ARCHITECTURE – In Conversation With Seun Oduwole

The creative driving force of SI.SA talks about his passion, aspirations, challenges and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the creative driving force of SI.SA how have you been able to remain relevant in view of the ever so dynamic architectural sphere?

SO: I think relevance is relative. Architecture is so broad and subjective, it is difficult to say if one is or was relevant
until after a period of time and consistent body of work is available to judge. With regards to being the creative driving force, I am one of many creative minds in the office. I’m just older than the rest of them so I’m able to pull rank.

 

 

 

 

our approach to architecture has been described as idealistic, kindly shed light on why you have stuck to this path over the years?

SO: Idealistic is one way to define it, our work has been called other words not fit for print… I believe in the power of
architecture to shape not just our cities but human behavior. Architecture, as applied art is fundamentally engaged with the human condition, through it we are able to create the environment we wish to inhabit. Ultimately, what we create should inspire. Our key driver has been an unwavering belief that against whatever odds, we can create work that surpasses expectations.

 

 

As one of the key players in your field ho is constantly looking to push the boundaries of architectural interaction and perception what are your most recent aspirations/accomplishments?

SO: I don’t know about being one of the key players, I am still relatively young in this profession. There are so many architects like OPA Ladega, Ade Shokunbi, Chuka Ihonor, Dapo Akintunde, Jumoke Adenowo, Sanya Otuyalo, Tola Akinkugbe, Koku Konu etc, who have come before us and created the platform for us to express, it would be  irresponsible not to acknowledge their contribution. Immediate aspiration would be elevating the conversation further with regards to what is good architecture, pushing the afro-modernist design agenda, change the perception of Nigerian architects/ designers and creating an appreciation of the work by those genuinely dedicated to shaping our
future cities. I would say that in regards to accomplishments, its very early yet, there is still a lot of work to do.

As an advocate for design led, socially and environmentally conscious architecture, what would you say are your
biggest challenges?

SO: Two challenges: Impatience and fear. Technology and social media have created a warped sense of instant entitlement in today’s society. There are no shortcuts to perfection. It takes a lot time, effort and dedication many  aren’t ready to allow for. As one of my old bosses used to say, “you can’t rush genius”. Any design has to run its course to be truly effective and time is a luxury many don’t afford us. The irony is that many times one ends up  rushing only to end up with a compromised product.

The fear of taking risks or of failure is also a big challenge, which is understandable but has to be embraced if one wants to make something special. It usually takes one brave client to trust you to take the risk. Once you’re able to pull it off and prove the risk worthwhile (without spending too much money), it gets easier to push.

Your passion for developing young architects is very evident in the mentoring that you continue to provide, what advice would you give to protégés and emerging talents who desire to do as well or even better?

SO: We have to pay it forward. We are all shaped and taught from the experiences of others before us. My advice would be to not be defined by the limitations of others. More importantly, it sounds cliché but put in the work to develop yourself every day. Talent is nothing special; everyone has some sort of talent. Don’t get distracted by the hubris of faint praise. Putting the work in relentlessly to turn that talent into consistent results is key. Find your own
voice or style. Research people whose work you admire and learn about their thought process. Learn to think critically and ask questions. Don’t copy and don’t try to be edgy for the sake of it. There should be method to the madness. Read a lot; then read some more, understand that architecture is a journey that takes years to master  and dedicate yourself for the love of it. Instagram likes won’t get you paying work. If it does, you won’t get very far if you’re not skilled.

What exciting new projects are you working on?

SO: Our works are exciting! We approach each project with the same level of enthusiasm, some of which we are not at liberty to discuss publicly, but one I can mention is the JK Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture in     Onikan. It’s many years in the making and we are very excited that construction has started. We hope it will serve as  a catalyst for regeneration and a symbol of good, considered architecture.

Expatiate on the role of architecture in our society

SO: Architecture has always shapedsociety. It is more than four walls and a roof,  well designed buildings are     capsules of time and space. Architecture should always tell a story: of place, period, person, memory or event. It   also serves as symbols for urban regeneration, cultural empowerment, personal statement, or social cohesion. As architects we have a responsibility to shape our future cities, the buildings and also the spaces between the buildings: public open spaces, landscapes, water bodies, the entire fabric of the city.  The power of architecture ties directly into our existential questions of self, purpose and other human indices, manifested in the simple basic   desire for shelter and emotional safety. I’m an advocate of phenomenology so I believe architecture should focus on  the needs of the end user and designed to respond to the senses. Our cities are quite inhuman, populated by many gauche and soulless buildings driven by agendas or developer led, identikit vessels of commerce. A lot of wonderful
architecture was produced in the 70/80’s by firms such as Siji Dosekun Partnership, the Demas, FMA, James  Cubitt, GHK etc but I think the military years and tough economic period of the 90’s/2000’s had a lasting negative effect. We need to re-humanize our architecture, with more focus on craft and delivery. This is why I’m especially elated by the works of people like Ade, Dapo, Chuka, Tola and co, a lot of which is a credit to our cities but is grossly underappreciated.
We need to do more in order to leave a legacy for those who will come after us.

What are you most passionate about?

SO: Architecture clearly, and my motorbike but mostly architecture. I am very fortunate to do this and have met many amazing people who have given me a broader appreciation of what it means to be an architect. Our thoughts and actions have the power to shape lives and cities for decades, or centuries even. It’s a great responsibility and you cannot afford to be half-baked or just fudge it through. I owe it not just to myself but to those who put trust (and a lot of money) in me to be the best version of myself and be equipped with tools to deliver the best possible outcome. Architecture shouldn’t be a path to celebrity or personal enrichment because in my opinion true architecture goes beyond self. I’m also very interested in cross discipline collaboration. I enjoy working with pure designers; interior, graphic or product, trades people or just people who are about the craft and whose magic is automatic because they’ve taken time to master their craft. There is less fluff and it makes work seamless and inspiring. You get in the zone and create beyond expectations, unshackled by perceptions, prejudices, bean counters or clock-watchers. There are so many amazing designers around today and the experience (and healthy competition) makes us all better.

How would you describe your dream project?

SO: Hmmm, a really large, collaborative project like a university campus with lots of designers involved, taking it from master planning right down to detail fit out. Pair up with some of the names I mentioned above with others like James George, Aramide Akinoso, Paps Omotayo and Olumide Ayodele. Partner with other creative disciplines; carve up the master plan; design buildings and spaces in between with a common, cohesive theme. Work the detail right down to the furniture, bed sheets, lamp posts, cutlery, drainage covers, enrolment brochures, website, everything. To have that many creative people genuinely dedicated to a singular purpose, no egos or hype merchants, that would be something special.

Where do you see SI.SA in the next 10 years?

SO: Doing more of the same hopefully. About the project SCISSORS HOUSE, IKOY I LAGOS The client required a standalone 4 bedroom house and 2 semi detached townhouses also. The solution was to situate the main house at the front with own gate and grounds whilst a private entrance for the semi detached units at the rear of the plot.
The generation of the forms were as a result of the study of decosntructing blocks and planes to create interesting spaces. A central atrium with skylight allows light to permeate through to the lobby on entry. A feature staircase acts as the central route through with all habitable spaces either side of it. Private spaces are on the first and second floors. At the top is a terrace framed with 4m cantilevered beams offering an area for relaxation

SI.SA

The core ethos of SI.SA is simplicity. The clarity and unity of purpose to deliver despite the known challenges in the construction industry in Nigeria. We understand that the environment is fraught with challenges which affect the delivery of quality architecture. By breaking down the process, removing complexities and filling in the gaps with intelligent, focused, relentless pursuit of excellence to ensure the vision is never compromised. At SI.SA, we believe successful architecture is determined by the satisfaction of the end user. Form and function are integral but we believe true architecture is a combination of form, function and emotion. We aim to use previously completed buildings executed with the ethos above as a testament to the possibility of beautifully designed and delivered architecture.

 

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