OLAJUMOKE ADENOWO

THISDAY Style - - COVER -

Olajumoke Olu­fun­milola Adenowo born in 1968 is an award-win­ning ar­chi­tect, en­trepreneur and phi­lan­thropist. This founder of the bou­tique ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­rior de­sign firm AD Con­sult­ing, based in La­gos, is also a pub­lic speaker, ra­dio host and au­thor.

Adenowo stud­ied Ar­chi­tec­ture from the age of 14 at the Obafemi Awolowo Univer­sity, grad­u­at­ing with a Bsc (Hons) in Ar­chi­tec­ture where she also won the cov­eted fac­ulty prize in 1988. She sub­se­quently ob­tained the first dis­tinc­tion in the MSc. Ar­chi­tec­ture (an all A av­er­age) in the his­tory of the Univer­sity. Jumoke also founded Awe­some Trea­sures Foun­da­tion, a faith based NGO in 1999 to raise trans­for­ma­tional lead­ers which has raised hun­dreds of en­trepreneurs with no­table suc­cess. So far, Jumoke has re­ceived the First New African Woman in Busi­ness Award, been fea­tured in Ar­chi­tec­tural Record, been cel­e­brated amongst Global Women in Ar­chi­tec­ture by The Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects, been fea­tured on Forbes TV, In For­tune and in Forbes Woman. She is also a mem­ber of the Char­tered In­sti­tute of Ar­bi­tra­tors (UK) and a mem­ber of The Cartier Women’s Ini­tia­tive jury for sub Sa­ha­ran Africa. A ro­bust port­fo­lio by all means. She chats to FUNKE BABS-KUFEJI about her great leaps and her keen­ness to im­pact pos­i­tively on the so­ci­ety she lives in. You look fab­u­lous for 50. Any tips on how you main­tain this look?

Thanks so much for the lovely com­pli­ment, I re­ally can’t take credit for my genes which is a huge part of ev­ery one’s phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance. I jug­gle many roles so I need to look af­ter my health. It’s a ne­ces­sity for me. I have a sen­si­ble ap­proach to my life­style – ex­er­cise, and a rea­son­able diet (I take af­ter My Dad’s fam­ily and we are not fa­mous for be­ing slim). Sleep is the one miss­ing bit I am still work­ing on, this com­bi­na­tion keeps your body and mind as ef­fec­tive as pos­si­ble. You grew up want­ing to be a Doc­tor, what made you change your mind to be­come an Ar­chi­tect?

On re­flec­tion I ac­tu­ally didn’t want to be a Doc­tor, it was just ex­pected be­cause I was get­ting prizes in Physics and sci­ence sub­jects, so it was as­sumed I would study medicine. How­ever I had been in­spired by the ar­chi­tec­ture of the Palais Ver­sailles and Paris while on hol­i­day with my par­ents as a three year old and I have a cre­ative pas­sion that only Ar­chi­tec­ture can sat­isfy. Ar­chi­tec­ture is the ideal path for me, it’s the in­ter­phase be­tween art and tech­nol­ogy, it’s a tech­no­log­i­cally func­tional Art, which cre­ates cre­ative shel­ter for hu­man in­ter­ac­tions.

As I grew up, my im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment re­ally ce­mented my de­ci­sion to be­come an ar­chi­tect. My par­ents were pro­fes­sors, so I grew up on cam­pus. The Univer­sity of Ife’s (Now Obafemi Awolowo Univer­sity, OAU.) cam­pus is cer­tainly one of the most beau­ti­ful in Africa - de­signed by Award-win­ning Bauhaus trained ar­chi­tect Ariel Sharon be­tween 1962-1972. It has su­perb ex­am­ples of con­tex­tu­ally sen­si­tive ar­chi­tec­ture. Be­ing raised in such a set­ting fu­eled me with so much en­thu­si­asm and in­spi­ra­tion – in the power of de­sign and the im­pact of time­less ar­chi­tec­ture. You qual­i­fied as an Ar­chi­tect at the age of 19. How have you able to stand out as one of the best in a male dom­i­nated in­dus­try?

Cer­tainly ar­chi­tec­ture was – and still is – a male­dom­i­nated in­dus­try. On my first project when I started AD at 25, I had to su­per­vise a 66 year old con­trac­tor!

As a woman, you have to con­tin­u­ously prove your­self and your abil­ity. It’s im­por­tant not to get emo­tional or rise to the bait – whether that is pa­tro­n­is­ing com­ments or un­fair treat­ment. In the end, hard work, tal­ent and per­se­ver­ance will win the day -es­pe­cially in in­ter­na­tional cir­cles where I see my in­ter­est and my think­ing on Ar­chi­tec­ture is keen.

That does not mean we should be pas­sive. Far from it! That’s why I ad­vo­cate for pos­i­tive dis­crim­i­na­tion for women in busi­ness (and in Ar­chi­tec­ture) to re­dress the bal­ance. Will you say want­ing to strive for suc­cess in all you do is an in­flu­ence of your up­bring­ing?

Cer­tainly my par­ents and their out­look af­fect my paradigm. Hav­ing par­ents in academia means they push you to think dif­fer­ently. To be cu­ri­ous and cre­ative, and I was so lucky to travel widely at an early age. Ex­po­sure to dif­fer­ent cul­tures in the for­ma­tive years acts as a cat­a­lyst for per­sonal devel­op­ment. We draw in­spi­ra­tion from our ex­pe­ri­ence. That is what makes the best art. What is your ul­ti­mate goal con­cern­ing work, what do you want to be re­mem­bered for?

I want to be re­mem­bered as an ar­chi­tect that helped de­fine glob­ally rel­e­vant con­tem­po­rary African ar­chi­tec­ture, and there­fore helped put it on the global map. I be­lieve there is a lot the world can learn from African Tra­di­tional Ar­chi­tec­ture es­pe­cially when it comes to is­sues of sus­tain­abil­ity. I also want my legacy to be that I opened up op­por­tu­ni­ties for young women to break­through in our in­dus­try – whether through of­fer­ing in­spi­ra­tion or through my ac­tive ad­vo­cacy to make the busi­ness land­scape more equal and fair. What are your thoughts on the ar­chi­tec­tural cul­ture of Nige­ria?

To be hon­est we are op­er­at­ing in an en­vi­ron­ment where even the elite strug­gle to de­fine what ar­chi­tec­ture is, right now the so­ci­ety is fo­cused on putting up build­ings and not cre­at­ing ar­chi­tec­ture. There is a groundswell of young tal­ent com­ing through that makes me very ex­cited for the fu­ture. Yet my heart breaks as I see build­ings go­ing up in trop­i­cal Nige­ria with no thought for cli­mac­tic con­text. As ar­chi­tects we are all work­ing in a cul­ture within city plan­ning that is nei­ther strate­gic nor over­ar­ch­ing nor linked to a grand na­tional plan­ning strat­egy. We need to go be­yond the present ap­proach from de­vel­op­ers and plan­ners, and push hard for build­ings with true mean­ing for the ever-ex­pand­ing Nige­rian cities of to­day. That means ar­chi­tec­tural vi­sion based on na­tional iden­tity, na­tional as­pi­ra­tions that af­fects peo­ples lives in a pos­i­tive way, and us­ing our fi­nite re­sources – ei­ther fi­nan­cial or en­vi­ron­men­tal – to cre­ate build­ings which go be­yond func­tion to add real value to the en­vi­ron­ment and so­ci­ety. It’s no se­cret that much of La­gos and even Nige­ria as a whole has many of its ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage crum­bling, or be­ing pulled down to make way for of­fice blocks and lux­ury apart­ments, what is your view on this and how can we pre­serve our her­itage?

It is in­deed a shame. The colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture in Ibadan, Kaduna, Cal­abar, Lokoja, La­gos etc were build­ings of gen­uine sig­nif­i­cance in the story of our na­tion and a mother lode of ar­chi­tec­tural ref­er­ences in terms of con­tex­tu­ally sen­si­tive Ar­chi­tec­ture. Sadly, there is no ex­tant pol­icy to pro­tect and main­tain these build­ings be­cause at the na­tional and state level, Ar­chi­tec­ture is not on the radar, which is a tragedy. We as Ar­chi­tects from the plat­forms of our pro­fes­sional bod­ies need to fo­cus on what mat­ters, and push a clear and uni­fied agenda in so­ci­ety. Our shared his­tory and her­itage is what makes us Nige­ri­ans, so de­stroy­ing it means we are dam­ag­ing a defin­ing part of our na­tional iden­tity. Apart from be­ing an Ar­chi­tect, you have delved into phil­an­thropic work, help­ing dis­ad­van­taged women and chil­dren through your NGO ‘Awe­some Trea­sures Foun­da­tion’(ATF). Tell us all about ATF and why you de­cided to es­tab­lish it?

Awe­some Trea­sures is a faith-based foun­da­tion recog­nised by the UN. It was set up to help shape the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers. Too of­ten there is a cor­re­la­tion be­tween nepo­tism, priv­i­lege and po­si­tions of power. Yet there is a plethora of women and young peo­ple with the ideas and creativ­ity to change the world. They just need to be given the con­fi­dence and sup­port to do so. That’s why I set up ATF and that re­mains our mis­sion. To raise trans­for­ma­tional lead­ers, start­ing with 1000 lead­ers by 2030. We are also part of the Ed­mund de Roth­schild Foun­da­tion’s Fam­ily Phi­lan­thropy Fo­rum. Their in­vi­ta­tion to join the plat­form was enor­mously in­spir­ing be­cause some of the world’s Lead­ing Phi­lantrophic Fam­i­lies are on this plat­form and they are very se­lec­tive. It is val­i­dat­ing be­cause in­ter­na­tion­ally the lead­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions are con­cerned not just about out­comes but meth­ods, repli­ca­ble role mod­els. So far what have you dis­cov­ered about the group of peo­ple your foun­da­tions has helped and what are the com­mon is­sues that put them at a dis­ad­van­tage?

Ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and men­tor­ship is fun­da­men­tal. With­out the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate and the ab­sorp­tion of knowl­edge, a young per­son’s fu­ture will be for­ever ham­pered. And of course ed­u­ca­tion of­fers more than that – con­fi­dence, self-aware­ness and so­cial skills.

Our lead­ers must be rounded hu­man be­ings and a val­ued time at school is the only spring­board for a ful­fill­ing fu­ture. Of course ed­u­ca­tion is not just book knowl­edge it’s the abil­ity to an­a­lyze in­for­ma­tion and dis­till the knowl­edge avail­able into a prof­itable course of ac­tion.

This is what men­tor­ship pro­vides, and apart from our sum­mer camps (the 8th edi­tion just re­cently con­cluded) where we fo­cus on lit­er­acy, nu­meric skills, lead­er­ship and en­trepreneurial skills, we also men­tor teenagers at risk for sex­ual ex­ploita­tion through

As a woman, you have to con­tin­u­ously prove your­self and your abil­ity. It’s im­por­tant not to get emo­tional or rise to the bait – whether that is pa­tro­n­is­ing com­ments or un­fair treat­ment. In the end, hard work, tal­ent and per­se­ver­ance will win the day -es­pe­cially in in­ter­na­tional cir­cles where I see my in­ter­est and my think­ing on Ar­chi­tec­ture is keen.

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