Muyiwa Oki Thinks We Need A Diversity Of People To Solve The Big Issues Of The Day
Architect Muyiwa Oki thinks we need a diversity of people to solve the big issues of the day. The RIBA's youngest and first black president, who takes office this week, wants to rebuild the profession with a focus on workers' rights, community, and sustainability.
In a statement, he said:
I’m the first of a kind.- Muyiwa Oki
He is, in more than one way. He will become the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) youngest president ever on September 1st, at the age of 32. He is the first black person to hold the position, having been born in Nigeria.
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He is an employee rather than a principle in his normal job, which he will continue to perform part-time throughout his two-year tenure, working for the construction business Mace, which isn't primarily an architectural practice.
He aspires to advocate for the profession's unheralded employees rather than its bosses. He said:
We need to do more work celebrating the community, the village that creates good architecture.- Muyiwa Oki
In a boardroom in the institute's 89-year-old offices in Portland Place, downtown London, with walls lined with leather and Indian laurel, a photograph of the mustachioed Aston Webb, an architect whose firm created the Victoria and Albert Museum and the front of Buckingham Palace, and a former occupant of Oki's position, hangs behind him.
It's impossible to overstate how different Oki is from his predecessors or the magnitude of the challenge he's taken on. Webb, like virtually all previous presidents, was a white man in command of a successful practice that created several notable structures and who is regularly attributed as the single author of these collaborative masterpieces. Oki's position at Mace is as he describes it:
To work with clients on decarbonization strategies.- Muyiwa Oki
Webb would have had no idea what this term meant. As president, Oki plans to put the RIBA's weight behind the "retrofit first" concept, which holds that the environment should reuse existing structures rather than replace them.
Many of us — historians, critics, architects, quiz show presenters – are to blame for the abbreviations that attribute St Paul's Cathedral to Christopher Wren or the Gherkin to Norman Foster.
The emphasis on great works by great individuals is simple but incomplete - and it comes at a cost: those under-recognized associates are under-rewarded and sometimes exploited, while the many useful things that architects may do that do not fall under the category of "genius" (for example, about sustainability) are also pushed to the side.
Oki plans to correct these inequities. He was elected on a platform of defending workers' rights following an open letter signed by a coalition of pressure organizations in March 2022 requesting that the next RIBA president be "representative of its members."
He wants to eliminate unpaid overtime, which was reported by 88.6% of respondents in a Future Architects Front study in 2021. He aims to persuade businesses that "taking care of your employees does not hurt your business" and that "creating a working environment where it is easier to grow" is beneficial.
He currently believes:
The route to growth is long and arduous in university and then in practice.- Muyiwa Oki
He will support ideas to give a shorter alternative to the seven-year term of training and professional practice required to qualify as an architect as president.
He also claims:
Architects need to be more expansive, going into multiple areas, and not think that there’s only this narrow thing of drawing details.- Muyiwa Oki
He envisions a diverse profession focused on solving contemporary challenges rather than prioritizing fantastical designs. By making architects more useful to society, they could potentially increase their earnings and staff salaries.
Oki's career in architecture emphasizes practical accomplishments over aspirations for artistic greatness. He's less interested in emulating figures like Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright and finds inspiration in achievements like the creation of Central Park in New York and the successful execution of projects like the Gherkin. He admires the ingenuity behind Gherkin's design, particularly the use of a single piece of curved glass.
He appreciates Lacaton & Vassal's "forensic architecture," known for creatively repurposing neglected buildings with elegance and efficiency.
Before joining Mace, Oki worked at Grimshaw Architects on the Euston station reconstruction for the HS2 high-speed railway. He admired the project's social significance, despite the government's current pause in the development.
Oki often speaks in general terms, likely because he hasn't disclosed specific details of his program yet. However, his role will require focused engagement with government, housebuilding lobbies, and others who may prioritize built environment quality less than architects. An effective RIBA president should be as passionate and dedicated as a campaigner like Mick Lynch, the trade unionist.
Oki's task is somewhat eased by inheriting an organization that has undergone governance and structural reforms under his predecessor, Simon Allford. Despite its impressive history, the RIBA has historically faced challenges such as internal disputes and financial issues. These reforms are expected to have a positive impact.
In the realm of architecture, talent and innovation are key drivers of success. One name that has been making waves in recent years is Muyiwa Oki, a young and dynamic architect whose work and vision are garnering attention both in the industry and beyond.
Muyiwa Oki's journey into the world of architecture began with a passion for design and a commitment to addressing contemporary challenges. He pursued his education diligently, gaining a solid foundation in architecture. While many aspiring architects are drawn to the allure of iconic designs and groundbreaking structures, Oki's approach has been refreshingly pragmatic from the start.
Oki's architectural philosophy is marked by an appreciation for what he calls "forensic architecture." He finds inspiration in the work of French architects Lacaton & Vassal, renowned for their innovative reuse of existing, often neglected, buildings.
For Oki, it's about going beyond the conventional and finding solutions that prioritize elegance and efficiency, regardless of whether they take the form of a new build or a clever adaptation of an existing structure.
Before his tenure at Mace, Oki was associated with Grimshaw Architects, where he contributed to the ambitious project of rebuilding the Euston station to accommodate the HS2 high-speed railway line.
Despite the temporary pause in the project due to government decisions, Oki appreciated the undertaking's profound social significance. This commitment to projects that extend beyond the conventional boundaries of architecture demonstrates his dedication to making a lasting impact on the built environment.
Muyiwa Oki's ascent in the architectural world is further underscored by his role as President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). In this esteemed position, he faces the responsibility of steering one of the most influential architectural organizations in the world.
While he tends to speak in broad terms about his vision, one can discern his commitment to fostering a built environment that not only excels in design but also serves the broader interests of society.
One of the significant challenges Oki inherits as RIBA President is the need for reform. Despite its impressive history and substantial resources, the RIBA has faced issues such as internal disputes and financial shortfalls. However, under Oki's leadership, there is hope that the organization can overcome these challenges and emerge stronger than ever.
Although discussions about the inner workings of an architectural institution may not typically engage the general reader, Oki's journey and vision hold universal significance. A thriving architectural profession that respects both its practitioners and the communities it serves is vital for the betterment of our buildings and public spaces.
In many ways, Muyiwa Oki has already achieved a significant personal milestone by assuming the role of RIBA President at a young age. His presence in this position has brought increased attention and focus to the institute.
The success of his tenure, both in terms of reforming the RIBA and advancing the cause of architecture in society, is a matter of interest not only to the architectural community but to all who appreciate the profound impact of the built environment on our lives.
As Muyiwa Oki continues to shape the architectural landscape, it becomes increasingly clear that his pragmatic, problem-solving approach, combined with his dedication to social significance, is a promising blueprint for the future of architecture.
Whether it's finding innovative solutions within existing structures or leading an institution toward reform, Muyiwa Oki is indeed a rising star in the world of architecture, and his journey is one worth watching closely.
One of the notable projects Muyiwa Oki worked on was the reconstruction of the Euston station to accommodate the HS2 high-speed railway line.
This project had profound social significance, although it faced government delays. His career also includes a portfolio of projects that emphasize the practical and social aspects of architecture.
What Are Muyiwa Oki's Goals And Vision As The President Of The Royal Institute Of British Architects (RIBA)?
While Muyiwa Oki's specific goals may not be fully revealed yet, his vision as RIBA President likely involves fostering a built environment that excels in design while also serving the broader interests of society.
He may aim to reform the organization, address internal issues, and advocate for architectural excellence on a global scale.
How Does Muyiwa Oki Plan To Address The Challenges Facing The RIBA And The Architectural Industry In His Leadership Role?
Muyiwa Oki's strategy for addressing challenges may involve governance and structural reforms within RIBA to improve its effectiveness. He may also focus on advocacy efforts to ensure that the architectural profession respects both its practitioners and the communities it serves.
Additionally, he may work towards promoting architectural excellence and social responsibility within the industry. Specific details of his plans may become clearer as his tenure progresses.
There are various reasons why architect Muyiwa Oki thinks we need a diversity of people to solve the big issues of the day.
Although the intricacies of the RIBA may not captivate the average reader, a flourishing architectural industry that upholds the well-being of its practitioners and clients contributes to the enhancement of buildings and public spaces on a global scale.
The selection of Oki at a young age has garnered considerable attention from the institute. The efficacy of his leadership is advantageous for all parties involved.