Archive Page 2


Women In Architecture: My first experience

My second encounter with an architect was a female architect who I was referred to for an internship. My first was a non-professional meeting with a pastor of the church my family attended, who owned an architecture and construction firm. That meeting, non-professional as it was, did not give me as much hope as I had imagined, for my future as an architect. I had imagined that I would be praised and given lots of encouragement for pursuing a field where there were (and still are) so few practicing female architects. In other words I did not appreciate the reality check I received as a passionate, ready-to-conquer-the-world teenager. Strangely enough, this architect was also the first person to tell me about Structural Engineering as a major and a career, but that’s a story for another day.

The summer after my first year at the University I visited the well-known construction firms in my city to see if they needed an intern in their office. At that time in Nigeria, architects were not permitted to advertise, except through trade literature, or on the project billboard at a construction site. So one had to know someone, who knew someone, who knew… catch my drift? Anyway after spending a few weeks traversing the city getting rejected at the big multinational construction companies, a family friend sent me with an introductory letter to the architect who designed their home. At that time I had never met a female architect, much less one who was the Principal of her own office with several architects and draftsmen working under her so I was very impressed.

After producing the note and getting a look-over from the Principal, (I was quite intimidated by her very office and busy presence) she sent me off to the Associate Principal who interviewed me. I was asked a series of questions on what I had studied in school, given more information on the firm and the requirements of an intern, and was immediately put to work. And that was the beginning of my adventure, working in architecture. I went on to work for her firm all through school, and she hired me as soon as I graduated. Looking back, I know she gave me a chance because we share the same gender; but I also saw her commitment to helping women in the profession through her position in the NIA (Nigerian Institute of Architects), and the women architects she employed.


I think I’m a real Houstonian now

As some of you know, I spent most of my summer with family in beautiful and hot Houston.

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             Downtown Houston                                              Rice University

I have been pounding the pavement literally and internetually (new word alert! :), though the real term is ‘virtually’) looking for an entry level job as a Structural engineer and have found nothing so far. At this point even a temp CAD drafting position is welcome. Despite that, I have made some great contacts and have met several mostly young engineers and architects by jumping feet first into available AIA, ASCE, TSPE, SEAoT, and SWE events.

Yesterday I spent most of the day getting my car registered, getting a new title, and driver’s license. It was a really long day and I drove all over the city to get everything done. I even found myself on the road to Louisiana when my gps refused to work after getting my car inspected. Who knows, I may have become a Louisianan instead :). Anyway, I am now a registered Houstonian! 🙂 Given my current unemployed but searching status if I suddenly get employed in another state I would have to either renounce my newly minted Texan-ness, or proudly bear the emblem of the Lone Star State and proclaim the largeness of Texas :). But I will cross that bridge when I get to it. In the meantime I’ll continue to discover bits and pieces of this sprawling Southern city. Adios!


The box: A commentary on Rem Koolhaus’ lecture at Cornell

It was a nice evening in Ithaca as I ran walked to Call Auditorium where Pritzker prize winner and Cornell alum, Rem Kooolhaas was scheduled to speak. I got there about 25 minutes before the talk began, 10 minutes before the doors opened, and it was PACKED!  Naturally I took a picture of a section of the attendees, so that I could later appreciate the crowd I’d been in.


Note that these were only the people in front of me within capture range of my camera phone. There were a lot more people waiting for the doors to open. The Cornell Sun reports that there were over 300 people in the venue that evening.

The lecture began without too much ceremony, and Mr. Koolhaus began by discussing the work of his firm, OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture), which he cofounded in 1975. He talked about the current mood in Architecture, Architecture in general, and the box as form. On the current mood in Architecture he had this to say,

Crucial to talk about current mood in arch. Architecture [used to be] dignified statements human civilizations make about themselves, not private, embodies the public. in the last 30 yrs this kind of architecture has been threatened, eroded due to idolatry of market economy [especially]   in America, and Europe. It has become explicitly and implicitly the only discourse left, and we need to explore  … what it has meant for architecture and what the architect can do.

After this he showed us pictures of the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Parthenon. Contrasting between the two he described how the Parthenon is exemplary of architecture of a civilization, a memento frozen in time versus the architecture of a person, singular and selfishly expressive – the Guggenheim. According to Koolhaus, architecture of a civilization is trying to be as general as possible, a generic form.

On the profession in general he bemoaned the rise in ‘starchitecure’ and the departure from the architect as master builder. The current feeling he feels, is displayed in a picture of an architect standing and preening beside a model of his creation. It was Daniel Libeskind preening in the photo, just standing and looking pretty, not inviting criticism. 

We all like this now, perfect clowns, the celebrity that has become what is largely seen in architecture fascinated by the contrast. basking in attention, versus the unglamorous guy holding the blueprint and ensuring the perfect execution of said blueprint on site.

In returning to a time when the architect was master builder Koolhaus outlined how the architectural profession in America has largely been driven by technology, and thus not articulated , with driving technologies being:

  1. The elevator/ escalator
  2. Steel Construction , and
  3. Air conditioning.

He described these as defining technologies of American architecture and how these technologies served to both help and hamper the growth of great architecture in the United States. 

Following that, he carefully persuaded the students, professors, and visiting architects alike to return to a generic and copyright-free architecture, the most efficient container of social programming and events. The program of the box. He went through several examples of OMA’s work, and how the box was used to define, invent, and express different programs and functions into a seamless whole.

The lecture really moved me, and again raised questions I have carried in my mind for the past few years. Questions asking why the architect’s role, in building projects, in creating and manipulating human space, appears to be getting narrower and narrower; Questions requesting the meaning of the many shiny things in the sky across the world; Questions asking for direction to the purity of design; Questions of how and if our relevance would  not be debated when technology overtakes humanity.


Spring break: A photo essay

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I thought it was interesting that this muscle car was being ported on a beautiful Saturday morning, instead of enjoyed with the top down.







20100320_002A bio-chemical company’s office building in New Haven, Connecticut.








Yale School of Medicine – where the unfortunate incident of a student stuffed in the wall occurred. As a guest I could not enter the building without a student/faculty member with an I.D. card.















A humorous cartoon in one of the very many labs. 











An interesting three-door elevator. The two on the right opened flush into the third.












Interesting detail in the wall of the foyer of Yale’s medical library (I think). It’s not easy to see but the inscription at the bottom says 1890 – 1932.






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Interesting details in the new addition in the Westfield mall at Orange, CT. There’s beautiful bar-like seating around this columns (the two pictures are of the same column, but slightly different views), and more to the right of the column. Creates a better atmosphere than the regular all floor seating in most mall food courts.



Pittsburgh skyline across one of the numerous bridges.







Another picture of the Pittsburgh skyline. I took these pictures while sitting in traffic, and it was quite a gloomy day.






Yet another bridge. Taken while heading towards the Oakland area of Pittsburgh.







Interesting detail in front of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Didn’t get close enough to determine if the head was cloth or not. It certainly looked like it was not made of cloth.

The city was very beautiful both at night and in the day and it had a lot of green space, not very packed like parts of New York City. The air smelt fresh, and I noticed a good use of public transportation in addition to all the cars on the roads. Altogether, Pittsburgh is a city I would definitely like to visit again for the sights and more.


Votes of confidence

It’s always encouraging when someone you respect encourages you and praises your potential. Earlier this week two of my professors, separately, gave major boosts to my confidence by telling me how sure they were, that I would be successful this semester, and in life. The first one happened when I went to discuss reducing my workload for the semester, and I ended up leaving with a smile stretched all the way to both ears, workload still in place. The second one occurred when I mentioned future plans, and he exclaimed, “Of course! I’m expecting that from you.” On the one hand it was amazing to hear(great for my self-esteem), but on the other hand I thought,”Good grief! I certainly can’t disappoint them now.” No pressure at all…

A young person always needs some form of encouragement. It can come from any place, by any means or method, but the effects of it can last for a lifetime. I distinctly remember the periods in my life where I received votes of confidence from people I highly respect who were (and still are) great in their fields, and how their simple statements and firm eye contact somehow boosted me in such a way that I went out and achieved on a level I did not know was possible. So while it feels like pressure, in a way its a good kind of pressure. The kind of pressure I embrace, and work with, knowing at the back of my mind that I’ll be making another person proud.


Getting Licensed

This is one of the many thoughts lingering in the back of my mind as I contemplate my career. The need for licensure for practising Architects and Structural Engineers cannot be overemphasized. Protecting public safety and providing dwellings for human comfort should certainly not be left in the hands of just any and everyone. However, shouldn’t a path be just that?  Rather than a maze, or an obstacle course?

Licensure for architects in the United States is rumored to be anywhere from 2 years to even 20 years!  (Wow!!! Hopefully that’s a myth perpetrated by someone who took a couple of five year breaks!). Several links I’ve read or have been reading include: @architectderek‘s How to become a licensed architect?, and the scary charts (click on the pdf’s) from Design Intelligence. So, with someone that probably has an even less clearer/sure path, how long will my architecture licensing take?

Even with the many intricate ways that Architecture and Structural Engineering are related there seems to be little information on people who intend to become licensed in both professions.  Given the intense nature, possible liability, and the sheer work involved, it’s of no surprise to me that there would be so few people that are both R.A.’s and S.E.’s

On the engineering side of things I have my E.I.T. (Engineer-In-Training) certification and since I’m currently in the process of obtaining a Master’s degree I will be required to have just 3 additional years of work experience under a P.E. (Professional Engineer) to be eligible to sit for the PE exam. So that’s 1/4 down, 3/4 to go I guess. It might seem like a weird push or desire to the professionals who are fully steeped in either field, but somehow I simply can’t shake either of the two disciplines. We’ll see how that pans out in the next five years.




Foundation sizing

An image of the first page of a foundation design spreadsheet I developed for my Concrete Structures class.