Every year, we interview a handful of designers, discuss their favourite projects and how they created them.
This publication is for designers and non-designers alike to understand that there’s a solid process to good design.
Enjoy the read.
Design x Architecture
Design evolves and architecture, as such, has evolved globally over centuries to respond to climate, health, human physiology and geography. In the past, architects redesigned hospitals, settlements and cities as a response to critical healthcare problems. Spaces were also designed unconventionally to consider the limitations of certain occupations.
Architecture in Nigeria has evolved to be a fusion of different architectural styles from different regions around the world. Initially, as a response to the difference in lifestyle, climate and culture of returnees into the country, our architecture seems to have lost its purpose. Gradually our architecture has lost its identity and does not cater to the history and the culture of the people living in and around it.
However, it’s not too late to redesign cities and buildings that better the lifestyle, health and experiences of people living with it. If we pay attention to the design of architecture, and not just the structural drawings, we can be very expressive with our buildings and improve our settlements.
Principal designer SI.SA
In his work, Seun seeks to tell stories and to be expressive with architecture. With the belief that there are are no Nigerian or African style buildings, SI.SA designs buildings based on their environment. For them, architecture is an immersive experience beyond the visual—it’s about the quality of space—creating emotion, and should be a catalyst for improving cities, not just visually but spatially.
At SISA, he has created an environment where one can design in the university sense, albeit functional—meaning go completely crazy and have fun with your conceptual designs; design with youth but make you develop it so it can be built. All these principles are at the epicentre of every building they design.
"If you understand structure, if you understand MEP, if you understand acoustics, it makes you a better designer."
*MEP - Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing engineering.
JK Randle centre for Yoruba history and culture.
The JK Randle Centre for Yoruba History and Culture, located on Lagos Island, is an attempt to drive tourism and encourage outdoor activities. Its design is deeply rooted in history, and with a massive real estate of 11,000 square metres, the centre is subdivided into 3 parts—the pools, the community building and the park.
The fences that once demarcated the different sections of the compound have been demolished to make it an open park. The exterior reddish-brown (clay-red) swatch tyrolean finish mimics the historical mud houses and pays homage to the Yoruba term ‘Omoluabi’—meaning ‘son of the soil’.
Originally built in 1928, the swimming pool is a restoration project. The poolside features 3 pools—a 25mx12m Olympic standard swimming pool which can be used for competitions and two infant swimming pools. The pools are wrapped by restaurants which serve Yoruba-themed food and a pavilion that can seat more than 100 people.
The community building was inspired by the hall built in memory of JK Randle in the 50s. Before its demolition, the hall was used for shows, theatre, plays etc. by dignitaries like JP Clark & Wole Soyinka. SI.SA redesigned the building to be a treasury for Yoruba history and culture; and it features a museum for cultural exhibitions, seminar rooms, meeting rooms, press rooms, a library, open co-working spaces, a lounge & a gift shop. The exit of the arc-shaped museum leads directly to the gift shop and the lounge. The building is a,so wrapped in a glass façade which houses the names of the 450 Yoruba cities.
Leaning at a 9° angle, the building gains a lot of daylight without letting in a lot of sunlight which keeps the interiors cooler. The building leaning forward is a tribute to progressiveness (itesiwaju). The roof of the community building, covered in grass, serves as a mini-park where people can take walks and enjoy the view of the city. The grass roof cuts 60% of the heat gain from the roof, economizing the amount of energy needed to make the building cooler.
The park also features an outdoor theatre (Amphitheatre) which can be utilized for outdoor plays, shows or exhibitions.
The park, still under construction, is set to be open to the public within a year and will hopefully return the much loved and missed recreational area in the heart of Lagos Island.
"Architecture must pay attention to its environment and should respond to historical principles."
"Architecture can be a catalyst for urban regeneration."
Director at cmD+A
For Tosin, architecture is all about how people experience spaces. It’s about working the senses and is an immersive experience.
“Clients would generally not give enough information about a project so I love to spend time with them to pick their brains. That way I can tap into how they want a given space to feel and design around that feeling. Before it becomes a floorplan, I walk through the space. This way have a first-hand experience of what I see, how light hits the back of my neck, the reflection the floor gives on the wall, and so on. I curate the experience of going through the space and use that to determine the architecture. In terms of my style, I love minimal & clean architecture. I work with colours in moments”.
Her ultimate goal is to create architecture that leaves people with a very strong memory.
The Baha'i Temple.
The Bahá’í faith is a new-age religion that combines the essential worth of different religions and cultural backgrounds. Members of the faith contacted Tosin and her team at cmD+A to participate in a competition to design a regional temple that would serve its biggest African congregation in Kinshasa, Congo. Although they did not win the competition, their entry made it to the final round and it paints a clear picture of how Tosin and cmD+A approach architecture.
Tosin’s version of the Bahá’í temple is based on strong typological principles. The temple which sits on a mini hill features a dome characterized by a skylight with local hieroglyphics. The non-segregated temple is designed without a pulpit as a place for meditation and seats up to 510 people. The master plan also features offices, two car parks, a kitchen, a meeting hall, accommodations and a prayer room. The temple also has nine entrances for easy access.
The familiar shape of the temple is inspired by old African huts. CmD+A reshaped the conical roof to a version of a nonagram with a funnel to allow light into the building. The nonagram is based on the Bahá’í symbol—the Bahá’í nine-pointed star. The mud-red roof is covered in a unique pattern derived from the abstract patterns on Kuban fabrics.
The structure features wrought iron bars that help collect rain into a vat of water, nine of which surround the temple. The placement of the vats gives the illusion of the temple sitting on a pool. The light funnel is covered in tempered glass to allow light in but reduce heat gain from the sun.
The structure features wrought iron bars that help collect rain into a vat of water, nine of which surround the temple. The placement of the vats gives the illusion of the temple sitting on a pool. The light funnel is covered in tempered glass to allow light in but reduce heat gain from the sun. The structure also features louvred windows and expanded window panels to let in a comfortable amount of natural light and ventilation. The louvred windows are angled specifically to ensure dust does not collect or settle. The doors, also louvred, allows for continuous circulation. The seats within the temple are intentionally arranged to face the Qiblih—the location which Bahá’ís face when saying their daily obligatory prayers.
"It was an opportunity to learn about a religion and another African culture that we were not familiar with and to explore design."
"What we took away from the experience is even more than the end product. That’s the beautiful thing about design. Nothing is lost."
THE KUBA KINGDOM IS A CONGOLESE CONGLOMERATE THAT CONSISTS OF 19 ETHNIC GROUP.
THE KUBAS ARE SPECIALLY KNOWN FOR THEIR FABRICS WHICH FEATURE DELICATE GEOMETRIC PATTERNS.
THE BAHA'I SYMBOL (THE 9-POINTED STAR)
Angels and Muse.
Victor Ehikhamenor is a prominent Nigerian artist who has exhibited and installed his art all around the world. He is known majorly for his signature symbols and patterns which are inspired by writings from his hometown Udomi- Uwessan, Edo state.
Tosin worked closely with Victor on renovating an old office flat into art itself. He looked to create a very unique art space where one could live with and inside the art. Part of the art space was turned into a giant piece of art using Victor’s signature patterns.
The art space is sectioned into two (private and public). The private section features a labyrinth portal, a living space and 2 bedrooms. The labyrinth is a dark area that serves as a doorway into something unexpected. CmD+A design the two bedrooms as direct opposites. The first bedroom is designed to express Victor as an artist. Expressing the idea of living in art, the room is covered in patterns illustrated by Victor. The second room is rather minimal with artworks hanging on the wall. Both rooms feature stained glass windows which also serve as pieces of art.
The public section is a multidisciplinary space that can be used for work, exhibitions, shows, etc. The grey-painted room houses cheerful metal portrait sculptures. When the lights go out, the art comes to life. The four-month-long masterpiece was featured in 10th episode of Netflix’s Amazing Interiors.
"Victor pushed beyond the boundaries of normality."
Head Of Design HTL Africa
In his work, he explores unconventional ideas. He loves to approach architecture by first investigating cultural factors that do not directly affect the architecture and then plugging in the architecture. For him, architecture is about responding to time. It’s about capturing a moment in time.
Within a few years, he has designed various types of architecture for top clients and speaks on the subject all over the world.
Iconic mosque, Dubai.
HTL entered into a competition to design a mosque that could stand out among other iconic buildings. The mosque would complement what will be the second-largest tower in Dubai but at the same time stand out as an icon. An immediate problem presented itself: How can you create a symbolic building that can stand out but not distract from the main tower? They answered this question by creating a structure (not a building) that enhances the view of the tower and at the same time has aspirational and historical religious qualities.
HTL looked to design a mosque that derailed from the traditional ‘dome on a box’. Instead, they designed an exact opposite, ‘a box on a dome’ going back to the historical ideology—that a pool of shade where people congregate is a mosque. It features a moving roof that could serve as a typical roof or expand to become a prayer place with a skylight.
The mosque is inspired by worship spaces preceding the dome mosque structures—the palm tree. The shade from the palm trees serves as spaces where people could pray. The mosque features fourteen pillars shaped like palm trees that serve as prayer points for members of the faith. Each pillar features a staircase and lift that takes you to the top of the pillar—an observation deck where one could have an unhindered view of the city and the tower. Each morning, during the call to prayer, the pillars open up to let in light; and in the evenings, after the last prayer, closes to shut out light.
The mosque, wrapped in glass, also caters to tourists of different faiths. The see-through glass ensures that tourists can experience the space without going inside. The site also features a bridge that takes tourists from the entrance to the exit without having to enter the mosque.
"We flipped the plan from 'solid entrapping void’ to ‘void entrapping solid'."
"We didn’t win the competition but it goes to show how we explore design and architecture."
Design x Architecture x Nigeria
"Architecture design is about people first, and should then respond to/create a backdrop for social organizations".
It isn’t news that a lot of our architecture doesn’t cater to our lifestyle, current happenings and current culture. So, how do we better design cities in Nigeria? There are a couple of factors to consider.
Apart from the design of architecture and construction, there are a series of systems that determine the quality of architecture. "Economic, political and social (people) systems are the major determinants of the quality of architecture output that make a city up".
Because schools and hospitals are underfunded, they are badly designed; and the same goes for roads, drainages, public housing, etc. There’s only so much influence that designers can have on the development of a city. Therefore it falls on the government, policymakers, ministries etc. to set a proper foundation that designers can exploit.
Designers (architects) also play a role. Creating functional cities would require designing for the people living in it and their culture, designing for its climate, designing conscious of past and current history among other things. "As responsible designers, we need to design conscious of history and happenings in your environment".
Most of the architecture we live with today was informed by outdated happenings. Now that we are living in the midst of yet another pandemic, stakeholders of architecture have come to realize that architecture must evolve and respond to more recent factors.
Maybe if we listened to health experts and designed accordingly, it would have been easier to contain the virus.
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