A CONVERSATION WITH ABIMBOLA AKINKUGBE
Abimbola Oyinkansola Akinkugbe is an architect. She studied at the School of Environmental Design, University of Lagos and on her graduation in 1990, learnt pattern cutting and clothing construction under Mrs. Bose Olubanjo, a then lecturer in fashion design at the Yaba College of Technology. Akinkugbe earned certificates in The Business of Fashion and Bridal Wear from the London College of Fashion in 1998. She has since overseen a fashion design outfit with specialties in event uniforms and bridal wear. She also worked with several leading architectural firms like APD consultants, MOE Architects and Archimage Design Consultants, before setting up her own practice, The Design Practice in 2002, with a focus on space planning and interior design. In 2008, she set up Moulding Technologies Limited, manufacturers of prefabricated building elements using green 100% recyclable Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). The company’s vision is to provide more affordable housing for low and middle-income earners in Nigeria.
What inspired you to study architecture?
As a child I loved dolls and dollhouses. My mum bought me a few and I also made some myself out of cardboard back then. Fast forward, my parents wanted me to study medicine but I chose architecture and filled my JAMB form without their knowledge. I just love to create things.
You are a trained architect and fashion designer. Which do you find more fulfilling and how related are they?
I find both architecture and fashion design fulfilling as they give me opportunities to design and see my creations. Very fulfilling though architecture I must confess, is more challenging…. I love the challenge!
You have worked with several reputable architectural firms. What did you learn from them which has helped immensely in your own practice?
I learnt never to take for granted any opportunity to design that comes my way but make the most of it as each is an opportunity to put one’s footprint in the sands of time.
Why did you study fashion after graduation instead of continuing with architecture?
Several top designers in Lagos messed up my graduation outfits but I finally found Mrs. Olubanjo, who made me a nice dress; she knew what she was doing. I decided to learn at the time just so I could make my own clothes. It soon exploded into a business as people saw the clothes I made and wanted them. I did these alongside my full-time architecture work.
What was the reason for setting up Moulding Technologies Limited and what has your experience been?
I set up Moulding Technologies Limited because I always felt there was so much we could do by ourselves in this country that we were importing. I also believe that housing could be made more affordable for the medium and low income earner in this country. This is the long term goal of the company. We decided to start with prefabricated building elements and then move on to pre-fabricated housing.
Your company manufactures prefabricated building elements using green 100% recyclable Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). Why that product in particular?
Expanded Polystyrene is 100% recyclable. It also has insulation capabilities. It is also very versatile in its uses.
Is it a sustainable product and readily available?
It is sustainable and it helps to conserve energy due to its insulating properties. In addition it is 10% recyclable and its waste products are reusable for many other processes. The pellets are imported at this time but are a byproduct of petroleum refining, so we believe will be available in Nigeria in the near future.
How have you been able to achieve your vision of it providing more affordable housing for low and middle income earners in Nigeria?
Our present products are pre-fabricated building elements, and includes roof cornices, dado rails, window hoods. These are more affordable, easier and faster to install. We are in the process of raising funds for our pre-fabricated housing solutions.
Are you working with the Federal Government on this or is it a private venture?
It is a private venture.
How have you been able to train or retrain your staff in the production of EPS?
Our processes are simple and so provide opportunities of employment/work for artisans, carpenters mostly. Our training process is simple and of a short duration.
As an architect, do you think you have been able to solve problems and make living more meaningful?
I believe we are in that process. At this time we have made the lives of architects and contractors easier with our products as we have helped to save time and improve the quality of design and construction.
Which architects have influenced your work and greatly inspired you?
Frank Lloyd Wright and Mosun Ogunbanjo.
Do you have a particular style and design aesthetic?
I like simple lines that bring out the essence of the particular setting or person being designed for.
Please tell us 5 architectural buildings or projects in the world that have inspired you?
Falling Water House/ Kaufmann residence, Notre Dame de Paris, La Chapelle de Ronchamp, Gtbank Plaza, Adeyemo Alakija Street, and Harbour Point Events centre both in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Which architect would you like to meet or to have met and why?
Frank Lloyd Wright. I liked his boldness to carry through a design concept, no matter how new or non- conformist it is. I believe he understands what a great privilege creativity is, and took full advantage of every opportunity.
How do you spend your leisure and what’s your favourite travel destination?
In the company of my children is where I find joy; gisting, swimming and so on. My favourite travel destination is China. It unearths to me many possibilities as far as our beloved nation is concerned and as far as manufacturing and empowerment (my passion) is concerned.
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