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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Junk architect recycles Ghana's waste
By Claire Gilderson
BBC News, Accra

Sammy Ansah transforms refuse into objects of beauty.

Apartments made from bits of wood and broken tiles are his latest creation in Abelenkpe, western Accra.

"I don't believe in waste. If I can recycle rubbish and help the world, then why not?" he says.

As a child, Mr Ansah was very artistic and loved building things with his father.

This inspired him to study architecture in the US.

Unfortunately, financial difficulties curtailed his studies.

Pine fragrance

He moved into a New Jersey apartment and slept on the bare pine floor.

He was captivated by the fragrance of the wooden floor boards.

"The wood smelt nice," he recalls.

Sammy Ansah with one of the wooden wheels he uses for construction
Sammy recycles the wooden wheels used for storing cables
Shortly afterwards, he returned to Ghana and became aware of countless wooden empty spools, strewn all over the country.

Telephone and electricity cables once coiled around these giant wooden wheels.

When the electrification and telecommunication projects in the rural areas are completed, the wheels are destined for firewood or left to rot.

"It saddens me to see so many waste materials lying around at the mercy of the elements.

"It's money down the drain," he says.

Nuts and bolts

Mr Ansah decided to rescue these empty wheels and turn them into something beautiful and useful.

He travelled to Kumasi in western Ghana and spent two weeks collecting and dismantling 500 wheels, before returning to the capital, Accra.

Detail of house built by Sammy Ansah
Sammy says his work is "like a jigsaw puzzle"
"Most of the wheel can be re-used, even the nuts and bolts which hold it together," he says.

In 1987, his first building project was a Thai restaurant in Accra.

He designed the interior and made all the tables, chairs and doors from the wooden wheels.

Bird shape

The Abelenkpe apartments are even more adventurous.

Front entrance of house built by Sammy Ansah
Projects have included apartments, furniture and a Thai restaurant
Mr Ansah has combined the dismantled wooden wheels with junk from construction sites, broken tiles, burnt tree trunks, bits of china, old paving stones and scrap metal - in fact, anything that people consider rubbish.

He feels the overall effect is very artistic and pleasing to the eye.

"It's like a jigsaw puzzle," he says.

He is particularly proud of one apartment.

Part of the interior, where he has combined bits of wood with a burnt tree stump, resembles a bird in its natural habitat.

The smell of the wood from the wheels also reminds residents that they are living very close to nature.

"The beautiful pine gives the apartments a unique fragrance. They smell like lavender or a fine nice lady," Mr Ansah says.

Expansion plans

His friends and family are impressed with his ability to transform waste into art, tables, chairs, wardrobes or houses.

"They are excited about how I can create something out of nothing. They always encourage me. They call me the junk man," he says.

He hopes his passion catches on.

"My plan is to rescue all the wooden wheels in Ghana and run workshops in construction for those who want to learn.

"My dream is to build schools and hospitals with construction companies who want to make use of all the wooden wheels in the world," he says.

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