Within the discourse of history, society has repetitively assigned roles and responsibilities to various genders to construct and retain identities within its realm. From homes to work-spaces have often defined traits which each gender should possess to fit in the socially constructed ordinary. Henri Lefebvre describes this best with his remark: “There is Politics of Space because Space is Political”.
The discipline of spaces—Architecture, has also been patriarchal, where women were settled into inferior folds. Despite that, there are notable women personalities who break the boundaries of the designed ordinary, one of such personality is Olajumoke Adenowo, tagged as “Africa’s Starchitect” by CNN and as “the face of Architecture in Nigeria” by the Guardian who believes that empowered women can and should empower other women.
Now an architect, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, a public speaker, radio host, and public speaker, Olajumoke Adenowo was born on October 16, 1968, in Ibadan, Nigeria. Olajumoke was always delighted by the dimensions of Architecture, as she started traveling with her parents in the early years of life, she developed a perceivable lens about design and buildings. Always keen on learning, she went to Federal Government Girls College, Oyo to perform her secondary education where she received several awards including Best Overall Student in 1982.
Later, to accomplish her passion she joined the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture at the age of 14 and graduated at 19 with an excellent academic record. She completed her Master’s degree in Architecture from the same university and gained several records and she was also recognized by the International Biography Centre, England in their “Who will be Who in the 21st Century” publication.
Her mother, Olufunmilayo Oloruntimilehin instigated her towards her goal, as she raised her to believe that every individual has distinct capabilities that must be developed irrespective of their gender, and they can aspire and accomplish whatever they desire by breaking the boundaries of the socio-cultural norms that they are inherent in.
She believes architecture is about identity and according to her no body of work can define the identity of Africa, that is there is no “African Architecture”. To her, the continent of Africa has not yet made a significant contribution to a very important discourse of Architecture, where something is unique to their socio-cultural settings and has evolved from their rich architectural heritage. There still lacks global attention in the field of architecture, unlike African music and literature.
She thinks African Architecture should reflect the socio-cultural persona and history of the continent, her initial research demonstrates that each culture has a lot to instruct the future especially about sustainability. African Architects should begin to evolve what works for our huge and diverse continent. For her architecture is just not a copy of a copy but a system that unfolds reality with each layer.
From socio-economical, diverse climates, political economies, cultural settings, and available technology each should be counted in the aspiration of the future and to eliminate insecurities. Though she has already designed and executed over 70 buildings, she would want to design an iconic building that becomes the symbol of Nigeria, defining its identity.
She invests in distinction and deems in innovation; passion, creativity, excellence, and creativity become four essential ingredients to any kind of design process. The purpose for her must be pre-determined, to her details matter not only in the solution but in the understanding of the problem that needs the solution. There should be a definite amount of faith in the cause and someone should enjoy and should be willing to invest their all in it, that is to her passion is non-negotiable. She was once turned as director of a project for which she was appointed Lead Technical Partner, as she followed and invested more than even the clients.
Women according to her should be ready to work four times as hard as a man so that the client may not point on to the question of if they are “he” or “she”. No one understands the women as other women do, she believes despite class, wealth, and ethnic differences, there are certain similar grounds which women have in their professional life.
To her, each woman has it all in themselves, be it a career or be it a family, they are capable enough to balance both but there is also some real challenge they face to outstand that male-dominated crowd. She says women’s seasons may be different but nowhere this implies that one should give up on her vision or her family, they just need to be more flexible and innovative. They should know the purpose they are born for and as the solution to their generation.
Work and Career
Her passion and enthusiasm for Architecture and Design always kept her moving as she revealed in her CNN interview: “I was always ready. I would be at the office at 11 pm on Sunday when other girls were dancing or something.” She designed her first building at the age of 23, under her boss who was the President of the International Union of Architects, she got the unique opportunity to do the Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja. This became a huge landmark in her career.
Later in around 1994, she established her own company, AD Consulting, an interior, and architectural firm. She did a huge diversity of work from private houses to educational facilities to corporate and financial institutions including Nigerian government buildings, Coca-Cola, L’oreal, and banks. Her buildings were always the reflection of her cultural heritage linked with meaning and identity, in consideration of various factors such as climate, socio-economic sphere political settings, etc.
With that, she is also passionate about national development. In 1999, she established the Awesome Treasure Foundation to develop and train leaders for national development. The foundation hosted over 911 summits, educated nearly 1,000 inner-city kids, and empowered over 11,000 women over the last 15 years in Nigeria and she anchors a weekly radio broadcast on Classic FM, ‘Voice of Change’ to allow youth to question their leaders and hold them accountable. With that, she is also the author of five published books that is, The Mother’s Prayer Manual, The Mysterious Seed, Secrets of Financial Increase, Designed for Marriage, and Covenant Forces.
She has received several local and global awards for her determination and passion towards her job and the cause she believes in and thus becomes an inspiration to people not only in Nigeria but all over the globe irrespective of the discipline and gender they belong to.
1) Lauren Said-Moorhouse, f., 2021. Olajumoke Adenowo: Nigeria’s star architect on success – CNN.
2) Cartier Women’s Initiative. 2021. Olajumoke Adenowo. [online] Available at: <https://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com/jury/olajumoke-adenowo> [Accessed 4 April 2021].
3) PR2J3C4 – Nigeria @ Her Best. 2021. Olajumoke Adenowo. [online] Available at: <https://the234project.com/people/nigeria/olajumoke-adenowo/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].
4) Burnt Brick Media. 2021. Burnt Brick Media. [online] Available at: <https://burntbrickmedia.wordpress.com/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].
5) Woman.NG. 2021. Woman.NG | Home. [online] Available at: <http://woman.ng/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].
6) Otas, B. and Otas, B., 2021. Women in Architecture: Olajumoke Adenowo Africa’s ‘StarArchitect’. [online] The New African Woman. Available at: <https://nawmagazine.com/13852/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].