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“Architecture solves problems which most times aren’t stated in black and white”: Winners of the Competition 2018

Good evening, Mr. Philip. Thank you for granting us this interview out of your busy schedule. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your team? We want to know your names, background…

Hello, I am Awopetu Philip, I am the team leader for Olympus Studios. I graduated from the Department of Architecture at the Federal University of Technology Akure. I’m biracial. My mum is Russian and my dad is Nigerian (Ekiti State). I’ve always had an interest in creativity and that’s one of the major reasons I thought of studying architecture. Although architecture was more than “just creativity”.

It was interestingly challenging and developed me in ways I never imagined (dealing with stress, working with tight deadlines, time planning, etc.). Olympus Studios was purely inspired by Chronos Studios. As at 5 years ago, my 3Ds and Architectural Presentations were more or less done with ink and paper, but Chronos Studeos changed the entire game for myself and the team with software. Over time, we got encouraged to learn to use this software too, and we (a few classmates and friends, and I) came up with the name Olympus Studios.

We noticed that students in Architecture weren’t familiar with such and we felt the need to train a few of our classmates and colleagues in the department. We handled a few tutorial sessions and helped create more awareness about the importance of using design software. The other team members of Olympus Studios include Omotoriogun Olumide, Olukitibi Holyvine, Fahid Kassim, Micheal Godsfavour, Senniake Daniel.

Why did you enter The Competition 2018?

The Competition 2018 was something we never planned. My friend Fahid and I attended The Competition 2017 for the first time and we saw the glory around the Creative Architects Event. I remember being asked why I didn’t compete and surprisingly, my reply was, “We’ll win the next one”.

I didn’t know why I said that but it just came out that way. Then sometime in 2018, the brief for The Competition was set. It was a very tough year (final year) so we weren’t exactly bent on applying, but for some reason, we thought to ourselves. “Hmmm let’s just sign up. Worst case, we won’t submit”.

Were you shocked to have come in first place?

HELL YES!!! I mean the whole reality of winning started when we got the email telling us to be present to receive a notable mention. Then we got to the event hall and to our surprise our design was being displayed as one of the top three… It was a feeling I will never forget. Just seeing our submission on display, was more of a victory already.

The moment we were all waiting for finally came around… The third-place winner was announced and the tension got even higher, then the second place winner was announced, it was all over… We won. It felt amazing. Walking out to the stage, almost in slow motion while remembering all the effort, arguments and commitment put into the competition, realizing IT WAS WORTH IT.

What did you think of the brief given and what challenges did you face putting your design together for The Competition 2018?

Well, the brief was very “straight to the point”. The challenges, however, were in the “costing”, “market survey”, “location”, “materials” and so forth. Another challenge was time, final year school work was put on hold for a whole month while we worked day and night on the competition.

Team Olympus – Philip Awopetu (Team Leader), Olumide Omotoriogun, Holyvine Olukitibi
What has changed about your life and approach to design since you won The Competition last year?

Winning The Competition 2018 gave my team and I, some sense of accomplishment, boosted our egos, increased our self-esteem and also gave us a chance to make our University proud. My approach to design has been focused more on the “Process” or “Thinking Phase” making sure all conditions are properly planned.

Would you say you see Architecture differently now?

“Seeing Architecture Differently” I won’t say I see it differently, but now I’m more aware of the level of competition that exists within the world of Architecture and that “winning” actually requires a lot of effort and teamwork.

Did you take a look at the other top entries from last year and the years before? If yes, what did you think about them?

Yes, we did. We had to study presentation skills and also architectural design skills (rendering, choice of materials and modelling). The designs from previous winners are still as amazing as they were. Still an inspiration. Always will be.

If you had an opportunity to partake in The Competition and work on the same brief again, what would you do differently?

The biggest challenge we faced was time. We kept postponing tasks and were constantly behind schedule and in doing so, we lost a couple of elements and features we wanted to have in the initial stage of design. So, if there was a chance to do this all again, I think time management will be the only thing handled differently.

What has been your proudest moment as an architect?

I believe I speak for the team when I say the proudest moment was being called to receive the honour of the first prize. It still keeps me up at night sometimes.

Do you have any words of advice for prospective contestants?

Well, the Competition 2019 will be challenging. My advice to all involved is simple “READ AND UNDERSTAND THE RULES”, Architecture is more than rendering or management of space or exterior beauty. Architecture solves problems which most times aren’t stated in black and white, it has to be discovered.

Some competitions are interested in design concepts, some focus more on design thinking, some focus on details, some focus on efficiency, some focus on all these things stated earlier. So, to all that will be competing (even for The Competition 2020 and beyond), please take your time to digest the brief because sometimes it’s not as difficult as it looks.

If you could meet an architect you admire, what would your question to him or her be?

Hmm… this is pretty difficult for me to answer. For almost 5 years, I admired Architect Hassan Anifowose… I had soo many questions to ask and just wanted to be recognized by him. Before announcing the winner for The Competition 2018 (during the lunch break) he walked up to me and asked: “Are you Awopetu Philip from Olympus Studios?” I said “Yeah…”. He said “Ok” and left (quite awkward haha).

After the announcement was made, he smiled and said, “I knew you could do it”. I honestly felt more accomplished from those words. So, I wouldn’t ask for anything, not because there are no questions, but because he answers most of them during the Creative Architects Event. The answer is simple, “Keep Grinding”.

Architecture is not like a lot of disciplines. It’s quite obvious that there’s a huge leap between school and working out in the field. One of the aims of the Creative Architects event is to bridge the gap between architecture students and established professionals. Would you say this objective is being achieved, and what advice can you give to the organizers to make the event more effective and impactful?

I’ll be blunt with this answer. I don’t feel it brings professionals and students together. Maybe about 15% of the population actually gets to ask questions from professionals but to me (I’ve attended the Creative Architects event twice), I felt it was more of an advertisement event, where the professionals handle the audience like prospective buyers or clients. Hassan and Hussein Anifowose tackle the real problems on all our minds and that’s why I attend.

The competition is more like an icing on the cake. But the guest speakers fall short. Apart from having boring/unprofessional presentation slides, it feels like they’re addressing the wrong audience. I’ll advise for future Creative Architects events, the content is made more relevant to NIGERIAN students, in the context of “Life After School”, “Client Management”, “Challenges of Being an Architect” -something more of an introduction into the real world (which Hassan and Hussein Anifowose do amazingly well).

Thank you so much for your time. We do appreciate your being open with us. We hope to keep doing our very best and are working very hard to make Creative Architects 2019 better than all the previous editions. We wish you and your team the very best in all your endeavours from here on out!

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