Architect Tonye Braide is the 26th President of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA). In this interview with Elsie Godwin of NREH, he pointed out the need for Architects’ project to be vetted by Architects stating that Architects should be the ones in the development control of all development control offices. He also mentioned strengthening the institutional base of the institute as key part of his plan as the President of NIA.
Read interview below:
Let us into your journey to being the president of Nigerian institute of Architects.
It’s been a long road of almost 29years of dedicated service to the institute. From about 1986 when I started doing some work as a resource person to the education board where I served the board for so many years then became a chapter chairman of cross river state chapter. Moved on to serve at the admissions committee, served at the practice committee and eventually I had to get into the presidency through a long torturous road of being the third vice president, second vice president, first vice president and finally, president.
What plans do you have for the institute?
I want to strengthen the institutional base of the institute – training of Architects, because we found out that in recent years, most Architects will come out even with very good degrees and have a lot of gaps in their knowledge of very practical and mental things in architecture. So we have to look at our institute and see how we can strengthen the faculty, to see how we can bring in some international and global standard into the training and prepare Architects who are ready for the market place and can practice anywhere in the world.
We also want to regulate practice in a way and manner that we can reduce the level of external incursion and also remove or regulate the unregistered people who have been providing low quality services and furthermore, see how we can improve the quality of service of the registered architects, making sure that Nigerians get better services from Nigerian architects.
How is the institute dealing with invasion of foreign architects?
It’s been very difficult because to an extent, some of these architects come in under the pretense of being part of a package that brings in the financing. It’s going to be a big battle but we are going to try our best now that we have a government in place that is trying to put everything straight, and now that foreign exchange is equally very scarce. We feel that there should be some regulation to reduce these capital plight. Besides, there are extant laws that make it impossible for people from foreign lands to come in and practice anywhere. Just like we cannot go to their country to practice, similarly there are laws that prevent that from happening. So we are going to look at the constitution of Nigeria, the extant laws that are available and we are going to work out very put cooperation with the architects registration of Nigeria (ARCON) to make sure that only people who are registered to practice in Nigeria, do these designs and when these designs are to come in, they have to be in partnership with Nigerian architects and the Nigerian participation should be up to 70% of the work.
As it stands now, is it true that most of the iconic structures in the country can be attributed to foreign architects?
Some of these structures you are seeing in the country look very nice to behold but how iconic are they? Some of them are mere repetition of designs that have been done elsewhere. There are still iconic structures in this country that can be attributed to Nigerian architects. There are still urban spaces that have been designed and look very nice attributable to Nigerian architects. Some of the very expensive highrise buildings have been done out of the country but there is still a lot of work done by Nigerians which are of worthy mentions.
When it comes to achieving designs on site; in cases where the Architects and the Engineers disagree on a design and its implementation, is there a synergy going on right now to minimize these differences and to make sure it doesn’t look like the architects are always bringing bogus designs?
The truth of the matters is that architects are dreamers and engineers are supposed to be technically achievers. Building generally, will be very functional in the first instance but buildings should also be able to capture a little bit of the imagination of the architect. As far as the building remains within the budget of the client, the engineers have to face the challenge to be able to transpose the concepts and ideas of the architects into reality.
For functionality, aesthetic and costs, are there situations where the architect is asked to go back to the drawing board?
Yes it does happen. An architect must be mindful of the cost. There are times when the project is going out of hand. When the project cost is trying to go out of hand, we go back to check the specifications, redesign certain parts of the building and try to make it very achievable.READ ALSO – 5 Indian Architectural Designs That Will Wow You
In our building regulations, if something was to be changed, what will it be?
Right now, there is the building code which has not yet been enforced in its totality. In our regulation, much of them still carry the vestiges of some coronial input. One of the issues particularly in regulations that must be changed, is the clauses that have to do with the approval of buildings. Some aspect of the approval process fall into the hands of some professionals who are not adequately exposed to the technology of buildings. We believe truly that Architects’ project should be vetted by Architects and they should be the ones in the development control of all development control offices, we should be able to examine the quality of design and not be subject to people who know more about planning.
In recent interviews, you said you were ready to collaborate with EFCC/ICPC to fish out any corrupt architect. What are the instances where an Architect could be said to be corrupt?
The architect is not corrupt for designing a job that was brought to him. But architecture goes beyond drawings. Stage 1 is just the preliminary sketch designs, 2, involves the preparation of working drawings and specifications, and stage 3 involves the actualisation of the project. Now in the process of executing stage 3, the Architect probably have to sign some documents that will get the buildings approved. And in doing this, the architect will have access to some documents about the owner. If this funds have come from genuine resources, the owner will have no reservations in putting in a correct name. So when you know this project belongs to Mr. A but you have papers of Mr. B, then that means there is some falsification and that in itself is improper. If there is need to make enquiry from the Architect about which project went where, it will be criminal on the part of the architect to withhold information on the development. Even in developed countries, information of developments are passed on to governments and government now measure how much taxation has been paid thereby using this to track down criminals. Though some projects have confidentiality agreements but the laws of the land are overriding.