Wheel Story: Meet Ghana’s Junk Architect

It’s a truism that what you most loved to do as a child is your genuine calling. Many do not heed this, discouraged by practicality, parents, or personal circumstances. Those brave or emboldened enough to follow childhood passions are usually rewarded with a life of joy-filled work. Sammy Ansah, the ‘junk architect’ behind the Wheel Story House, finds himself among the latter camp.

“I have always been an artist,” Sammy recalls. “People have been admiring my artwork since I was 12.”

Sammy, now 55, learned to draw and build long before even that young age. His father taught him. Equally a successful businessman with unique architectural vision, Sammy calls his father his greatest creative influence.

Not lacking in the validation of his talents or the encouragement to pursue them, Sammy traveled to the United States to study architecture in the mid-eighties. The journey was not without its trials though; he eventually left the program behind. Ironically, at a low point, while he slept on bare floors in a New Jersey apartment, he was entranced by their refreshing pine smell.

Back in Accra, it was perhaps destiny that wooden wheels evoking his favorite New Jersey pines would become his signature building material.

For close to thirty years now, Sammy has been building with the wheel and a multitude of other cast offs. He’s built a restaurant, dozens of stores, and the famed Wheel Story House.

So what’s an average day for the junk architect?

Wheel Story House - Jumia House Ghana

 

“It just depends,” Sammy explains. “If I am in Accra and I see something that needs [me to save it] from becoming firewood, I do.”

“If I have an immediate use for it, I use it then,” he continues. “If I don’t, then I wait for the right time to place it.”

Once he begins a project, Sammy prefers to work in quick spurts and finish within a few days.

Sammy’s work has influenced others to make the most of waste materials. He’ll soon be bringing his methods, particularly his manipulation of the wooden wheel, to the world through online educational courses.

What he’s become increasingly passionate about now is using the wheel to build and furnish schools in rural areas.

“I want to use my talents to eliminate schools under trees,” he says.

That’s the mission he’s pursuing through his nonprofit organization, The Wheel Story Foundation. It seeks to improve the educational environment for children in rural areas while simultaneously educating their communities about the economic and environmental benefits of recycling.

adopt a wheel-lamudi ghana

Like the seeds sewn in him as a child, Sammy’s work is inspiring children to believe in their inborn ingenuity and ability to positively impact Ghana and the world.

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