Henry David Thoreau, an American essayist and philosopher, once opined that it is not what you look at that matters; it is what you see. This quote emphasises the truth that inspiration can be drawn from or found anywhere, but only if one is open to it. Whether you were ever given a cultural centre as a project topic in design school or not, you must have come across the Heydar Aliyev Centre. A building complex in Baku, Azerbaijan, designed to become the primary building for the nation’s cultural programmes, is said to have been inspired by the continuous flowing calligraphic and ornamental patterns of its carpets and walls. Just like Thoreau aptly conveyed in his quote, inspiration is indeed ubiquitous and one must keep an open mind and heart in order to receive it.

Pioneers like Zaha Hadid and Utzon have demonstrated with their life-long careers that there is miraculousness in the common. As architects and designers, no medium or influence should be off-limits, whether it be nature and its organic forms, the synergy of light and shadows, or ornamentations. Designers are tasked with the responsibility of staying receptive to artistic ideas and movies happen to be the right kind of sources for inspiration.

An architectural review of Adire-Sheet1
Adire’s movie poster_©Adire (2023) (imdb.com)


Adire, a comedy-drama directed by Adeoluwa Owu, tells the story of a prostitute, Asari (Kehinde Bankole), who escapes from her pimp Captain (Yemi Blaq) and relocates to another town, where she takes on a new identity as Adire. As she gradually adjusts to life in Oyo Oke, her former boss finds her, posing a threat to her newfound independence. 

An architectural review of Adire-Sheet2

Architecture as History

Adire is set in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, which is one of the states in Nigeria that still showcases the influence of pre and post-colonial Nigerian architecture. Post-colonial churches were heavily influenced by Gothic Revival architecture, and the characteristics of the movement are evidenced in the church, such as the tall and slender columns, pointed arches, altars, and high painted windows. In the titular character’s house, influences from the British colonial area can be seen in the rectangular floor plan of her house, symmetrical facades, large panelled windows and doors, and the use of concrete for the wall structures.

Designers can learn from this movie that architecture can serve as a historical reserve or archive. Architects and designers can see that evolution does not always mean out with the old and in with the new; it can and should mean—as often as possible—a harmonious blend of pre-existing and modern styles & movements; designs that fuse traditional architectural styles and elements with contemporary principles of design that preserve history and still serve today’s design purposes.


The cinematographer does a fine job of immersing the viewers in Adire’s journey. Adire’s transition from the life she always loathed to the life she craved and has now built for herself, which is a core part of the story, is beautifully captured here. Architects and designers can emulate this successful storytelling in conveying their design solutions to clients. Designers should be able to deliver convincing and intriguing presentations that captivate their target audiences.

Nudge as Design Theory

Adire, the eponymous character, is a fashion designer. Her designs not only solved a constant reoccurring issue in the movie but also fostered and created a community that was greatly needed. Her designs nudged the women of the community to take charge of their lives. This effect is in line with Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge Theory, a concept that proposes adaptive designs of the decision environment (choice architecture) as ways to influence the behaviour and decision-making of groups or individuals (Hansen and Guldborg, 2016; Mongin and Cozic, 2018; Tagliabue and Simon, 2018). A more simplified example is the situation of a door handle. As a designer, your choice of handle design would either nudge a user towards the intended action of pulling or pushing a door. Another example is that, in order to encourage individuals to eat better, healthier food options are usually placed at eye level in supermarkets.

That said, designers and architects can draw inspiration from this movie to create subtle cues that can trigger intended actions from users to achieve the desired outcome or intent.


In some of the outdoor scenes in the movie, there are spaces where people, mostly women, are gathered and involved in one activity or another. What is notable here is the use of vegetation as a sun-shading device, which highlights an aspect of sustainable design. As designers and architects, sustainability in design should be paramount. We must find creative and innovative ways to incorporate natural elements in our designs that not only serve aesthetic purposes but also help curb the over-reliance on artificial systems. Architects and designers should always consider the long-term—social, economic, and environmental—impact of such designs. 

Beyond the Aesthetics

Both the colour gradation scheme in the movie and the choice of colours/material that Adire adopted for her designs worked together towards a common goal of conveying and eliciting responses from their respective audiences. The prior was used to set the different tones and moods in the movie, while the latter was used to reflect the contrasting personalities of the characters.

Architects and designers can learn how to use colour artfully to evoke the desired emotions in a space. Furthermore, they can use colour to direct the users of a space and create a sense of flow and movement.

In summary, Thoreau leaves us with these important words: we are to live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth. We all know that architects are in charge of orchestrating our lived environment, and what better way to be and remain inspired than by life, whatever medium it chooses to present itself?


Adedayo, A. (2024) ‘“Adire” Review: Kehinde Bankole Powers Minimalist Story | The Culture Custodian’, Culture Custodian, 22 January. Available at: https://culturecustodian.com/adire-review-kehinde-bankole-powers-minimalist-story/ (Accessed: 8 June 2024).

Hansen, P.G. (2016) ‘The Definition of Nudge and Libertarian Paternalism: Does the Hand Fit the Glove?’, European Journal of Risk Regulation, 7(1), pp. 155-174.

Zaha Hadid Architects (n.d.) ‘Heydar Aliyev Centre – Zaha Hadid Architects’. Available at: https://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/heydar-aliyev-centre/ (Accessed: 8 June 2024).

Mongin, P. and Cozic, M. (2018) ‘Rethinking nudge: not one but three concepts’, Behavioural Public Policy, 2(1), pp. 107-124.

Tagliabue, M. and Simon, C. (2018) ‘Feeding the behavioural revolution: Contributions of behaviour analysis to nudging and vice versa’, Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, 2(1), pp. 91-97.



Eden is a lover of design and the arts, with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a career in software engineering, she walks the fine line between design and code. Her goal in life is to create and create she shall.