from the region’s rich cultural and geographical landscape for her designs. 

Asafu-Adjaye’s portfolio spans commercial, residential, recreational and cultural projects – the ongoing refurbishment of the National Museum of Ghana is among her high-profile current works, while a number of private homes, such as the Compact Lap Pool House (see below) and a private villa in the heart of Accra, are set to complete this year. 

‘The focus of all our projects hinges on the creation of spaces that are inclusive, and have community at their core – be it the communal spaces shared privately by families, or communal spaces created for celebration, cultural and commercial use,’ she says. ‘Our passion for art and design, and keen interest in fashion and photography inspires our architecture, resulting in modern, classic, practical, durable and stylish designs.’ Asafu-Adjaye is also an elected council member for the RIBA, representing the Middle East and Africa.

compact ghana house clad in timber

What: Compact Lap Pool House

Located in the hip yet quiet residential area of Tse Addo area in Accra, the Compact Lap Pool House stands out among its neighbours. It is not through size. Sat on a plot of just over 360 sq m, the two-bedroom property is compact and discreet. Spanning two levels and a bijou courtyard, what the house may lack in scale, it gains in architectural flair, bespoke quality and attention to detail. It can also provide a prototype for replication, being able to adjust for other, similar boutique plots across Ghana, explains its architect. 

The house, designed by Alice Asafu-Adjaye and Mustard, is the private home of an artist and an architect, who are avid swimmers. ‘The clients have a large art and sculpure collection, and are keen swimmers, with one taking part in competitions,’ says Asafu-Adjaye. ‘The brief required the living (interior and exterior) spaces to function as galleries, with a lap pool at the centre of their daily routines for exercise, relaxation and entertainment.’

The design, a construction that uses simple forms from locally sourced materials – such as laterite, stone, grass reed, timber, terrazzo with local granite – ticks all the boxes, embracing the outdoors and offering a range of clean, tactile surfaces and settings, while also minimising reliance on artificial lighting and cooling. Conceived to be entirely naturally ventilated, the house adopts passive design features, including a louvre system that takes advantage of the region’s prevailing cross winds.

minimalist interior of compact Ghana house by Mustard architects

Why: Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2021

Conceived in 2000 as our index of emerging architectural talent, the Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory is our magazine’s annual listing of promising practices from across the globe. The project has, over the years, spanned styles and continents, while always championing the best and most exciting young studios and showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm. Now including more than 500 alumni and counting, the Architects’ Directory is back for its 21st edition. Join us as we launch this year’s survey – 20 young studios, from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the USA, and the UK, with plenty of promise, ideas and exciting architecture.

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contemporary double height interior of compact Ghana residence