CREATIVE DIVERSITY: Architecture and Entrepreneurship

Architects during their annual conference

Interrogating the creative diversity in a profession that has over the years served as the confluence of Art, Science, Engineering, Technology, Philosophy and most recently Information Communications Technology is as diverse as it is interesting. This presentation seeks not just to stir us up but also provoke us to societal demand as architects and industry leader.

Standing as perhaps the oldest profession in recorded history, maybe second only to FARMING as typified in the Garden of Eden after God had declared all His creations as good and beautiful. Besides keeping the herbs and trees as FOOD, the next assignment to man was to dress and nurture the garden that was pleasant to the SIGHT. Four rivers were allowed to enter and nourish the floral life of the garden while providing diverse aquatic life. Precious stones and metals in gold, bdellium and the onyx broke the monotonous green floral while allowing for multiple features appreciation and tumbling of the water falls. It was in this beautiful and therapeutic garden that God came looking for his fallen friend-ADAM.

The garden was man’s first effort in landscape architecture and was later to serve as inspiration in the emergence of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world-THE HANGING GARDEN OF BABYLON in present day Iraq. The garden was a remarkable blend of architecture and engineering and sign posted contemporary TERRACE HOUSING and GARDENSThe Neo-Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar2 was said to have built the wonder garden for his wife, Queen Amytis who was said to be missing the green hills and valleys of her homeland.

A stone throw from the presumed position of the garden and separated by a segment of rivers Tigris and Euphrates was the TOWER OF BABEL. The creative ingenuity in man had developed a geometrical proportion that saw a structure large enough at the base to shoulder a tower that rose about 2.5km or 1.6miles (more by some account) into the sky. Ancient writings indicated the tower was laid square on a plain level land. The walls were made from baked brick and cemented with pitch. The presumed height of the tower is about three times the height of Burj Khalifa (man’s tallest structure today). The pinnacle (tower of strife) was said to measure about 211m and obviously taller than any man built structure until the arrival of Eiffel tower (324m) in 1889.

Twenty-five gates adorned each side of the walls, giving 100 gates with great and wonderful sizes and cast in bronze. The tower was freely referred to as a city because of the complexity, function, composition and aesthetics. Some writers prefer to refer to it as a mountain rather than a tower because of the size of the base. Some say the base was as wide as the height. The structure was so great and alluring that bible history says the GOD HEAD had to come down to see what man and his creative ingenuity were building.

We can therefore say that the architect in man has been active since creation, navigating and conquering the various challenges that nature, growth and civilization has thrown up. It is presumed he will be there until the end of time when the city with twelve walls and twelve foundations will emerge. Our world is therefore created for the ARCHITECT and he has a command to exercise DOMINION over it through his creative ingenuity and diversity.

CREATIVE DIVERSITY

A peep into the life and conduct of the architect reveals a specie that was created totraverse and conquer nature, assimilate all that engineering can afford and infuse into the creative world the advances and gains of science and technology. History is replete with examples of architects who transcended the conventional to explore the limitlessness of the creative world. The charm they offer have made them historically significant and sometimes a reference point to man’s ingenuity and civilization.

The Danish architect, Jorn Utzon literally threw his clustered boats-in-one into the Sydney harbor and allowed it to sail as the SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE. The leaning tower of Pisa,Italy, challenged man’s understanding of the gravitational force, the 818metre tall Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE, withstood the force of the wind to dance in the desert storm at such incredible height. The Space Needle Seattle, Washington, didn’t contend with the desert storm but offered the Pacific sea breeze to tourist at 184m (604ft) in a slenderest formwhile the Stratosphere springing up in the desert space of Las Vegas, Nevada, rose to 350m (1,149ft) into the sky with her ‘insanity ride’ while overlooking the vast city.

ARC NWAFOR MIKE fnia

The Palm Jumeirah was an experiment in the conquest of nature. Series of palm frond-like forms were hurled from the sea to serve as man-made islands and a place to work, play, sleep and relax. The architecture of the Palm is a confluence of oceanography, engineering, science, technology and art.

What are the creative models available to the architect? Is he confined to the design and supervision of buildings and houses? How about exporting his creative abilities to the world of ships, boats and canoes, furniture, cars, home appliances, wristwatches and fashion? Military, energy and telecommunication gadgets could find beautiful expression through the architects’ creative skill.

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Mies van der Rohe’s position that a chair is more difficult to design than a sky scrapper did not stop prominent architects such as Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer, Eero Saarinen, Alva Aalto and others from venturing into the world of furniture design and production. The Architect inspired furniture and other products often push the boundaries of material as they make their demand of the materials in forms and shapes.

Architects believe that we do not answer to structures but structures defer to us. The functions I want a structure to perform is what it will respond to by design and materials management.

The AMAGER BAKKE plant is not only a waste-to energy plant but prides itself as one of the most exciting and exotic public spaces in Denmark. In an attempt to integrate the architecture into the society, Arc Bjarke Ingels created a roof top ski slope for skiing tourists and enthusiasts in a snow prone environment.Workers could therefore move from the energy plant during office hours to skiing during break or lunch hour.The New York and Copenhagen based architect reflected same concept in his effort in improvingManhattan’s (New York) flood resistance after hurricane Sandy visited in 2012. Solutions were required after hurricane Sandy visited and left in its wake 70 billion dollars in damages, swept through 24 North Eastern coastal states and the Caribbean, filtered into Canada and left about 147 people dead. Architect Ingels offered the floating city concept as solution to hurricane and sea level rise. He is currently the architect on the new twisting TwinTowers of New York City.

The architects’ reaction to Nigeria’s steel city- Ajaokuta, would have been to integrate the expansive river Niger (having just merged with the Benue River) and the multiple rocks and hills of Ajaokuta into a world class tourist destination. A tourism and steel city of Ajaokuta would still have been alive even when the steel components fail to respond.The developed 10,000-unit housing complex would have been put to effective use.

The architect’s creative instinct is as futuristic as it is pre-emptive. The concept of a floating city as opposed to raised seashores and banks should be the architects’ effort in keeping coastal cities afloat on the assumption that most coastal cities will be below sea level by 2050 because of climate change and rising sea level.

The architect is often the solution to man’s challenges posed by nature. He offers his solution when Tsunami threatens our environment, when storms and hurricane devastates our towns and cities, when static and fixed high rise structures are twisted by wind and hurricane, when the desert encroaches and oasis disappear and aquatic life is extinguished. When developable land shrinks, expendable income reduced with a rise in the demand for affordable housing. The architect is there when science and technology knocks on the doors of houses and homes with a demand for smart functional homes, clean and renewable energy. He is the prophet to the built environment and must live in the future to adequately respond to these questions.

ARCHITECTURE AND ENTREPRENURSHIP

The architect loves innovation, style, materials and products but hardly input it into his business development or model. Many have remained constrained within the largely unpopular and financially unrewarding trading of time and skill for naira (CONSULTANCY SERVICES) despite his endowment.

In a diverse and expanding global market, the architect should develop alternate career pathway where his distinct abilities offers comparative and competitive edge.

The BUSINESS MODELS available to the architect could include but not limited to the following;

A, DESIGN AND SUPERVISION

This is a system where the architect trades his skill and time in design and supervision for a consideration. His liability is with the design while the construction liability is borne by the contractors and sub-contractors. The standard practice is for his remuneration to be according to the approvals of the regulatory body. His services often include brief taking, preliminary drawings, working drawings and post contract segment or supervision of the project. However, the decline in commission, increasing number of architects and dwindling purse of the government has severely affected this business model.

B, DESIGN AND BUILD

This project delivery system seamlessly fuses the design and construction of the project in one person. The architect is therefore both the designer and the builder and bears the liabilities of both. The method reduces the client’s headache (he has one source to seek legal remedies) and gains in delivery time.  With some measure of professionalism, the architect could further break this system into the ARCHITECT LED-DESIGN-BUILD and the BUILDER-LED-DESIGN BUILD. The primary goal is to enhance efficiency and delivery time. He is better remunerated with a more active involvement in the project conception, design and delivery.

Declining new projects, escalating construction costs and reduced investment in housing has led many to the DESIGN and BUILD business model.

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C, INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

This is a system where new or unique products, goods and services are introduced in the design and construction industry. The key challenge here has been how to start and what will the system accept. The process of developing new products and services should start with discovering the perceived need or problem of the environment, build on the findings and scale up. We do not aim to get it right at the first trial and the market place serves as the testing ground for developed products.

PRODUCTS

PLANS BY BUNDLE. Develop simple, functional and adaptable houses and sell it in bundles. A housing estate of multiple units could have the plans sold in bundles. The drawings can also be sold on-line for additional income stream. Some very successful architects have employed this model to boost income. This is the genesis of building plans in magazines and journals. After the choice of plan is made and site determined, the architect customizes the plans for the site so selected.

HOUSE/HOME UPGRADE. Upgrading and remodeling Prefabricated, dilapidated and run-down houses could constitute a unique business model for the architect. He carefully makes his choice in house type, location, cost and availability of off-takers. Materials type is also of very strong consideration.

Carlos Slim, the Lebanese born Mexico trained engineer and 2015 third richest man in the world, made the bulk of his real estate money in acquiring and upgrading buildings. The Duke Semans mansion, 5th avenue, New York City, the PepsiCo Inc. headquarters are just some of the numerous facilities that were acquired and upgraded for some handsome reward.

It offers an excellent business model for the architect because of his comparative advantage.

DEVELOPER. The architect with his unique built environment advantage is encouraged to be a Developer. This helps him create a hybrid that guarantees regular income stream and immense fulfillment as an architect. Access to funding could determine his limit of involvement; either in land development only or land and housing development. He could limit his involvement in servicing the land-land acquisition, sort out legal subdivision requirements, secure approval for various house types and allow subscribers develop as designed and approved while providing active supervision to ensure compliance.

INTEGRATE FEATURES WITH TECHNOLOGY. Some architectural features and geometry could be married or inspire contemporary technology revolution. Arc Bjarke Ingels took inspiration from the saddle roof for the design of a lock that seamlessly pairs with the smart phone. The keyless FRIDAY SMART LOCK could open a window of technological revolution in architecture that could further expand her reach and change contemporary language in architecture. The keyless lock is a collaborative work between Friday lab, Bjarke Ingels group (BIG) and D LINE. Connected with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the product exploits industry-leading security standards to provide easy access, a database of log files and notifies the homeowner of any attempt of forced entry. The control is through a smart phone with compatible app and the finishing comes in clean simple natural materials such as wood, steel and porcelain. The app’s dashboard grants users access.

Architects are challenged to design doors and windows that will eliminate keys, handles and remote controls while interfacing with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Access could be granted by irises, voice or palm command with unique designs that is organic to the environment and interiors.

SIGNATURE DESIGN

Arc Frank O. Gehry’s proprietary software and consulting business- Gehry Technologies adapted the technologies used in aerospace and automotive industries as answersto malleable and intricate architectural forms. His signature and unique design has left him in a world of his own; see his Beijing National Stadium (the bird nest), China and Ateliers Jean Nouvel’s Louvre (2017), AbuDhabi. The louvre is Arabian peninsulas largest museum and designated as an ART AND CIVILIZATION MUSEUM. French President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated the museum in 2017.

Adopting signature design as a business model grants exclusive access to certain privileged clients and ensures office and practice sustainability.

PREY ON THE MARKET-THE CONTAINER BUILDINGS

Analysis of available data on imports and exports by June 2019 suggests that the key player (architects) in the built environment has gold buried around that needs to be tapped. In the last couple of years according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the only export product from Nigeria that has enjoyed a rise by 2017 is the CRUDE OIL(72.8%) while slumping in other products; Manufactured goods -14.3%, Raw materials-34%, Agricultural goods -36.6%, Solid Minerals -88.1% and Energy goods -25%.

Within same period however, import surged on manufactured goods 100.5%, Raw materials 38.5%, and Agricultural goods 1.6%, Solid minerals 86.9%. The implication is that the 78.7% surge in imports from China, 70.2% from India, 92.2% from Japan and 181.6% from the USA drops their containers here. The shipping companies cannot ferry empty containers back home besides the need to create flourishing market for container manufacturing back home. The containers come in 40ft and 20ft sizes. Exotic designs and functional plans could be developed from these containers through intelligent combination of two or more containers to desired forms and shapes. The buildings could be adapted for residential or commercial houses and could come in single or multiple floors.

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With appropriate technologies, the roof, floor and walls could be effectively insulated for low, medium and high end use with graded finishes.

DEMOGRAPHICS, ECONOMY AND HOUSING DEFICIT

A unique product that evolves from the nation’s population demographics, size and sophistication of the economy and housing deficit could probably expand the architect’s horizon and define another Business Model.

With a GDP of about 500billion, United States Dollars, the economy stands, as Africa’s biggest. The economy however is a lower middle, mixed income and falls into the category of Developing/Emerging market. Critical sectors of the Economy-Manufacturing, Financial, Services, Communications, Technology and Entertainment are expanding rapidly and could be said to be at their infant stages.

The architect is thus invited to ingeniously tap into the embedded fortune in an economy that boasts of 200.6million people and estimated at about 400million by 2050 (the seventh most populous country in the world and estimated third by 2050) haven grown by about 268% since independence (about 46million at independence in 1960). The current estimated housing deficit of 17miilion units is therefore expected to multiply exponentially as we approach 2050 and beyond.

Aside the humongous and bourgeoning population, the age distribution is even more eye popping for the entrepreneur architect. Average age of the nation is about 18.5yrs while more than 42% is between 0 and 14yrs, 53.2% between 15 and 65yrs while the aging group of 65yrs and above holds the balance 2.7%. The population is therefore active, virile and progressive. For the developer architect, tailoring his housing production to the 53.2% of 15-65-year bracket guarantees off-takers, ensures good return on investment and suggests sustainability.

The professional entrepreneurial architect is therefore encouraged not to sit back and wait for non-available clients’ commission but to exploit the market that is lying prostate for his exploitation-create and sell innovative products.

D, BUILDING MATERIALS and PRODUCTS MANUFACTURING.

The architects training and exposure enables him understand the behavior and demand for specific building materials and products. His specifications writing ability compels him to note available materials, place of use, their properties and sometimes method of application. His interface with products manufacturers and distributors often stirs up his interest in manufacturing. Adopting products manufacturing as A BUSINESS MODEL has been hugely rewarding for architects.

Many successful and renowned architects have made huge success of materials/products manufacturing. Arc Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria promoted the Aluminum-Steel alloy roofing sheet production with the brand name ROBERTSON. Arc Franc Mbanefo, former President of the Institute was deeply involved in the production of branded doors and kitchen units that raised the bars for such products. Knowledge of clients need and demand often serves as compass for architects that wish to explore products manufacturing in building products for walls, floors, roof, ceiling, doors and windows.

OTHER BUSINESS MODELS

Investing in the industry’s challenges of shortage of manpower, lack of capacity for the available personnel by engaging in capacity building could provide the architects with interesting and sustainable business model. The capacity of artisans (carpenters /wood workers, brick layers, gypsum board workers, painters, electricians, plumbers, tilers and welders to meet industry need will be enhanced leading to cost efficient production of more buildings and houses.

Earning capacity for the key players in the industry will be increased and higher return on investment. Developing capacity for building construction workers will lead to technology input in construction methods, which will manifest in speed of execution and quality of finished products. The architect as the industry leader is the greatest beneficiary.

The challenge of housing in the swamps of Niger Delta is yet another outlet. The oil rich Niger Delta with her swampy mangrove terrain could be challenged with a unique concept of floating cities.

The cities will be conceived to withstand flooding and hurricane with biotechnology concepts of managing both solid and liquid wastes. Energy will be by solar and or windmill technology. The main gain is protection from sea level rise while addressing affordable housing in areas below sea level and threatened by sea level rise.

CONCLUSION and RECOMMENDATION

The architect’s creative diversity should find convergence in his entrepreneurship. He must not only create and recreate the environment; he must also create wealth and ensure sustainability. His industry leadership should be seen in the options available to him. Every segment of life should feel him because he is in every sector of man’s activity and advancement.

The architect is perhaps the only person in the built environment that is equipped to call into existence, non-existing facilities and products. His reach is limitless and abilities unmatched. He is invited to take what nature and training has bequeathed. SIEZE YOUR WORLD.

By ARC NWAFOR MIKE fnia

What are your thoughts?