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INTERVIEW: The Architect who designed the Nigerian National Church

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Published in Features
Friday, 15 November 2013 22:42


Can we meet you sir?

My name is 'dele Adeyemi, I am the group Principal partner of Darchi Workgroup. We are a team of architects, town planners, interior designers and developers. Our head office is in Ikeja, Lagos.


Where did you train, Locally or Internationally?

I trained locally in ABU Zaria, then the greatest architecture school Nigeria could offer then, I am not sure where they rank today


What are your thoughts about NIA?

NIA is not as political and cult-like on young people feel and from my experience what people from outside think is not what is obtainable.


Really? Have you had insider experience beyond membership?

I was once the Director of Education and secretary of NIA examination board, responsible for Accrediting Universities and running of NIA professional examinations. I served in that capacity for 10 years, and left office in 1991. Then I became General Secretary of NIA in 1991 and served for 2 years, by 1993 I left the leadership of NIA all together and faced my private practice fully


Many young Architects do not see the benefit(s) of membership, are there any?

That's very true! Do you know we have over 20, 000 architects in Nigeria and yet only just over 3, 000 are registered, this is a thing of concern .

The one problem NIA has had is with information dissemination to the public and as such people fear that the process of becoming a member is complex and burdensome, so they stay away. Well, the key advantage of being a member is that you receive messages, insider information on activities locally and internationally on  a regular basis strictly for registered or associate members.


What has been your most rewarding Projects so far, in terms of Local and International recognition?

The Ecumenical Centre in Abuja, we received a lot of comments from the international community on this project


What were your inspirations for the Ecumenical Centre?

Inspiration basically was from God. I know that sounds cliche but how do you explain how we won the competition?

See, four architecture companies were selected randomly to bid for the job and the brief was given with a set duration of 8 weeks, we only entered the competition later at the 4th week and had just 4 weeks to finish. We worked day and night to come up with a mind blowing presentation. I believe one thing that helped was the presence of a complete model of the building, the judges and CAN were blown away by that.


Experience or challenges during Construction

So much diversity in the church brought about so many opinions, in fact the internal politics behind how the church came to a final conclusion can be written in a very big book. As at the time of initiation Olubunmi Okojie was the chairman, there were 2 others after him before the completion of the church. The Project officially started in 1988 and was completed and opened by 2009, spanning a total of 21 years. The project was actually built by 3 contractors, first an Italian Contractor  started it, then Julius Berger continued but it was finished by Gitto Construction.

The need to establish a Christian presence in the new Federal Capital brought about the speed of execution from design to construction at the first stage. As such the Belfry was the first to be built and with this the much needed insignia of the presence of dual religions in the state was set up.

Politics in Nigeria is very crucial to such a project taking off and finishing successfully, as such I must commend two presidents who influenced the completion of the church. General Ibrahim Babangida, who ensured funds were released to CAN to execute the project against all odds and Olusegun Obasanjo who saw to the completion.


Any Critiques on the Ecumenical Centre?

There has been many but the one that stood out was one from an Italian architect who complained that the Belfry was not colorful and that spoilt the design in his opinion.


What elements do you like most in the design?

Funny enough, the belfry, which is highly functional and striking, It towers up to 13 floors in height and has offices on each floor.

What other projects has Darchi Work Group been involved in?

There are several but I will limit them to the popular ones;

1. Ecumenical Centre Abuja

2. Olumo Rock Development, Abeokuta

3. OPIC plaza, Maryland, beside Sheraton

4. Phototech Building, Popularly known as Adebola House in Ikeja as well

5. RCCG Head Quarters Ebute Metta

6. Presidential Hill Estate, Abeokuta

7. Sky Pavillion, Ikeja Lagos.


The Rotating Stage; What is the Idea behind that sir?

I will not say there is any idea particularly, it simply was a decision we had to make as we realized that many different denominations in the church had a firm belief as to where the stage is meant to be positioned based on their doctrines and rituals. The solution was imminent, we needed something that would fit all. So after a trip abroad we met with foreign contractors who came to install the stage and that was pretty much the end of the problem


Any Advice or thoughts on Architecture?

In my days we got inspiration from meeting great architects you read about in books and Papers, today we have less of that happening even with the ease of communication. This is a vital element missing in the education of young architects amongst other things. You will notice that many of the big named firms in Nigeria started out as foreign firms but later due to regulation, indigenes began to co-own them, and other factors forced some of the then practices out of Nigeria. I believe it is good for the foreign companies to be involved but it is about time we had indigenous practices thriving and exploring the possibilities in African architecture or soon more of the foreign ones will return and take over helping us define our landscape.


Thank you very much for your time sir

You are welcome











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