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Tosin Oshinowo: A Damsel In Men’s Structural World

Among the contemporary architects commanding attention to themselves is Tosin Oshinowo, a young architect and chief executive of cmDesign Atelier, an architecture design consultancy firm based in Lagos.

Oshinowo’s architectural prowess was brought to limelight when the Maryland Mall, Lagos, was launched in June 2016. A native of Ikorodu, she studied Architecture at the Kingston University and then the Architecture Association London and holds a Master’s degree in Urban Design from the Bartlett School of Architecture, London. Upon returning to Nigeria, she practised at James Cubitt Architects and has designed works for the Guaranty Trust Bank, CafeNeo, Kamp Ikare Resort and Ying Yang Express.

Maryland Mall

She worked in leading international architect firms like Skidmore Owing & Merrill LLP London, and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture Rotterdam, where she was part of the team that designed a proposal for the Lagos 4th Mainland Bridge, an ambitious double-decker concept design with a pedestrian section on the lower deck and vehicles on top in 2008.

At a very young age, Oshinowo developed a strong love for buildings and the art and science behind them. She would join her father to a building site, while he put up the family residence in their hometown, Ikorodu, Lagos.

Oshinowo says, “I have always had a good understanding of space, materiality and light; it seemed like an obvious choice. What I love so much about architecture is being able to conceptualise then realise the ‘stuff of dreams’, then occupy the actual space.”

Not one to shy away from attention, the soft-spoken yet energetic creative leverages the publicity off her social engagements for good, validating her opening statement on the need for visibility as a creative professional. The attention and spotlight she has attracted to her work have indeed brought her good fortunes; some of her work can be seen everywhere in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos with creatively inspiring and bold statements.

According to Oshinowo, the Nigerian architectural space has always been rich on creativity, but the issue of African originality would keep resurfacing. She added that architecture in Nigeria is so visible yet great architects in the country are invisible.

Tosin Osinowo

“The work of public relations in architecture cannot be overemphasized in this ever-changing global space. People need to see what work is done and how great the work is. It is the work of the PR personnel to ensure your work reaches through the different sections of the media. Architects are expected to do things in a certain way, but if you are not strategic with what you do, your works may never be known.”

Speaking on Lagos urban growth, the architect thinks the city is haphazard, and one in which hard choices must be made in the interest of the future. “In order to achieve the dream and goal of a modern planned city, we must plan for the future in Lagos. If these ideas are not enforced based on policies, inclusive development may never happen.”

Mixed-Use Developments

Speaking on her experiences playing in the male-dominated industry, Oshinowo says, “Well, let’s be real, we are very sexist in Nigeria. So, you will always encounter people who are small-minded and will address you in despicable manners. I come from a family of three girls, and we were not raised with any form of gender-consciousness. We were raised knowing that you need to be able to sort yourself out; you need a good education to be able to stand on your own. The important thing is not to walk around with a chip on your shoulder or feel victimised.”

She explains how she manages her schedules, saying, “As an architect, you need to be very structured because you work in a business focused environment. I’m more organised and quick to make decisions when I have a to-do list.”

Apart from designing buildings, Oshinowo is has a furniture line called ILE-ILA: House of Lines, where she uses local fabrics and patterns within a contemporary aesthetic to design chairs.

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