Share This Article
By Icheku Imela Elias
2016 M.Sc. Graduate of Architecture
School as we know is meant to be a ground for disseminating knowledge and acquiring experiences which should prepare an individual for the professional field in question. The goal of the architectural study in schools is not any different from this.
I started Covenant University at a good age, coming straight from a rough day school in the Niger-Delta where you’re only preserved from drowning in the evils present in the school by a moral home and a strong will. Covenant University required very little effort in reminding you that you were in a very different environment. You were pressured with a choked up school timetable, providing very little time to catch your breath and engage in social activities. You were being compelled to do EVERYTHING and there was a constant reminder that our names were still written in pencil and so we could be flushed out of the school at any moment.
I hoped that class time would offer redemption but it seemed classes were not any better. I was being initiated into the architecture university life with seemingly irrelevant courses. The courses were a nightmare to me as I derived zero joy from written work; and so I took with all seriousness and zeal any course which had anything to do with drawing architecture (at the time there were just two). I happened to be roommates with three other student studying different courses (MIS, Est. Mgt. and Chem. Eng.). We sat together at times to talk about our departmental work and it seemed as though it was only architecture that was taking such hit. I was the only one who came back to the room with ridiculous assignments, unending back to back projects. Often times I would have to turn our room into a mini studio and modeling workshop to the discomfort of other roommates. During the entire first year we would have some of our class sessions in open spaces facing a significant landscape drawing and painting all that was in our line of vision. These sessions meant a lot to me as design, graphics, drawing and painting were my areas of God-given strengths. I got to excel in these areas without any stress. Eventually three of us were selected to represent the university in an international George Bush Art competition and as God would have it the university came out tops. Architecture was beginning to make so much sense to me as efforts were being rewarded.
The second year came with more advanced pressures as we began to face real-time architecture challenges. We began simulating real-life designs, using actually existing sites, study material costing and designing buildings based on allocated budgets. It was a tough one but not one that we weren’t ready for. Procurement of materials hit us on a whole new level, student membership and other miscellaneous requirements made us distribute ridiculous bills regularly to our sponsors while we were constantly reminded that “architecture isn’t cheap”. I slid through the second year into the holidays were I was to work at an architectural firm for I.T. It was hell on earth. A soon-to-be 300 level architecture student was so much of a big deal until I walked through the doors of that Architectural firm located very close to my dad’s office. Suddenly you realize that your ‘status’ was meager in their eyes. My presence was not so acknowledged. I was told to design wardrobe doors while the real architects handled Oil and Gas museums and other major projects. Starting a new day was no longer exciting knowing what I had been reduced to. So with great joy, relief and enthusiasm I resumed the third year.
During this period individuals began to know what path they were intending to take in life. Architecture tends to have one of the highest levels of deviation from the profession, reasons being that an Architect is a professional who is made to oversee all. The disciplines being instilled in you are not one restricted to the building industry; your relevance is not limited to any field. You’re being trained to be an Alpha, a Prime and answer to no one. Things were ramped up as we got to receive lectures and had constant access to the grandfather of architecture (Professor Adeyemi). At this point, my fashion line was over a year old. It took a lot to juggle classes, execute and deliver orders, participate in fashion shows and still produce top notch studio designs. The Profession contributed in making us master time and resource managers. Notwithstanding, because of our departmental demands, our social lives took the hit. Social interaction with individuals from other departments nose-dived and so we got to become our own best friends; the course forcing us to spend practically all the time together in our studios or in our rooms. Our presence at any social gathering was always acknowledged and highly appreciated as it was a very rare occurrence.
As time went on Architecture as a whole began to mean a lot more than a profession to me. I perceived it as a culture, a movement. The development, advancement of any locality, area, city, and country is characterized by the level of its infrastructural prowess. It is also a determining factor in differentiating eras, epochs, ages, times and durations of various civilizations. Various eras of civilizations are characterized by the kinds of structures which were designed, their modes of constructions and their overall significances. The architect is therefore made to serve as a determinant in the design of the infrastructural factors that make the economic statement of anywhere he finds himself.
My final year saw a reduction in the number of courses but an increase in the course content; we were rewarded with less lecture time but more take-home work. Leadership programmes were conducted as a compulsory requirement for graduation. It was almost as if the department wasn’t working in sync with the school’s government. Architecture students had sickening work to handle, taunting deadlines and yet we were supposed to fully participate in the school’s programmes. We were determined to rebel, but the question was “against who?” Do it to the department and not fulfill your required number of units or do it to the school’s government and face unknown consequences. We came to a unanimous decision that we were doing it against the school; so with a high level of wisdom and appropriate permission where necessary, we absented ourselves from the school’s programmes. It was at this point that the reality of the outside world began to dawn on one. The big question of “WHAT NEXT” served as a constant reminder that school mattered a whole lot but being relevant outside the walls of a school mattered a whole lot more. At this point some of us were already student members of our professional body (Nigerian Institute of Architects) and couldn’t wait to advance to the Graduate Membership level.
Architecture as an undergraduate programme has done a lot of structuring to the individuals who went through its system. It produces people who have excelled and maintained relevance at the helms of affairs of whatever environment they find themselves. Yes, architecture might be tough and an honest struggle but stay true to its cause and regrets would never be included in your story.