One Good Job Deserves Another- Arc. ’Niyi Adekeye
We bring you our exhaustive chat with the immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Kwara Chapter.
Could you give us a peek into your background?
I was born nearly three score years ago in a humble setting and by the grace of God, I went to school despite my father’s demise at my relatively young age. Providence brought me into contact with men who influenced my formative years. The influences of such men run throughout my life’s story. To crystallize this question, I will particularly mention Prof. Rufus Olawumi Alabi, a father figure and mentor who not only gave me fish, but taught me to fish forty years ago. His life imparted virtues such as diligence, kindness, courage, staying power and much more.
I attended St. Paul’s Anglican School, Omu-Aran for my First School Leaving Certificate from 1964 to 1969, and obtained my West African School Certificate O/Level at Offa Grammar School, Offa in June 1974. I proceeded to the School of Basic Studies, Kwara State College of Technology, Ilorin for Cambridge GCE Advanced Level in March 1976. I thereafter attended the Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba for a Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Honours) in July 1979 and Master of Environmental Design (Architecture) in December 1982.
I am a full member of Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) and registered by the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON). My post-qualification work include being a graduate architect with Omokhodion Associates (Architects & Planners) from November 1982-1983, site architect for SODETEG NIGERIA Ltd. at Mobolaji Accident Ward, New Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi-Lagos from November 1983-1984, senior architect with Echo-Mold Collaborative Partners (Architects) and finally started Apex Consult Ltd. (Architects+Planners) July 1990 where I am the Managing Partner.
What made you choose architecture as a career?
Peer influence among science students in our secondary school days led us into careers in engineering, aeronautics and related courses. My grades were good enough for engineering; I applied to read architecture in the University of Lagos and was admitted without stress. Architecture caught my fancy as a practicable career that would enable me to see the physical results of my work. Later practice showed me the architect’s leadership role and responsibility in a world of collaboration and synergy.
Could you give us a peek into the background of the Apex Consult?
From the outset, my first employers gave me wings for flying with challenging projects which I reckon is a necessity for every venture. For example, I undertook the Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital project as a site architect under a roving manager, which meant I was on my own. I had to grow competencies and capacities in synergy with my colleagues. My master’s degree thesis was on “an exploration into even development through settlements in the rural-urban transition” which meant Lagos was not the ideal place for actualizing such a vision, hence my movement to Kwara State twenty-four years ago.
Apex Consult came into being also because I love taking initiatives based on sound judgment. So Apex got registered in 1992. A major commission came early 1995 in the form of the new St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Oro. I salute that community’s vision, and because it dovetailed into mine, I could empathise with them. This was a community that built such a gigantic edifice relying mainly on self-help. At the successful dedication on Easter Monday, 21st of April 2014, nineteen years after the commencement of the construction, natural ventilation and lighting were so good at most parts of the interior to call for artificial supplements.
When was it started and who are the promoters?
God gave the vision for Apex Consult to me early 1990 and we have on board three other persons who are veterans in their chosen fields too.
What was it like at the beginning?
By the grace of God, we started from very humble beginnings through friends who gave us jobs to design and build their personal residences, and these brought other jobs through referrals based on the satisfactory execution and quality of their own projects. That has been our staying power.
I appreciate my wife, who kept the home front despite the initial challenges and eventually we stabilised when we got the breakthrough. Definitely, a good job will bring another. A good job deserves another.
When I decided to start, I had burnt the boat and broken the bridges, so there was no turning back. My savings from the last job was not much, but like I said, my wife kept the home front. You see, architecture has some peculiar benefits because as soon as a client can pay for his commission, you had some money to tide you for a short while. So it was living one day at a time.
How has the growth and expansion process been?
We moved into a flat in Owoniboys House in 1996 until 2007 when we moved here. During this time, we had acquired some staff. We run a synergistic practice whereby we take on specialised competencies and skills, and deploy our combined forces as the project requires. Outsourcing is the global trend now and it works for us because of our understanding of the concept and utilisation of our own proprietary control systems. Then, there are the booms and bursts, expansion and contraction.
Which is your favourite area of interest in the field of architecture and why?
A cousin once said I must have become a Church architect having heard that I took on a number of Church projects, but the National Orthopaedic Hospital project was a big job where I had early copious experience. We are in general practice, taking on institutional projects, educational and public projects, commercial estates: so I am not limited to any particular area as long as I can deliver in synergy with fellow practitioners.
My passion now is in the area of research which has enabled me to see the growing areas applicable to architecture namely: education, practice and policymaking.
Education, in which there is the need to revolutionize the teaching and practice of architecture in a feedback loop;
Practice, under which we could tuck in construction, project management, materials specification; and
Policy, where the best application of architecture to the society and advocacy for a business friendly environment might generate a nexus for our physical, social and economic systems.
What are the challenges of architectural practice and business especially in Kwara State?
I will quickly aver that Kwara State is a dormitory state. To prove that, the business environment in Kwara State is a government-based one with a small private sector participation calling to be grown. The Kwara Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture is a potentially big player in this matter. Since I discovered that, I decided to join the chamber in my quest for business expansion. The US based Centre for International Private Enterprise has been instrumental to this new vision since a training we received while I was the State Chapter Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (2010-2013).
What would be your advice to the public considering the rampant collapse of buildings across the nation?
I think as a nation we have fundamental defects which are better addressed from the root. Nations in history grew great by the following attributes: central command, weights and measures, and defined codes. Nigeria is yet to imbibe these attributes as manufacturers produce underrated products, clients drop professionals or engage quacks do not understand the codes and such specifications, and quackery festers in development control bodies in the name of creating employment for those that the government could not cater for. Therefore we have a situation where there is no regulation for practice, products or imports. As no patient dictates to a surgeon what to do while on the surgery table: my advice to Nigerians is, to consult with and listen to the licenced experts to minimise building collpase.
Is Apex Consult involved in any other businesses?
Yes, architecture should evolve the socialisation process for the nation, an urban culture, new living standards and even where the private clients allow us to actualise our designs in construction. We are in the process of the creation of an eight firm group that would encompass construction, manufacturing, packaging, materials procurement and even afforestation.
What are your major career highpoints?
My career highpoints will be from the success of Mobolaji Accident Ward at Igbobi, through the new St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Oro and our marching on a housing estate commission that excited our clients.
What Corporate Social Responsibilities are undertaken by Apex Consult?
For now we have been acting in advisory capacity on some private projects such as Church buildings and housing for low income earners.
What policies or strategies have kept your business going?
Training and more training. This is where the research components have been helping us: new materials, new technology and new ways of doing old things and evolving new things in the process.
With over two decades of architecture practice, how would you rate the impact of new technology on the industry?
Three decades of practice. This includes while I was under authority. It is exciting to see the impact of computer technology on the construction industry and the built environment. I schooled in the pre- computer era, but I have been able to convert to ICT. I recently read online that China built 10 houses in one day using 3D printing and that amazed me.
Nigeria with an estimated housing shortage of 17 million units could take the number of years to achieve that and with the available resources, to raise the teams required. There are many promising things to be done and yet, we have to create the social components to match the technological equipment available now. We have not even mentioned the infrastructure deficits.
What should we look forward to from you in the near future?
Ah! Many twinkling bright ideas. Already, certain cities are known for certain functions, even in the context of urbanisation and globalisation. The world has long ceased being casual. You function with your best comparative advantage. We should begin to have specialised cities and of course, in a network offering the best services and being the very basis of the economic growth of the nation.
It’s not you doing just anything, rather you should work with your best capacity and competence, not sponging on the society and the economy, but transforming the social values and caring for the ecology, the society, the environment and the economy in a sustainable manner, value-added being a watchword. The urban regions should evolve into livable communities. Transportation should become revolutionised, not just the dust and fumes we have today. We should have personalised carriers tracking on set computerised courses. This is where computer technology will help in the integration.
Keep on keeping on! »
Jackie Appiah »