Airport City is a growing commercial area within the Kotoka International Airport Development Zone in Accra, Ghana. It is here that Mario Cucinella Architects in collaboration with Deweger Gruter Brown & Partners designed and built One Airport Square between 2010 and 2015. If you stroll along the Airport Bypass Road or Liberation Road, you can’t pass by without this unique building catching your eye.
This mixed-used building houses retail space on the ground floor and ten floors of offices on a total of 17,000 square metres. There are 2,000 square metres of shops and 15,000 square metres of offices. In addition, there are two basement levels with 250 parking spaces. The commercial space serves as a transition between the office area and the surrounding urban landscape. The designers have integrated a large public square where employees and the public can meet.
This public space is open to the northeast side of the site and covered by a concrete floor. The place has been designed to accommodate a large variety of events and activities, as well as exhibitions of permanently installed artworks. By combining all these initiatives with commercial activities, the architects have created a lively space both day and night.
The project uses concrete in a surprisingly light and environmentally friendly way, in opposition to stereotypes about concrete as a heavy or anti-ecological material. The projecting floor overhangs not only give the building its unique shape, but they also act as a cap, protecting the glazed surfaces from direct radiation. The inclined columns on the outside also have a double function. They are inspired by the patterns of traditional African fabrics and the particular patterns of palm bark and give the building a powerful aesthetic. In addition to this, they also provide a contextual solution to climatic constraints by acting as sunshades.
This combination of passive solutions allows the interior spaces to be very luminous and open to the outside while being protected from incident rays at midday and in the afternoon during the summer. The envelope that makes the building unique is therefore the result of a combination of reflections combining form, structure and environmental strategies. The complexity of the structure necessitated the use of BIM technology to optimise information management during design and construction on site, balancing the most advanced value engineering technologies with local tradition.
As the building has a compact shape, a large atrium was designed in the centre to provide light and facilitate natural ventilation of the interiors. Technologies have been integrated to reduce potable water consumption. These include the reuse of greywater and rainwater for toilets.
One Airport Square is the first commercial building in Ghana to be awarded 4-Stars by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), making it the first green commercial complex in Ghana. An emblem of ecological beauty, the project is an example of the new generation of office buildings in West Africa.