Ground was broken last month for the new $4.5 million Embassy of Ghana to be built at 3512 International Dr. NW, in an enclave of embassies in the Van Ness area.

The project was conceived 12 years ago, when officials at the embassy retained Thomas Wright of Wright and Rubin Architects, a District firm, to formulate lavish plans for their new headquarters.

But for a variety of reasons, those plans had to be shelved.

"The process of getting approval, economic conditions in our country and the fact that our government has changed three times in the past 12 years was a contributing factor to the delay," said Ansu Osei-Boateng, first secretary of administrations for the embassy.

Currently, the Embassy of Ghana is located at 1460 16th St. NW, a building that formerly housed the Cuban Embassy.

That building has deteriorated in recent years, Osei-Boateng said.

When the contracting job for the new embassy was recently reopened, E.A. Baker Co. Inc.'s plans came within the budget for the embassy.

The new four-story, 37,000-square-foot building will be based on Ghanaian custom, but with a different concept, Wright said.

"Where they would have a village around an open square with a podium, this building will have a four-story atrium with a skylight."

Other features include stages to house "talking" drums, pedestals for ritual libations and an elliptical staircase simulating a 44-foot-high tree trunk with treads of wood for steps.

The project is expected to be completed by September 1988.

In other developments in commercial realty: Gardner, Carton & Douglas, a law firm, leased 22,500 square feet at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW from Cadillac-Fairview. Medical Legal Consulting Service leased 15,790 square feet at 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Bethesda, from Alan Kay Cos. Inc.