The Joy of Designing an Off-Grid Tropical Courtyard House

As someone passionate about design and architecture, I’ve always dreamed of building my own home and living off-grid.

Paul Boakye
6 min readFeb 17


My journey to designing a sleek and modern tropical courtyard house began many years ago while travelling through Ghana. I was struck by the loss of traditional housing forms in that country’s metropolitan centres, which led to a desire to create a modern self-built home that could pay homage to these conventional forms of housing. Through my extensive travels, I had come to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of traditional living and sought to bring that spirit into the home I would build for myself.

COURTYARD HOMES THROUGHOUT HISTORY: 1 Domestic compound hierarchy: Tongo — a Tallensi settlement. 2 Village compound structures — Larabanga village. 3 A modern compound home.

I had settled on designing a central garden surrounded by connected living quarters. This type of design I now know as a compound house, reflected many of the communal structures I saw on my travels through West Africa. Many years passed, and I refined the concept into a courtyard house, which reminded me of my time growing up in the Caribbean as a boy.

But What is a Courtyard House?

The standard Ghanaian courtyard house has numerous private dwellings arranged around a square. Each home belongs to a different relative, with other properties developed behind this arrangement to fit additional family members as required. But the courtyard house is common globally. It is a recognised housing type often built around a central green space and used by extended families to provide shelter and security in a communal setting.

Modern homes in Ghana, however, have simulated the European and American detached and semi-detached dwelling forms, focusing instead on the nuclear family setup.

My South Aburi Hillside Plot

Situated less than an hour’s drive inland of Accra, the green and breezy hills of Adamorobe (more popularly known as “Aburi South”) have long been a choice destination for local day-trippers, wealthy property developers and expatriates wanting to live or hang out in a relatively cool malaria-free part of town.

The residential double-plot with full title, registration, and a 100-year lease measures 100 x 161 square feet…



Paul Boakye

Often found in far-flung places reading Walter Mosley with a rucksack on his back.