5 questions with Adedoyin Teriba

Adedoyin Teriba is an Assistant Professor of modern and contemporary architecture & urbanism at Vassar College and previously worked as an architect in New York, New Jersey and briefly in Lagos, Nigeria. His research interests include the architecture of the African Diaspora in West Africa; ontology and architecture and the psychology of architecture. Adedoyin will join our CEO + Co-Founder Joe Waters in conversation at the Early Childhood Innovation Summit hosted by the HeadStarter Network in Indianapolis on July 23.


Joe Waters: We are very interested in how we build healthy relationships in the earliest years of a person’s life and across communities that support moms, dads, and guardians. Buildings have the power to promote these relationships or to tear them down. What has your study of architectural history taught you about the power of buildings to drive well-being across cultures and historical contexts?

Adedoyin Teriba: The power of great buildings all around the world contains many ingredients: the memories of local inhabitants, the history of the place where the buildings are as well as the cultural symbols that emerged in the environment over generations. Buildings are like relatives and can impact the lives of children in infinite ways. One cannot overstate how children need to grow up with the same buildings over time and perhaps throughout their lives. It is why the world lamented the loss of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

JW: What is a memory from your own childhood that you are afraid your children may never experience?

AT: Two things: First, playing sports in a field or park next to one’s home. A huge field was in the middle of where I grew up in Nigeria (My home was one of many that surrounded the field. The field was like the ‘heart’ of the residential area). Sports fields, not just parks, should be designed in the midst of neighborhoods so that children can play close to their homes. Alas, too many children are playing video games or have to travel far to play outside. Secondly, I am afraid that the internet has led to a decrease in the desire of parents and children to see meaningful buildings and experience space first hand.

JW: You’ve studied the Civil Rights Movement in architectural context. How does the built environment either promote or respond to social justice movements around the world?

AT: Dostoevsky wrote that “Beauty Will Save the World.” One should focus on creating beautiful buildings and spaces that enable people to meet and interact. ‘Social Justice’ will take care of itself. In other words, do not make social justice the goal. Create architectural beauty in the world that would enrich humanity and perhaps ‘social justice’ (a word I am not entirely comfortable with) could be an offset of that. We should focus instead on creating a beautiful world architecturally and hence, a lot of societal ills could be eliminated.

JW: One of the most interesting things happening in the world today is the rapid urbanization of Africa. This has tremendous potential implications for the environment, both built and natural. As an African architect, how would you suggest stakeholders respond to ensure that the African city of the future supports the flourishing and well-being of young children and their families?

AT: A very difficult question. Architecture as well as Urban and Regional Planning in the continent is a huge topic. Different African countries do different things, so I cannot pretend to have the expertise to answer the question. However, in Nigeria, Nigerians must realize that the most meaningful buildings take time to create. Stakeholders should not be swept away by profits and financial considerations. In my experience, profit-making development ventures have damaged the architectural beauty of much of Lagos, Nigeria. Nigerian developers are enamored with buildings that look flashy - made out of steel and glass - but are ultimately soul crushing. My advice to Nigerian stakeholders: hire architects who would take the history of architecture in Nigeria into account when designing new structures. Commission an architect who would create a total landscape that merges architecture with the design of gardens where local flowers can grow and beautify the place for all to share.

JW: What is your favorite building?

AT: I could choose several but I will settle on Louis Khan’s Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.