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Why Study History?

Monday, 19 October 2015 15:04

                               Why Study History?                 

 

Architecture students are usually disenchanted at the thought of having to take courses like Physics, Mathematics, Structures, Surveying, etc. For people like me who were just thankful to finally be free from Chemistry, I couldn’t care less about any of the other “unnecessary baggage” I’d have to add to an already unbelievable workload. Some people didn’t take this as well. So pained were they on discovering that they’d have to take a class in Architectural History nearly every semester from our second year that they would exclaim, “Why in the name of all things sane should I be reading about people and buildings that existed hundreds of years before my grandparents were born?” The frustration grew worse when we started memorizing dates with the suffixes BC and AD, learning to sketch ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian masterpieces and learning all those long Italians names (Gianlorenzo Bernini, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni,  Giacomo Ballá…see what I mean?)

However, I have come to discover that studying History doesn’t just give you edge over your friends so you can leave them feeling totally floored at the end of a conversation. I believe there’s more to Architectural History than just people, places and dates. History in a nutshell is a record of what is done, what is said and what thought- a record of the past is. History of Architecture, therefore, is a branch of Architecture concerned with recording and analyzing built forms of a period of time in the life or development of a people or place. Why is History a part of an architect’s formal training? Below are a few of the reasons I believe Architectural History and it’s study are important to architects and architects-in-training:

 

History corrects, amends, improves and directs.

 

“We have need of history in its entirety, not to fall back into it, but to see if we can escape it. For a people to be without History, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory—condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and

condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of recollection.”

–Henry Steele Commager (1902 - 1998)

 U.S. historian.

As the saying goes, “it is good to learn from your mistakes, but it is better to learn from the mistakes of others. Most of the problems Nigeria faces today are due to the fact that History has been disregarded by the government and by the people. We fail to realize that improvement/ advancement is built on or through lessons learnt from the past. It is not surprising countries like the China are among the leading developed nations in the world today- because they cherish their past and cultural heritage. Even with the rate of technological advancement, these nations still find ways to incorporate their art and culture (and consequently ancient architecture) into new innovations. Par example, what would “china-town” be without They do not totally abandon “old” materials or building techniques as is the common practice in Nigeria, but look for ways to improve them. History also provides direction as it prevents us from venturing on a proverbial ‘wild goose chase’, in search of something entirely new, something that has never been done before, instead of first seeking to improve what already is.

 

History inspires.

Reflecting on how people in ancient times achieved so much with so little ought to leave just about anyone astounded. The hanging gardens of Babylon, the Pantheon, the Parthenon, the Burj Al Arab etc. are examples of monuments that defied the speculations of skeptics and critics.    Studying these great masterpieces, you become convinced that nothing is a big enough excuse to dub an idea “impossible.” Watching a documentary on how the Parthenon (ancient Greece) was designed and constructed during History class one day, you could just read the looks on our faces that we were absolutely stunned at how at every stage, when a challenge came up, they would find a way to work around it without significant alterations to the initial idea. The same goes the Burj Al Arab, amongst others, through which I came to understand the import of Theory of Structures as a course. It shows that the architect must at least know something about everything and everything about something.

 

Discovery.  

 

 “We're dying from not knowing and not understanding our past.”

Jacques Bainville (1879 - 1936)

French journalist and historian.

 

 

 

I would never have discovered Nigeria’s own “architectural diversity”. Before taking a course in Nigerian Traditional Architecture, I had only heard the word ‘diversity’ in the context of culture (food, dressing, language etc.) but after being taught about Vernacular Architecture, my mind was opened to how different tribes have developed their own different architectural styles. I am now not only aware that people in rural areas live in huts/ mud houses but understand the “how, why and where” of certain building forms I must have seen but never really paid attention to.

In close, here are few other thoughts on History and its importance:

 

      The supreme purpose of history is a better world.

Herbert Hoover (1874 - 1964)

U.S. president.

 

      History has no rubbish heap.

Attributed to Louis Blake Duff (1878 - 1959)

Canadian journalist and writer.

 

      It is ignorance that causes most mistakes. The man who sits here ought to know his American history, at least.

Attributed to Harry S. Truman (1884 - 1972)

 

      It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.

Robert Kennedy (1925 - 1968)

U.S. statesman.

 

      I believe that history has shape, order, and meaning; that exceptional men, as much as economic forces, produce change; and that passé abstractions like beauty, nobility, and greatness have a shifting but continuing validity.

Camille Paglia (1947 - )

U.S. academic and author.

 

      History, too, has its uses, such as the provision of a 'usable' past.

Edward W. Bennett 

U.S. historian.

 

      History, in illuminating the past, illuminates the present, and in illuminating the present, illuminates the future.

Benjamin Cardozo (1870 - 1938)

U.S. Supreme Court justice.

 

      History is the torch that is meant to illuminate the past to guard us against the repetition of our mistakes of other days. We cannot join in the rewriting of history to make it conform to our comfort and convenience.

Attributed to Claude Gernade Bowers (1878 - 1958)

U.S. historian, journalist, and diplomat.

 

By Architects, With Architects and For Architecture

A collection of thought-inspiring quotes by architects and

 about architecture.

 

 

When we build let us think that we build forever.

John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)

British art critic, writer, and reformer.

The Seven Lamps of Architecture, "The Lamp of Memory"

 

 

Monuments last much longer than words. Civilizations are remembered by buildings. There's nothing more important than architecture.

Philip Johnson (1906 - 2005)

U.S. architect.

 

 

We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tin-horn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.

Anonymous

Referring to the demolition of Pennsylvania Station, New York.

New York Times

 

A house is a machine for living in.

Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965)

Swiss-born French architect.

Towards a New Architecture

 

A structure becomes architecture and not sculpture when its elements no longer have their justification in nature.

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 - 1918)

Italian-born French poet.

 

It is not the sense of height, or breadth or length or depth that is stirred, but the sense of immensity...After seeing the pyramid, all other architecture seems but pastry.

Herman Melville (1819 - 1891)

U.S. novelist.

Referring to visiting the pyramids at Giza.

 

 

 

 

 

Absence of verbosity, good arrangement, a single idea, daring and unity in construction, the use of elementary shapes. A sane morality.

Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965)

Swiss-born French architect.

Referring to the architecture of ancient Rome.

Towards a New Architecture (Frederick Etchells, tr.)

 

When you think of some of the high flats around us, it can hardly be an accident that they are as near as one can get to an architectural representation of a filing cabinet.

Jimmy Reid

Scottish labor leader.

"Flats" means "apartments."

Address as new Rector of Glasgow University

 

What distinguishes architecture from painting and sculpture is its spatial quality. In this, and only in this, no other artist can emulate the architect...history of architecture is primarily a history of man shaping space.

Nikolaus Pevsner (1902 - 1983)

German-born British architecture and art historian.

An Outline of European Architecture

 

We may, without offending any laws of good taste, require of an architect, as we do of a novelist, that he should be not only correct, but entertaining.

John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)

British art critic, writer, and reformer.

Stones of Venice

 

The learning of Architecture comprehendeth in it many notable Arts.

Sebastiano Serlio (1475 - 1554)

Italian architect and theorist.

The First Booke of Architecture

 

The architect is a servant, a tailor, who cuts and measures the thin chap or the fat chap and tries to make him comfortable. He is not a reformer.

Basil Spence (1907 - 1976)

British architect.

The Observer (London), "Sayings of the Week"

 

Sculpture to me is like poetry, and architecture like prose.

Maya Lin (1959 - )

U.S. architect and sculptor.

The Observer (London), "Sayings of the Week"

 

 

One of the reasons why medieval and Renaissance architecture is so much better than our own is that the architects were artists. Bernini, one of the great artists of seventeenth-century Rome, was a sculptor.

Kenneth Clark (1903 - 1983)

British art historian.

Civilisation

 

No person who is not a great sculptor or painter can be an architect. If he is not a sculptor or painter, he can only be a builder.

John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)

British art critic, writer, and reformer.

Lectures on Architecture and Painting

 

No house should ever be built on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 - 1959)

U.S. architect.

An Autobiography

 

My job is to create an environment that relaxes morality.

Robert DiLeonardo

U.S. architect.

Referring to casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Wall Street Journal

 

It was hell for women architects then. They didn't want us in school or in the profession. One thing I've never understood about this prejudice is that it's so strange in view of the fact that the drive to build has always been in women.

Gertrude Lempp Kerbis (1926 - )

U.S. architect.

 

Less is a bore.

Robert Venturi (1925 - )

U.S. architect and writer.

Criticizing the minimalist style of architecture, and a riposte to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's maxim, "Less is more."

 

Light (God's eldest daughter) is a principal beauty in building.

Thomas Fuller (1608 - 1661)

English clergyman and author.

The Holy State and the Profane State, "Of Building"

 

It should not merely be useful and ornamental; it should preach a high moral lesson.

Lytton Strachey (1880 - 1932)

British writer.

Referring to Prince Albert's plans for the Great Exhibition (1851) at the Crystal Palace.

Queen Victoria

Understanding the Times

Thursday, 15 October 2015 08:29

 

 

 

Understanding the Times

How Architecture Got to Where it is Today…  

The modern movement in architecture, which emerged in the early 20th century, responded to sweeping changes in technology and society. A new world of machines and cities forced artists to think anew about their environment, and soon revolutionized the way they perceived, portrayed, and participated in the world.

The Modern Movement of architecture represents a significant shift in the design of buildings, away from the traditional forms and construction techniques of the past and toward a new era of design. The styles of the Modern Movement, Art Deco, Moderne and International, began in Europe and spread to the United States in the 1920s. This paper will be focusing on presenting a detailed, yet concise, account of the Modern Movement in architecture (also referred to as Modernism or Modern Architecture in some texts).

 

 

JFK Airport, New York.

(Architect: Eero Sarinen)

 

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS/ COMMON THEMES OF THE MODERN MOVEMENT

The Modern Movement coincides with 20th century modernization in visual arts, like the abstract art of Cubism and De Stijl. This style of architecture basically has a preference for white and primary colours. A ban seems to have been placed on ornament. The most important principle of the Modern Movement is that it does not intend to be a style. It would make an end to historical styles and aesthetics. A building has to be a technical, economical and functional answer to a question. A functional building automatically an attractive building according to the principle of form follows function. As such, a functionally designed claw-hammer is also a beautiful design.    

Ten Attributes that Define Modern Architecture

 

 

Falling Water/ Kaufmann Residence, Mill Run, Pennsylvania

(Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright)

 

      Inspired by Function: Modern architecture breaks away from “ornament-obsessed” design and traditional aesthetics. It strives to create home designs that go beyond “standard” ideas and instead pursues projects inspired by layout, location, and function. Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor, Louis Sullivan famously stated that, “Form follows function”. This idea is expressed by Modernism’s tendency t have land or the function of a project dictate much of design ideas. For example, Wright was famous for building with the land- his residential homes almost always relied on the lot to determine how the building was to be laid out. Wright believed that a building should be “one with the land” and not simply plopped down on top of it.

 

      Simplicity in Form and Design: Modern architecture is typically free of clutter and unnecessary elements. The goals of the project are clarified at the start, and only the features that are required are included in the design. Residential homes are often stripped of the home- the focus will be on the space itself, rather than on any décor or details not relevant to the overall design.

 

      Nothing to Hide: Rather than concealing the nature of the home, Modern style wants the viewer to see the inner- workings and the true nature of the project. Materials are shown in the natural form and are showcased. Nothing is hidden or altered to look like something else. Structural elements are revealed to show the structure and supports. Exposed beams, open floor plans, and structural elements are exposed to the viewer. The idea of a sense of “Truth” is present in the home, where all materials and architectural elements are bare and revealed honestly.

 

 

      Love of All Things Linear: Modern architects seemed to have been in love with lines; in many modern designs, one will find strong linear elements and bold horizontal and vertical features. Beams, posts, cutouts, windows, staircases, fireplaces, rooflines, and other structural elements all assist the architect in creating a linear-inspired space. This focus is much more prominent in Modern design and is less important in other, more traditional, building styles. Lines of Modern architecture tend to be straight and angled rather than curved. However, organic lines sneak their way into Modern home design. 

 

      Bold Roof Lines: Instead of opting for the traditional triangular-based or craftsman style roof lines, Modern architecture dares to push the envelope on roof design. Homes might have multiple roof lines at different levels, showing off the complexity of the overall design and the uncommon silhouette of the structure. Varying lines and elongated vaulted ceilings, as well as interesting overhangs or unusual linear elements are mixed to create a mire unique statement.

 

      Windows as Design: Many mid-century homes use windows extensively to bring in light. These homes often feature floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of sliding doors. They may also include “clerestory” windows that are set high in the walls of a home to let in light while preserving privacy.

                                                 

 

      Creative Open Floor Plans: Most include an open living/ dining/ kitchen area, often accented with a fireplace as a kind of gathering point. Mid- century homes played with their use of space, with floors divided on split levels or through “sunken” spaces designed for conversation or lounging. Prominent features of modern architecture include open interior floor plans with fewer walls.

      Post-and-Beam Architecture: Instead of interior walls functioning as support walls, they serve more as room dividers or for appearance. In many homes, “pony walls” extend from the floor to just below the ceiling, separating rooms while allowing them to share light.

      Revamped Outdoor Space: Multiple rooms open onto a large patio or atrium, designed to extend square footage and blur distinctions between the indoors and outdoors exterior building materials of glass and steel. Modern architecture almost always incorporates the topography of the land it is built on within the home’s design.

      Focus on Materials: Many mid-century modern homes blended established materials such as wood and brick with then-newer materials such as man-made floorings. They also incorporated new technologies- such as radiant floor heat- and building techniques such as construction atop concrete foundations.

            

 

 

 

 

Values in the Construction Industry

 

I have heard countless times how “rude and ill-mannered” unskilled labour (labourers or artisans, as they are often called) can be in their dealings with professionals in the built environment. They cheat, scheme, offer which eventually bounces back on the architect. “No one knows the names of those who did the actual building”, they say, “but no one ever forgets the architect”.  For this reason, many architects are often very strict and unfriendly whilst relating with these individuals. This is however not a suitable way out of the sticky situations caused by the lack of understanding relationships between architects and site workers. It instead causes the former to be viewed as pompous and arrogant.

An embittered building contractor once complained to my hearing about how he felt the site engineer (supervising architect) looked upon his underlings with total disregard and contempt. “He thinks he knows it all”, he scuffed with anger in his voice, “he just throws his weight around and treats everyone else as if they don’t matter because they never went to school. I have been in this business long before he was born. I have a 29 year old son- probably the same age as him. How dare he speak to me that way?” The site engineer had expressed his displeasure at the contractor’s work, admittedly in a demeaning manner. Such exchanges introduce an atmosphere of strife to exist between workers and delays the decision making process etc.

 

If we, who are known to be the head of the design/ construction team, do not see the reason why certain ethics/ values need to be preserved or upheld, no one else will. Exactly why do we need to maintain healthy relationships not only with site workers but with fellow professionals? Here are a few reasons:

 

  • Team work: We hear the words ‘design team’ and ‘construction team’ but never pay attention to the obvious. Building and design MUST involve a collaborative and concerted effort by different individuals- skilled and unskilled. For this to work out, we just have to get along. Like it or not, if you cannot seem to see eye-to-eye with those you work with or those who work under you, you will find that you begin to undergo far more stress than is necessary  (resulting from hampered communication and disagreements).

 

  • Learn from each other: Many site workers, especially the much older ones, know building techniques and methods hardly used these days. Some can tell which materials are fake or substandard merely by looking at them. Maintaining cordial relationships with them will help you as an architect to learn from them and vice versa. They also become more willing to admit their mistakes and try to undo them, where possible/ necessary.

 

  • Create better working environments, void of conflict: if this has no other advantage, at least it saves time spent in settling squabbles (especially if it is between the site workers themselves).

 

How then should we relate with site workers and other professionals, such that we do not foster familiarity and consequently loss-of-place?

 

  • Treat others with respect and honour: Yes, even those who do not seem to deserve it. Even when you have to confront a misdeed, try to do it in such a way that everyone walks away smiling.

 

  •  Motivate them: You would be surprised, the effect a small favour like a buying a bag of pure water or asking how their families are, could have on people’s enthusiasm and commitment to their work. Small gestures like these, as well as verbal appreciation/ encouragement, act as a source of motivation to workers and increases productivity. A site worker once told me how he and his co-workers had stayed up all night to help clean up a house they had renovated just because the architect had been very nice to them. “Her warmness motivated us to work long and hard on that job. We didn’t get any sleep until 5am in the morning!”  

The Non-Academic Student

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 11:25

The Non-Academic Student

 

“Are you a transfer student?”

“No, Sir. I’ve been here since my first year”

“Really? I have never seen you before. What did you say your name was again?”

    

Having witnessed countless exchanges similar to the above, I am caused to muse over what exactly makes the ‘non-academic student’ tick. It usually begins with a lecturer pointing at someone sitting in the back of the class or stopping the notorious latecomer in his tracks as he attempts to slip into the class unnoticed. Although it is almost impossible to mark out the origin of the term ‘non-academic student’, it has become a widely held nametag for anyone who is generally a very evasive fellow.    

The intent of this commentary is not so much to discredit any persons neither is it to justify behaviours believed to be unethical, but to provide a behind-the-scenes-look into the lives of students who appear to be aloof of scholarly activities. Who is the non-academic student? The following are five attributes which characterize the non-academic student:

   Attendance

 

“You never know the exact number of students in a class until the exam day”

The non-academic student hardly ever shows up in class and when he does, he comes late or makes it a point to be a distraction. He strolls in, shuffling his feet as he makes his way to the back of the class, with a not-a-care-in-the-world expression on his face, much to the amusement and cheers of his friends(for those who have friends. The loner subgroups often attract quiet stares and seem to carry around with them an air of mystery).

   Assignments and projects

The non-academic student are almost always never aware of assignment due dates or that the assignments exist in the first place. This ultimately leads to them ‘dubbing’ or ‘photocopying’ their classmates’ work- a practice which infuriates those at the receiving end upon discovery.

   Clashes with Lecturers

The non-academic student is more often than not the centripetal locus of criticism and harassment. No matter how “low key” they try to be, they always seem to attract attention to themselves, much to their dismay. Even though most interactions such as the one illustrated at the beginning of this article tend to be quite comical, others happen to be quite serious. Often, a verbal exchange erupts due to an attack on the student’s personality.

   Attitude to Studying and Research

Rushing through course material and tenaciously organizing seating arrangements the morning of an exam, hastily scrolling through information on Wikipedia or Encarta Premium…the non-academic student obviously does not take a liking to spending time studying or visiting the school library (most people I know do not even have Library cards).

   Defensive

Some non-academic students are known to always be on guard, ready to justify their actions and decisions even when they are clearly wrong. They can be found giving a lecture on how doing well in school does not really matter, backing up their argument with examples of successful people who either dropped out of or never went to school.

A lecturer once remarked, “You know, I would rather employ some third class students I’ve met before I employ those with first class results. Have you noticed that the richest guys around are not the professors?” You need to have seen the look of triumph on the faces of some of my classmates. What they failed to understand was that he was trying to point out the fact that building capacity is more important than making straight A’s. Even though being book-smart does not guarantee that you will succeed out in the field, one must learn to strike a balance.

    

The Side of the Non-Academic Student We Hardly Hear About

After pointing all this out, it would seem that students who fall into this category are generally frivolous individuals and possess no good qualities. But there are always two sides to a coin and many are unaware that the non-academic student actually has a good side.

 The non-academic student is usually gifted and has the ability to think outside the box. Being assigned group projects nearly every week in the semester, one is almost bowled over by the fact that some of the time, effort or money saving suggestions are made by members of your group whose names you do not even know! Their always-on-the-run disposition does pay off, as with it comes an incredible ability to find a shortcut through almost anything.  

The non-academic student sometimes does not intend to come across as nonchalant nor does he enjoy all the “attention” he gets from lecturers or design mentors when he is noticed for the “first time”. I have come to realize that a few of them (mostly due to financial challenges) have to find ways to get by on their own. As such, they get jobs or start up their own small businesses, neither of which affords them the luxury of being able to have a hold on their time (especially those in the former category).   

Coconut Architecture

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 09:42

                         

                                        Coconut Architecture

           

Embracing the Nigerian Eclectic Oddities

     The built environment in this part of the world is indeed one like no other; though it does not quite measure up to the advanced technological and exceptional (and somewhat bizarre) artistic innovations in other countries. The Nigerian construction industry has however managed to adapt Western architecture to its climate and economy. For example, most states in the country experience extreme temperature levels and a power supply system which is below par, making closed buildings (those which rely entirely on artificial lighting and cooling systems) using excessive glass unsuitable. Architects have found a way around this obstacle, incorporating courtyards and greenery; buildings with curtain walling systems have rows of windows which can be opened to let in air, amongst others.

 

Despite these intriguing elements of acclimatization, many, especially the academically inclined still believe that there exists no clear thought or underlying idea in the design of buildings. I, however, beg to differ. You see, even though one cannot point to a ‘Nigerian Architecture’ as there exists Chinese Architecture, Egyptian Architecture, Roman Architecture etc., one or more thought patterns can be traced. Owing to the fact that there are as many tribes (and thus, varying art forms) as there are countries on some continents, it would be virtually impossible to establish a general theme in building design especially those in present day Nigeria; but these thought patterns can help create a basis upon which various categories, subgroups or sub movements are formed. One of these is Coconut Architecture. 

This unique phenomenon is characterized by buildings which are anything but elegant on the outside, but whose interiors seem to be a step into a whole new dimension. Just like the hairy, coarse exterior of a coconut, these buildings are often void of painting and embellishments on the outside but the interiors could have furniture and finishing revealing exquisite taste.

Coconut Architecture is primarily an architecture which is more concerned about living/ working spaces than it is with perception or appreciation of it facades; as opposed to western cultures where both seem to be treated as equals. There are however a few exceptions. This mostly applies to clients in and above the middle class. In most cases, little or no attention is paid to  

I sometimes fondly refer to Nigeria’s architecture as the ‘Architecture of the Economy.’ Buildings are designed and constructed with the client’s budget and income (or willingness to part with it) as the principal considerations.  While this in itself is a noble gesture, it has been known to choke the aesthetics and creativity out of many a design. Any architect or architect-in-training will admit (and most, not with the slightest indication of excitement), that at one time or the other, they have had to “scrap” entire designs because of cost implications. Students would tell you how they were lambasted at their jury because the materials or concepts they incorporated were “too expensive”, thus earning then zero points under ‘buildability’. Those working in the field can also recount similar experiences.   

The following are pictures of actual buildings to illustrate the concept of Coconut Architecture:

Master of One

Tuesday, 13 October 2015 12:26

Master of One

 

 

Jack of all trades, master of none.

-Anonymous

 

Jack of one trade, not a master at all.

-Me

 

 

The most intimidating fact I have come to realize is the measure of how much I do not know as against what I have already learned. Just the thought of being asked a question I should know the answer to but don’t, leaves me cringing. I feel this way each time I step into a senior friend’s study, or a bookstore. I feel this way when I sit in the library at school and even at Church. I feel this way when someone says a word I have never heard before or simply do not know the meaning of. I feel this way when people talk about what they had read or heard especially when I have not. And then there are the accomplishments and achievements that come from ‘knowing.’ You feel like a dot. Scratch that. You feel like quarter of a dot when it has been split in a million places.

True, you cannot know everything. Even though people say “you should know everything about something and something about everything, I realize this is a near impossible feat. However, this should not discourage you from reading WIDE. Just make sure you do your best to grab at every bit of information you need. “How exactly do you do that? There are only so many hours in a day that you can have to yourself,” you say. Let me stop you there before you run yourself over the cliff of mediocrity (harsh, I know, but bear with me). You see, I have heard so many lectures about how hard it is to stretch yourself beyond your daily routine and other responsibilities. I’ve given quite a few myself so I know the familiar self-pity themed overture when I hear it. Whatever the case, you cannot afford to starve your mind. There are no limits to the (unnecessary) hardships people go through because they “don’t know.” Ignorance is the first daughter of complacency. The very word means ‘self-satisfied and unaware of possible dangers.’

If you are only interested in being vast in your field, you would be subjecting yourself to serious social handicap. For one, you would be incapable of engaging in meaningful and enlightening discourse with individuals or professionals from other fields. Have you ever sat in a room full of people and felt like a total basket case because you knew not one word to say? There are so many times when it seemed like people were ‘speaking over my head’, especially when they talked about what they had heard or read in the news or the latest technology making its rounds in stores. I would make up excuses for myself like my lack of interest in computers and my lack of access to the internet at the moment or even blame my ‘aloof-ness’ on school work. The drawbacks of not feeding your mind are an endless list but that is a lecture for another day. I would like to focus on how we can solve the obvious problem.

 

Can we fix it?

One way around the mountain could be to cut back on sleep and other activities which are important but do not need to take up as much time as we apportion, like going out with friends, chatting online etc. Perhaps you already get less sleep than you can get by with. There are other ways in which you can squeeze in time for reading a book or listening to some other useful material.     

Listening to the news on the radio while I walked to class or worked on my design project also helped me keep up with the current happenings in the country. Sometimes while on the bus or in a cab, I would look over the headlines on the BBC Mobile webpage on my phone. You could try listening to the news while you cook meals or do chores. You could pin a dictionary app to the taskbar on your laptop or desktop (or make it one of the icons on your phone’s homepage) so you can look up new words as soon as you come across them. If you write them down and say, “I will check it out later”, chances are you never will.

Take a book along with you when you go out. Sometimes meetings are delayed, people stand you up or you could get stuck in traffic. Instead of getting worked up, you could find a more productive use for all that ‘wasted time’. Sometimes while standing in line at the bank, or sitting at the customer care desk, I look up things on the net or at least save a bunch of webpages I would like to go through later.  Let no opportunity to learn something new pass you by. Just try typing in ‘Architecture’ on Facebook or Twitter. You would be surprised at all the accounts and pages that would come up. Just by scrolling down your timeline, you could have access to all the latest innovations in the field as well as inspiring 3D images and new ideas for landscaping and building interiors. So you see, those little minutes we let slip away can actually make a world of difference in the face of an insane workload.

I recently made it a point to read the biographies of every famous leader in History or at least the ones most often referred to; and even though I have had the same volume of Encyclopedia Britannica on my bed for nearly two weeks (my bookmark is still on Napoleon), I am making progress. Game plans do not have to be perfect. Being architects, we know all too well that things always seem to “come up” at the worst possible moments and ruin nearly everything we have planned for our day. What matters, however, is that you make an effort and strive for consistency in adding “depth” to your life. This will help build your discipline and “bulldog tenacity”.

What to do, what to do…

So now we have admitted that the excuses we make are not at all tenable and that we CAN do more to broaden our scope. But where do we go from here? There seems to be far too many options open.

History, Geography, Literature, Health, Finance, Technology and Vocabulary are areas I believe everyone should take interest in. Learning a handful of commonly used phrases in a foreign language could also be a plus. If you are interested in music, read about it. Learn about genres, timelines and the lives of ground shakers past and present. It is always an invigorating experience, being friends with people who talk about something new every time you have a conversation with them. Wouldn’t you like to be one of those people?

If nothing I have said so far makes any sense to you, maybe this will:

 “It’s a tragic thing when my car or clothes cost more than my mind”

(Paraphrased)

 

-Mike Murdock

 

Meaning: if the cost of your possessions far outweighs the value/ worth of your mind by virtue of your investments to it (especially through books read), then my friend, your middle name is Pity. Always try, no matter how hard it will be, not to go to bed without having learned something new every day.

 

The Ekiti State Government, Friday commenced the construction of the multi-billion naira Airport with the clearing of 4000 hectares of land for its effective take off.

The Airport project which was approved by the late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua administration in 2009 had stalled due to lack of political will of previous administrations.

Meanwhile, the State Government Friday began the screening of over 2,000 applicants that applied for various health positions with the Health Management Board for the recruitment of 100 health personnel into the State Ministry of Health.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Kolawole Aina said those to be recruited among the job seekers would be strictly based on merit and competence because of the sensitivity of the services they render to the society.

Ekiti State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Kayode Oso, who supervised the clearing of Airport site yesterday, told newsmen that Governor Ayodele Fayose had set up a planning Committee for the project a month ago, adding that the Committee had consulted widely with relevant consultancy firms and professionals on the project and also visited several airports in the country for assessment.

Oso, who assured that the Governor Fayose-led administration was desirous of implementing the airport project, also disclosed that relevant professional bodies had approved the project, hence the commencement of works on it. "Today, we are starting the site clearing of 40 hectares of land which would be used for the airport project and we are sure that the project is achievable as a consultant is already working on its cost.

"We are hoping that in two months, we will be through with the site clearing after which the Governor would flag-off construction works on the site.

"The communities that would be affected by the site clearing include Aso-Ayegunle, Ijon, and a part of Afao-Ekiti", he explained.. Secretary of the Aso ayegunle indigenes, Chief Owolabi Solomon who spoke to newsmen men, said: "We have been informed that the government would use our farmlands for the airport project and we even know the areas that would be affected.

"We are happy the government is bringing this laudable development to us but we are also pleading that the government should, as a matter of urgency, find means of compensating us because the farmlands being taken are our only source of livelihood".

While meeting the principals and headmasters of the State public schools in preparation for the World Teachers' Day coming up on Monday, Fayose, pleaded with them to ensure that students' performances in West African Examination Council and National Examination Council improve in the interest of the State.

He promised that his government would continue to celebrate teachers through prompt payment of all benefits, so that the feat achieved in his first term in education could be replicated.

 

Source: This Day

Governor Wille Obiano of Anambra State has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to refund the N25 billion debt which the state government spent in reconstructing federal roads in the state.

File photo: Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state and President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Friday, 24 April 2015, in Abuja.

Obiano who made the call at the Governor's Lodge, Amawbia during a stakeholder's forum to mark his 18 months in office, said the amount if refunded would be channeled towards other pressing needs in the state.

He noted that while some other state governors, are cap in hand seeking federal govern-ment's bailout over their inability to pay salaries, Anambra is being owed such a huge sum of money in the midst of dwindling federal allocations to the states and internally generated revenues. He however expressed optimism that the federal government would look into the matter as according to him, his last discussion with Buhari last week showed that efforts were being made to refund the money to the state.

Obiano said on assumption of office, he discovered that many cheques issued in the twilight of his predecessor's tenure were flying about, prompting him to streamline them, adding that a forensic audit he ordered in the state public service exposed about 520 ghost workers

According to him, the amount recovered and his creative approach to revenue generation, as well as investment inflow accounted for the buoyancy of the state and its ability to pay salaries and meet other obligations.

He said prior to the federal government's directive on Treasury Single Account, TSA, his administration had already operated a single account as against 150 accounts in operation in the state when he assumed office barely 18 months ago.

 

Source: Vanguard

THE traffic jam along Lekki-Epe Expressway is notorious. From Law School on Victoria Island to Ajah, a distance of about 21 kilometres, which ordinarily should take less than 30 minutes, could take as much as two to three hours on a very bad day.

For many years, commuters and motorists plying this route lamented and groaned under the stress of gridlocks that would often spring up and then render all the major and inner roads impassable. Like most Lagosians, they devised and adopted different methods to tackle the problem, many of which compounded it.

So, when in 2006 Lagos State government engaged the services of the Lekki Concession Company Ltd. (LCC) to embark on an expansion project along the Lekki-Epe Expressway, everyone that had anything to do along that corridor heaved a sigh of relief, believing the solution to the traffic gridlock that daily paralysed businesses and movement was in sight. But this was not to be. The much-awaited respite was not forthcoming, as the snail-speed at which the project was executed not only became a nightmare, but also brought untold hardship to commuters and residents alike.

Today, the story is still the same, as the traffic situation along that axis has not improved in the least. Commuters and motorists still experience a lot of frustration, while plying the route. This is despite the fact that the roads have been somewhat expanded.

Several factors are believed to be responsible for this problem. While some attribute it to the haphazard manner in which the LCC carried out the project, which was abandoned halfway; others are of the view that the activities of commercial bus drivers, which constitute a major nuisance, is the real problem.

Some others are pointing accusing fingers at the larger-than-life roundabouts, which are located in four areas along the corridor.

Some of the problem spots include Jakande, Chevron roundabout and Ajah, where large motor parks are located. Motorists are often forced to crawl around these areas because of the activities of commercial bus drivers, who park their vehicles carelessly anywhere for passengers to alight.

Business operators and commercial bus drivers that spoke to The Guardian during a visit to the area, said that the traffic is a major set back to their businesses, as it prevents them from planning and managing their time properly. They said the ordeal of commuting along the expanded expressway is tortuous, especially when navigating through the Ajah roundabout.

Residents said the activities of commercial bus and taxi operators, who have converted the fringes of the roundabout into bus and taxi garages is the major cause of the traffic. The residents added that best solution to ease the traffic is for government to construct flyover bridges at those places where there are roundabouts on the road.

Said Yusuf Adeyemi, a motorist: "The activities of commercial bus and taxi operators, who have converted road shoulders and other available space into parks, is a major cause of the traffic jam. It is faster to travel from Lagos to Benin City, Edo State capital, than for one to pass through Ajah roundabout congestion. Setting out for my daily activities in the mornings always puts me in a terrible mood. And really, I'm tired of waking up at 4am and hitting the road at 4:30am everyday. Many residents along the Addo-Badore road in Ajah have no option than to abandon our cars at home and take commercial motorcycles to Ajah roundabout before taking commercial vehicles, because that is the only way we can reach our workplaces before 8am.

"That is the only way we have been beating the traffic, which usually stretches two kilometres or more and takes not less than one hour. It is very sad. The traffic is pronounced around the Olympic-size Ajah roundabout, but this was not the case before it was constructed."

Another resident, Adetutu Oluwale, while narrating the ordeal residents go through daily, said, "our worst nightmare in the last one decade has been the Lekki-Epe expressway, the road that connects us to other parts of Lagos. The relief we thought we would have, when in 2006 the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), rolled out its equipment to commence the project, has since disappeared.

"For instance, we were not experiencing traffic on Ajah-Addo-Badore road before the construction of the Ajah roundabout. Now, connecting Ajah through Addo road takes up to one hour during peak periods, especially from 6am to 9am. This is something that should not take more than 10 minutes, as was the case before the construction of that roundabout."

Tosin Alaba was of the view that there is need for the construction of flyovers to ease the traffic around the roundabouts.

"Common wisdom calls for the construction of a route that connects to the expressway, not at the roundabout, but further down. And the solution to the problem is a flyover and a pedestrian bridge to reduce congestion at the roundabout," he said.

But while some residents are lamenting the poor state of the roads, others are choosing to look at the positive aspect and new development going on along the axis.

Ikechukwu Duru, a Lekki resident, said since Dangote Group commenced construction of oil refinery and 600,000 tonnes polypropylene plant, Lekki and its environs have never been the same again.

"The area, which used to have a narrow single lane road and was notorious for traffic congestion, is fast becoming a global business haven. It now boasts of a new dual carriageway with three lanes on both sides. The new attracting features of the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LKFTZ) are enormous. Added to these are the state-of-the-art tollgates and well-structured estates and beautiful architectural landscapes. The presence of Dangote alone has attracted other related businesses such as Progress Maritime limited, OBAT Oil and Eko Resort to the area.

"For instance, Progress Maritime Ltd., a shipping company that bought hundreds of hectares of land in the area, has constructed its Tank Farm. The presence of giant investors such as, Dangote Group and Progress Maritime limited has transformed Lekki/Epe Expressway from a mere backwater settlement on the outskirts of Lagos into a sprawling, modern settlement, one of the fastest growing areas in Lagos. To many, the Lekki corridor is the 'New Lagos,' judging by its booming real estate, massive construction and noticeable government presence in the planned Lekki Free Trade Zone. To real estate professionals, these areas are now a goldmine. For instance, both foreign and Nigerian professionals whose offices are in Ikoyi and Victoria Island are relocating to the LFTZ.

Musa Abubakar, a businessman in Ikoyi, explained that because of the non-availability of land in Ikoyi and Victoria Island, and the attendant rising rents, more prospective homeowners are also looking towards the Lekki-Epe axis and are erecting structures comparable to those in developed countries.

And of course, all this is compounding the traffic problem in the area, as it brings in its trail increased vehicular traffic.

 

Source: The Guardian

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Interarchtiv is a Media House with a Focus on Architecture, the built Environment, Innovative solutions to complex urban problems in our society and environmental issues. We are interested in how architecture & the environment influences the lives of people & how people in turn interact with the former. We believe our environment shapens our perspective, efficiency, creativity & general well being. 

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