John Nsiah speaks to Involved Magazine on career and recent promotion at HTA
"It is important for the youth to be able to see that there are people like them up there."
John Nisah speaks to Sarah Osei at Involved Magazine where he discusses his career path from receiving a picture book of great buildings and architects, growing up in Ghana and going to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, School Of Architecture, Kumas to recently being promoted to New Business Partner at HTA.
Sarah Osei: So let’s start off with you, what is your role at HTA?
John Nsiah: I’m a partner for New Business. I’m responsible for managing all the work winning activity of the practice, but my role has sort of evolved from just being about work winning. My role at HTA is really about new business development and networking activity related to trying to find new business. It’s about trying to position HTA in the best possible way to be able to satisfy our new and existing clients as well as finding new opportunities for the practice where we can put to use our best skills.
We are a housing practice. Our ethos is really about making great places for people to live. So it’s finding like-minded clients that really want our services, working with communities across the UK, to be able to deliver the best possible housing that we can deliver for them. It’s a nice flexible role which enables me to be at the forefront of what the practice does. It’s not strictly architecture, even though I’m a trained architect, but my role has changed every sort of five years or so in significant leaps and bounds and that has revolved around the growth of the practice. The role gives me the flexibility to be involved in projects from the start, it gives me control over what the practice does.
SO: You said you studied architecture, tell me a bit more about how you got to where you are now.
JN: I was interested in architecture from a very early age. I got given a picture book of great buildings and architects, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater left a lasting impression on me. From then I knew I needed to be an architect and so growing up in Ghana, I ended up going to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, School Of Architecture, Kumasi. At the time, the school was the only one in sub-Saharan Africa accredited by the Commonwealth Association of architects so when I relocated to the UK, it was a straightforward transfer to complete my part three exams at the University of Westminster. After that, I worked with a practice who was focused mainly on hotels. Unfortunately, the recession hit and I was made redundant.
Now looking back, oblivious to race issues back then, it’s very clear that our architectural tutoring and historical references were of white architects. So all the imagery we saw was to deal with the greats that you would learn about if you’re doing architectural history in the UK. Whilst I was training, there was a white architect practising in Ghana, called Kenneth Scott who did some notable buildings in Ghana, and his own house and that inspired me a lot.