WHEN Henry William Ssentoogo was still a student at St. Maryâ€™s College Kisubi, his friends did not expect him to become an architect. Even with his unrivalled excellence in science subjects, he never talked about professions like Architecture and Medicine.
WHEN Henry William Ssentoogo was still a student at St. Maryâ€™s College Kisubi, his friends did not expect him to become an architect.
Even with his unrivalled excellence in science subjects, he never talked about professions like Architecture and Medicine.
Rather, his desire was to join Makerere Universityâ€™s School of Education and train as a teacher.
â€œI never wanted to become a physician. I am a lover of humanity and I donâ€™t like to see any human being suffering. In case of an operation, for example, I would die even before my patient did,â€ Ssentoogo explains.
Ssentoogo discussed his â€˜professional nervousnessâ€™ with his guardian, Sasoon, the secretary of education in the Buganda Lukiiko. As an alternative to studying Medicine, Sasoon helped him secure a government scholarship to study Architecture at Nairobiâ€™s Royal Technical College (which later became the University of Nairobi).
During that time, the struggle for independence in East Africa was at its height and studying sciences was not a bed of roses, given the racial sentiments that were prevailing.
The college was being run by Europeans and Asians, some of whom could hardly visualise an African becoming an architect.
â€œWe were only a few Africans and our European and Asian teachers considered us to be academically inferior.â€
â€œOne of them even told us openly that there was no way we Africans, who slept in huts, could appreciate architecture. He said we would not serve in the profession during their time,â€ recalls Ssentoogo.
Because of the low social standing the Africans had in the mind of the Europeans, Ssentoogo and his contemporaries were given a three-month orientation to learn European social graces, including dance and table manners, before they started to do the course.
Ssentoogo was at one time so discouraged by this discrimination that he wrote to the Ugandan government, requesting to be transferred to another college.
He got no response. Thereafter, he vowed to continue with the struggle, whatever the cost.
At one time, he had to arrange with a Goan student, to assist him in the technical drawing subject, where he was not competent. Ssentoogo would pay for this service with a percentage of his allowance.
Despite these challenges, Ssentoogoâ€™s determination to accomplish his mission prevailed. He finished the first part of the course in Nairobi and proceeded to London Polytechnic and later University College, London, where he did the final part of the course. He later joined the University of New Castle, where he did a post-graduate course in town and country planning.
On completion of the course, Ssentoogo embarked on a successful and admirable career, which disproved the predictions of his teachers.
He clearly projected his power of creativity and professional expertise in the beautiful architectural designs of his building projects. These include State House Entebbe, Statistics House, Sheraton Kampala Hotel, Communications House, Workersâ€™ House, East African Development Bank, Bank of Uganda and the head offices of the National Social Security Fund and Centenary Bank.
Prof. Joseph Mukiibi, a contemporary of Ssentoogo, says of his architectural works: â€œSsentoogoâ€™s works reflect his love for beauty. His buildings are not simply boxes but have character. They talk to you from a distance and welcome you to discover them.â€
Ssentoogo says architecture is about harmony, which is why it is similar to music.
â€œArchitecture is a creation of the mind, which is translated into physical form. The duty of architects is to arrange illogical sequences into a logical sequence.â€
â€œLike harmonious music that is appreciated by all people, the elements of architecture must work in harmony and also have the power to impress every-body, literate or not,â€ Ssentoogo explains. As an architect, he works with structural, civil and electrical engineers and contractors to design his creations.
Away from architecture, Ssentoogo enjoys reading, watching sports and listening to current affairs on the BBC. He is passionate about the English soccer team, Liverpool and wrestling.
Ssentoogo is married to Mildred Warugaba and the couple has 10 children. He is nationalistic and has a strong passion for democratic governance and justice. He considers himself a good time manager, outspoken and sociable, but will not tolerate fools.
The Association of the Old Boys of St. Maryâ€™s College Kisubi recently gave Ssentoogo the meritorious award of the association, in recognition of his contribution to the development of Uganda and Africa, through architecture.
Ssentoogo Fact File
The architect behind Kampalaâ€™s Statistics, Workersâ€™ houses