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Jumoke Adenowo… A Voice of Change for the woman architect

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OLAJUMOKE Adenowo is a multiple award-winning architect. The proudly Nigerian lady is the founder of Awesome Treasures Foundation (ATF). Since 1999, ATF has continued to raise transformational leaders in its summits and other initiatives.

   From a very tender age, she had been passionate about Nigeria. “I would watch military drills and soldiers shout ‘apes obey’ on TV. So, I really started loving Nigeria, very passionately early,” she says.

   As a little girl, she wondered why such a great and blessed nation just couldn’t seem to fulfill its potential. “I remember when I was about eight, my parents went for a conference in Accra, Ghana, and every evening, I would place a seat at the entrance of either Akuafo or Mensah Sabah Hall (I can’t remember which one) in University of Legon and the students would gather and discuss with me till night,” she says.

   Just recently, she was featured on CNN African Voices as one of the leading women in Africa. “That experience was overwhelming,” she explains. “Each time I reflect on the CNN mention, I am truly humbled. Recently, I was also featured in Architectural Record and I couldn’t have made these happen. They are humbling.”

   Admitted to study architecture at the University of Ife, when she was 14, she graduated at 19 with a B.Sc. and subsequently, with a record breaking distinction in master’s of science in architecture (a first in the several decades of the history of the institution).    

   While in the university, she won several faculty awards for her academic work, including best student in design in her first degree programme. In 1991, she was included in the “Who will be who in the 21st century” (young achievers section) by the International Biographical Centre Cambridge, England.

   As a chartered architect, she worked with leading Nigerian firms and at Femi Majekodunmi Associates where, she had the privilege of designing the Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja. She later started her own firm, AD Consulting, in 1994, and has held the position of principal partner till date. The firm has gone from its small cubicle in central Lagos to having three other offices and is now recognised as the flagship boutique that pioneered interior architecture in Nigeria.

   AD Consulting provides bespoke interior design and architectural services to a discerning clientele, and has executed the design and overseen the construction of over 70 outstanding projects for the Nigerian federal and state governments, multinational corporate organisations and private individuals such as Coca Cola International, L’Oreal, CRI, NGC and GTB. Possessing a deep understanding of branding, AD Consulting deploys design of the built space as a brand enhancer. 

ON how she sees her many achievements, she says, “the things that move me, that I consider an honour may not seem important to others. I was sent a photo from a university in Ghana. In their lecture hall, they had placed my photo among the world’s greatest architects, right after Frank Lloyd Wright and two others. I was stunned,” she says quietly, with her face laced with a peaceful and re-assuring smile.  

   She, however, doesn’t see herself as having many achievements. Perhaps, that’s why she has this ‘fault’ of not feeling good and deriving a ‘high’ from what’s in the past. “I just feel like ‘I really thank God for that, but it’s in the past, so, let’s move on to new things.’ I usually need to be reminded of most of these past events when I need to state them for the record,” Adenowo says.

   She is a speaker of note and in high demand at summits and conferences including, the Harvard Business School (African Business Club), the Inspiring Woman Businessday Series, churches, and media platforms. She hosts her own syndicated radio programme, Voice of Change on Leadership. She is also author of several books such as the lauded Lifespring the Mothers’ Prayer Manual and her most recent work, Designed for Marriage. She is also a lyricist. 

    An alumnus of a number of prestigious institutions including, the Lagos Business School Chief Executive Programme and The IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Barcelona, Spain, her three guiding philosophies are laden with meaning. The first is tied to Faith, that is, a relationship with her creator, who has the blue print of her life and is actively working it out. The second is her family and third, her moral code and the belief that a woman can actively pursue her dreams. 

   “When I was about seven, I remember my mother was the vice president of the International Sociological Society. She would be at conferences world wide – with an academic dad who didn’t stop her but would rather tell his daughter, “Congratulate your mum, she just became Vice President of ISS,” she confesses.

   Every day, she is thankful that her parents struck the right balance between letting her have her say and demanding her obedience, which they got. “My brother and I had no reason to rebel. We were treated like we mattered and we had an opinion. We could also explore.  I see so many parents these days ‘helicopter parenting’ – hovering around their children till the children can’t even fall and pick themselves up again and learn in the process. Or some become their daughter’s “friend” and forgetting to be their mother, which is their unique role!  I am still learning daily, I believe successful parenting is impossible without divine assistance. I learnt from my mother that parenting is balance,” Adenowo reveals.

   According to her, “it never occurred to me that being female was a disadvantage. My own family, my husband and sons! They are like a restoring refuge in the storm.  And friends, yes, I am blessed in my friends.  Relationships can make you or break you. The leadership teams I have at Awesome Treasures are amazing! We are all intimate friends!” 

   Talking of fond memories, Adenowo has her own fair share. To her, it is the essence of life — legacy. The lady believes that she is still in the process of building. If it is values, she strives daily for integrity. “Don’t do in the dark, what you won’t do in the light. Yoruba say, “asegbe o si, asepamo ni o wa!” meaning there’s a consequence for every action no matter how hard it’s hidden. Live your life the way you want to be remembered. Lastly, only a life lived for others is a life worth living. No one will miss you when you are gone for what you wore or how much you had – you will be remembered only for the impact your life had on theirs.”

   One single thing that she feels blessed with is the succession in AD Consulting and Awesome Treasures. She believes that without succession there’s no success. Hence, as an architect, she would consider it an awesome legacy to be remembered as ‘the architect, who designed the iconic building, monument that defines Nigeria’s identity’ and ‘as the leader of the vanguard in defining a globally celebrated Nigerian Architecture’.  

   She serves on the board of several businesses, institutions and social initiatives, including the board of governors of the elite British School of Lome, the Board of Fountain Holdings Limited, the National Think Tank, the Ekiti State Economic Council, amongst several others. She has been honoured with several awards a few of which are the Rare Gems award by WODEF in conjunction with the United Nations Information Centre, the International Property Awards (Best Public Service Architecture, 2012), African Property Awards (Best Mixed-Use Architecture), (Best Office Architecture and Best Public Service Architecture, 2013), IDEA Awards (Best Commercial Designer 2012), (Best interior Architect 2013) and the Ekiti State Merit Awards 2014. She was honoured as an “Ambassador of Excellence” for outstanding achievements in architecture and women development by her alma mater.

HOWEVER, Adenowo is not about work alone. She is a woman with a unique dress sense. It is chic and classy. “I have always felt your style should be yours. I believe that clothes shouldn’t wear you. You should wear clothes. I like timeless, classic accessories and clothes.”

   Her dream destination is her family’s warm embrace. Wherever they are, anywhere in the world once they are together, it’s bliss. “Anytime, she spends with her family is truly refreshing. Either with just one member or with all! We spend all the time we can together and each one of us is unique.  We really have fun — we have two sons, so, naturally, we go — zip lining, para – gliding, fastest ride in the world — you name it. And I keep up with my sons (She has two of them with Olukorede, her husband). No way, no one leaves me behind. Even if I have to ask myself afterwards, ‘why did you get on that ride’?”

    The girlish feeling in her is truly age-less, as she wouldn’t miss the opportunity to catch up on some happy moments with her friends. However, she uses the word friends very judiciously. Her friends are like-minded people. She discusses with them anything from leadership to history, to their passions and interests, which to them, is great fun. 

   She advises young Nigerian youths to build interesting, credible and long lasting platforms, which will take them to the next level of their lives and careers. And if you are wondering if Adenowo already has enough, she clearly tells you that her many platforms are certainly not enough. “Too many? I don’t have enough — Voice of Change (the syndicated radio show on Leadership) is only on six stations. We need to expand.  The platforms have shaped me, matured me, I guess because dealing with people you just must grow. Having the privilege to be relevant to others and the feedback I get is really humbling for me,” she says.



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