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30UNDER30’s Naa Effia Atswei Adjei on gathering experiences in the long game of architecture

30UNDER30’s Naa Effia Atswei Adjei on gathering experiences in the long game of architecture


Australian Design Review (ADR) recently revealed the 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World for 2023/2024. To celebrate, we are getting to know this exciting multidisciplinary cohort, the passions that drive their work and what makes them tick creatively.

Naa Effia Atswei Adjei is a highly curious architect, driven to understand the everyday impact of architecture on people and the environment. Although early in her career, Adjei already has her eyes on the horizon, eager to soak up different learning opportunities to gain a well-rounded perspective on this profession and the greater purpose it can serve for communities. 

ADR: How did your love for architecture originate?

NA: My love for architecture was first sparked in primary school when I came across a book about traditional Japanese homes. The book was filled with beautifully framed views of traditional Japanese residential architecture. I didn’t know what I was looking at then, but I knew I wanted to learn more. 

Since then, architecture has facilitated opportunities for me to be curious and to learn more about a wide range of design philosophies, cultures, people and other random topics. It is one of the things I really enjoy about architecture – understanding a little about everything and how things can be connected in unexpected ways.

ADR: What does sustainability mean for you?

NA: I believe sustainability is connected to everything we do. Sustainability is not just about the environment. For us to have a sustainable mindset regarding the environment, all other areas of our lives must also be sustainable. 

We must be sustainable in how and where we spend our energy daily, financially sustainable with our money and socially sustainable, in caring about our local, national and international communities. I believe that if we can connect all of these areas, we will be able to embrace a sustainable environment more readily because the mindset would already be in place – an approach based on reciprocity. It is important that we live with the resources we have, rather than just off them.

ADR: Is there a particular project that you’ve worked on that has been the highlight of your career so far? 

NA: Ballaarat Gateway has definitely been the highlight of my career so far. It was a project that included many firsts for me. It was the first design project I was involved in professionally where I took on more of a leadership role as second in command. 

Naa Adjei
Ballaarat Gateway. Supplied by Plus Architecture.

I was given the opportunity to express my creative ideas and defend them in a professional environment. It was also a project that combined two values I am passionate about: working with Indigenous communities and sustainability principles. It was a project where everyone involved was excited, creating an energy that fostered a great working environment.

ADR: What drives your work and what do you hope to achieve in your architecture career?

NA: I want to get to a place where I understand as much as possible about the architecture profession and the different types of architecture. The more I understand, the better I can design and provide improved services to people in order to improve their lives. So, I am hoping to achieve diversity in my career in as many areas as possible. Then as I progress through my career, I can draw on different experiences and apply them in unique ways.

ADR: How did it feel to make it into Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30? 

NA: I was genuinely very happy, and incredibly excited. Architecture is a long game, so it felt very humbling to be recognised this early in my career. I am honoured to be a part of the 30UNDER30 program, and I am eager to see how the program influences my future endeavours.

ADR’s 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World stream is brought to you by major sponsor Neolith, alongside Miele, Interface and Tongue & Groove. The program is also supported by practice partners BVN, HDR INC, SJB, Richard Stanisich, Williams Burton Leopardi, and Billard Leece Partnership. To find out more about the final 30, including their places of work and discipline areas, head to the 30UNDER30 page.

Lead image by Clive Hilliker.

Read ADR‘s Q&A with 30UNDER30’s Ali Whelan on championsing sustainable, liveable cities.


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