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Architecture is… (I)

The past few months have been a bit of a roller coaster for me, I recently finished grad school and I’ve been job hunting. For many people, job hunting is probably quite straightforward, but for me, it has been a long winding journey. This mostly because being a “jack of many trades” there are many paths before me. I could be a graphic designer, I could move to product design, I could be an architect, or even do a PhD in architecture.

On most days, I feel like I have lost a few years as a designer doing a masters in architecture instead of something more relevant. In response to that thought, I would say my years in Lincoln have helped refine my design thinking and ideation process. My masters degree has led me into the beautiful world of research, something I thoroughly enjoy (which led to the creation of this blog) and so I am considering a PhD (I even got an offer). With these two completely distinct fields, little old me is left in the middle to try to figure out what to do with her life. I don’t think this is the kind of FOMO that people talk about.

To properly figure things out, I need to clear my head and possibly examine my journey into and through architecture so far. I am hoping that I am able to do this whole thing as a series and maybe unpack my design journey next. I hope you enjoy it.

This is an essay I wrote this time last year, hence some of the references to my final project

I did not plan to study architecture. Up until my penultimate year of secondary school, my response to the enquiry about my career choice was Medicine, but my parents and I never really agreed on that career choice so we eventually settled for architecture. I went with the flow and did well in school which was a plus. The first two years of university were a blur. I knew the basics of architecture, as the art and science of designing, constructing and maintaining buildings and I had also been introduced to some other components such as landscape architecture and Interior design. However, I never really felt that architecture could transcend building design especially in the first two years of my undergraduate education.

In the summer before my third year of my Bachelor’s degree, I interned at a Design practice in Lagos and there I gradually began to see architecture beyond just building design.  It became ‘personal’. My understanding was that an architect should also be able to curate and design experiences within his buildings (in a way exploring the immateriality of architecture). This thought was mostly inspired by relating what I learnt during class to what I was exposed to at the practice. I was driven by the study of ancient architecture where the different peoples, cultures, and ages used architecture as a means of expressing what was most important to them. The Egyptians, for example, held their religious beliefs really dear. Hence, their architecture sought to show how humanity paled/diminished in comparison to divinity. They were able to achieve this with the proportions of their buildings and heavy symbolism that could be seen in many of their temples and the pyramids which they are so famous for.

As I continue to progress with my architectural education, I have interacted with and had many influences, Initially, I was majorly influenced by what I saw in pictures and books and had no substantiated backing, but as I matured my hunger grew and I sought to understand the why and how so that my design could truly have meaning. At the initial stage, design was mostly a copy and paste thing for me but as my understanding grew, it became a process of observation, understanding and adaptation, because I knew that architecture could only really truly be useful and properly appreciated if it served a purpose, met a need and was relevant to the people that were identified as the target users, that is, had a context.

The direct result of this is that I have been able to craft my own design process, which is a series of steps consisting of research, conceptualisation, design and detailing or specification. As I worked on more projects, I found that the research never really ends. I also discovered that you can never really solve all problems in design/architecture. this discovery was reemphasized when I read Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. in the book, he stated that “all problems can never be solved…Indeed it is characteristic of the twentieth century that architects are highly selective in determining which problems they want to solve.” He went on to use Mies van der Rohe as an example with a statement on how ineffective or “less potent” his buildings would be if they solved all the problems. From that and my own observations, I came to the conclusion that the mark of a good architect can then be the ability to identify the various design problems, prioritize them and solve accordingly. 

Currently, my philosophy of architecture cannot really be expressly defined and is presently influenced by social-economic contexts as well as the environment, particularly in my home city- Lagos, Nigeria. These triggers had an influence on all my modules last year, and it is my hope to continue with this in the current year and possibly to the doctoral level.

At this juncture, I just have to break it. Please stick around for Part 2!

If you’ve survived the ramblings in my head to this point, you’re a superstar. I wonder if any of you multitalented superhumans are struggling with something similar, I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for putting up with me


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