Personally, I find architecture to be a way of solving social, mental and environmental issues - creating healthy and sustainable buildings that ultimately enhance the overall quality of life and wellbeing of an individual or area.”
My Name is Deborah Dennis. I'm a 29 year old Architect based in Ghana and I’ve been working in the industry for 5 years. After completing my degree, I began working for an architecture firm through which I received my Charter in 2019. I began working freelance shortly after in order to fully develop my personal architectural style. I Currently work as a Consulting Architect for 3D Gate Real Estate Company and Archxenus.
"Ultimately, I chose Architecture because it's a very creative and practical profession in which you never get bored. "
My interest in architecture started at the age of 9, when I decided that I wanted to become an Architect, despite knowing nothing on how, when or if I could be. It all started when I followed my mother - who was a florist at the time - to deliver some flowers to a female architect. At her home, there was a large drawing table which resembled a small TD Board my brother would carry to school, which I immediately took interest in. I’ve always been fond of arts & crafts. A potter would regularly come to my mother’s garden to make pots and I would spend half the time making small sized pots with him. My dad was also a very handy man. He would craft board games out of card, build a swing, and even made me a hula hoop to show off to my friends. I may have inherited a thing or two from him.
How does your work affect people’s lives and the world around us?
The work of an Architect as the head of the design and build team impacts the environment in so many different ways. Personally, I find architecture to be a way of solving social, mental and environmental issues in the most basic terms. Creating healthy and sustainable buildings that ultimately enhance the overall quality of life and wellbeing of an individual or area - be it, community, town, city, country and the world at large - to me is the whole essence of architecture. To be sensitive to the natural environment; a building is the mind of man, the natural environment is the mind of God.
What route did you take to becoming an Architect?
In senior high school, I pursued a Visual Arts program. I had a few choices for university afterwards; Political Science, Fashion Design and Architecture. I opted for Architecture, as it seemed to align with my passion and my educational history.
It certainly wasn’t an easy 5 years, as I struggled with a number of subjects which I’m still not 100% certain on. In university I majored in Interior Design and Real Estate Marketing and Finance in my final year. I completed in 2015 and immediately found a job with an architecture firm. In the course of my studies, I had been connected to the firm during my vacations and took a liking to 3D modelling. After working for 3 years post-graduation with the firm, I took the Professional Practice exam - which was an intense 6 months - and received my License after passing in 2019.
I then decided to take on a new challenge - taking some time off working the usual 9-6 - to find and develop my unique architectural style. I had struggled with design during my 5 years of study, but immediately after setting out on my own, I identified some elements that came together to form my personal style. I can now say that I have fully defined what that is and I’m working towards using it to make an impact, no matter how small.
As an Architect, what does a typical day at work look like for you?
Taking on 3 roles comes along with varied but interlinking responsibilities. As an Architect with 3D Gate, I work on designs (interiors and exteriors) from inception through to detailing while generating quantities. This takes up the first half of my day. As a Consulting Architect, I do a lot of detailing and site supervision at pre and post-contract stages, along with correspondence with allied consultants.
As a freelancer, my role encompasses the entire design process from inception to completion/handing over.
Much of the skills I’ve picked up revolve around software - Revit, Autocad, Sketchup, Photoshop, Lumion, videography and storytelling in architecture.
Residential Project by Deborah
What are some challenges you personally face at work?
I was fortunate to work in an architecture firm right after graduation. This firm had a higher ratio of women to men and a female principal. I wouldn’t say I faced much of a challenge, as I was constantly surrounded by other women, which was inspirational and liberating. I never really felt out of place. I believe a lot has changed. Many of the gender barriers have come down. There’s a lot more recognition of female architects and a lot more role models.
What kind of people in other professions do you get to work with within your role?
The major professionals are known as allied professionals who form part of the building team. I work closely with engineers - be it structural, mechanical, electrical, geotechnical - as well as quantity surveyors, main and sub-contractors along with the client.
What’s the best thing you like about your role?
I like that I can control and steer the design process. I have control over the development of my immediate built environment and I strive to generate problem solving solutions to pertaining problems. I also like the problem solving process which allows me to explore multiple design solutions. Interactions with clients give me a deeper understanding of people in relation to spaces. I see architecture as the ‘Jack of all trades’. Working on diverse projects for residential, industrial, educational, recreational and hospitality, I get to walk in the shoes of a doctor, a teacher, a father, a mother and a child.
Apart from your day job, what are your passion projects or hobbies?
I started a YouTube Channel (Derby Dennis) as a hobby where I talk about maintaining relaxed hair. As we seem to be in the minority, there’s very little information on the subject. Along with that, I started a Youtube series called’ The Architect Journal - In Motion’ where I take people through my day as an Architect in Ghana. I find that not many people value the work of the architect, mainly because they do not understand or appreciate the processes undertaken to achieve all the beautiful buildings they see. This is my way of informing, enlightening and educating whoever is willing!
This series highlights the unique characteristics of architecture projects from luxury to sustainable and everything in between. This will give potential property owners a glimpse into the design process. By the end of each video, they will have sufficient information on design styles to budget/cost, optional building materials through to finishes, as well as the viewing pleasure of beautifully designed customised homes/properties by architects.
People's first reaction to my role is uncertainty - it doesn’t help that I look younger than I actually am. More often than not, I’m the only woman on site. On first meetings, I sense that I’m usually not taken seriously - It’s a struggle, considering this happens quite often, but once that’s out of the way, trust is built and the process runs smoothly."
Do you think there is a misconception preventing young women from joining the industry?
There certainly is a perception; as this is a male dominated industry, not many women have ventured to it. In the same breath, there are quite a number of women who are thriving and that is more than enough motivation to take on the challenge.
What do you aim to do next in your career?
Ultimately, I want to be an Architect that specialises in sustainable designs, as that’s where my passion truly lies. In the interim, I am taking short courses to open up to the possibilities. A masters/postgraduate course with an intense training in the specialised field will launch me directly into this area of concentration.
BIG small SPACES