The accidental Architect shares the story of an architect who started out without the intentions of being in the field of architecture, some of us know very well how it feels to be given a course of study different from that which you are passionate about but in this case our writer had to sink or swim, she probably almost drowned as architecture is not a course to stumble upon, it is not for the feeble minded or the man that loves sleep neither is it for the glutton. However, this story is a story of success, of sheer determination through tough learning conditions and a proof that sometimes we do not know what we are capable of until we look through the right lenses. I will like to introduce to you Ms. Tolu Tokun, ANIA, PMP.
It's rather hard to go back in the days when it all started, it is even harder to put my thoughts together as I should because I am not a writer. However, I will try, someone out there may just need to read this.
When I wrote JAMB in 2002, I had the intention of studying medicine and I was determined to do just that so I studied hard, I even got into a tutorial centre and gave my best in it. When I got admission into Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife, I found that I didn't make the cut off for medicine so I was given building technology. I was heartbroken and ready to wait another year to rewrite the 2003 JAMB exam. At the time my admission letter arrived, my father was not in town but when he came back, he insisted I pursued the admission I had gotten, even if I wanted to still rewrite JAMB. That was how I found myself in OAU Ile Ife.
By the time I got to Ife, it was really getting late for 'freshers' registration. I needed to hurriedly confirm my admission and as such I went to the Dean, Faculty of EDM (Environmental Design and Management) and told him to help me, he was a friend to an uncle so he looked into my case. He told me to pick another Department, one that I liked, but to be candid none seamed appealing, how could I drop so far from medicine to these bricklayer professions? I thought to myself. So standing right in front of his office the man gave me Architecture, because he felt that was the best department...and that was that!
It was downhill from there, from the backbreaking freehand drawings under the sun, to the spilling of ink all over myself, to White House Down, to the late nights, to the Tsunami in 200 Level where almost everyone in school had a steep drop in CGPA, I was hit hard and felt I could not continue. The one thing that kept it all together was the spirit of unity, friendship and serene environment Ife had to offer.
Interestingly, I wouldn't say accidental now for me anymore. That may have been what I felt then, but I have found a niche in architecture that has made me realize how important my architecture journey was to building my career. By the time I was finally through with school, I realized I wouldn't be able to go anywhere fantastic with how the school of architecture rated me. I knew I was definitely more than the level they had rated me, so I decided to reinvent myself. I went into project management and got a certification in PMP. I worked as a project manager on some projects for about a year, then decided to challenge myself a little more. That was when I went into interior design.
Learning interior design wasn't abstract for me because it was something I naturally flowed with. I could do anything to learn it as a profession, that was why it was easy for me to travel every week to Lagos for a year. So, for about a year I was travelling Lagos - Ibadan on Thursdays and coming back Sunday mornings so I can resume at work Monday morning then work to Wednesday etc. Eventually I finished my program in 6thsense interiors, and resigned from my work. Ever since, I have been into interior design professionally. That is the most exciting job I do now!!! However, I still do architectural drawings here and there, but I don't get as excited as I do when handling interior projects.
Many today do not understand, why I wouldn't be excited about architecture jobs, because they feel that is what I studied. But at the risk of sounding cliche I will say this, - there's really something about deriving pleasure from what you do. I have found that in painting peoples spaces, getting furniture to match the space, fixing their curtains, drapery and all kinds of vertical blinds, suggesting themes for my clients and managing projects for a living.
I love to organize people, projects and arrange spaces.
I'm still in the process of being an Architect, as the journey really never ends. I hope to do my NIA full membership pretty soon. Finally, you know why I wouldn't say 'accidental architect' any longer? - because I needed to go through the frustrations and discipline of the archi-studio in Ife to discover an aspect of architecture that I LOVE!
By Tolu Tokun
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