BY AYODELE ARIGBABU
I SPIED him out there on the lawn through the glass façade he must have once sketched while designing the building, Goke Osibodu of design / identity assets company MOE with his children, chatting away with Bolanle Austen-Peters of Terra Kulture.
It is on rare occasions that you meet the prime accomplices to a crime on the very scene where it was perpetuated.
I walked out of the restaurant to say hello and then asked the most mundane question I could think of just to stir up something. If you had a chance to change something in this building you did here, what would it be?
Trying to sound all smart and spontaneous without revealing that I’d just paraphrased a similar question asked of a totally different subject by a totally different person just moments ago. He thought for a moment and confessed that he wouldn’t change a thing, granted that the client — Mrs. Austen-Peters had added a few thing after he’s handed the building over to her, but he was happy all the same.
Austen-Peters was just as happy, particularly with the African themed furniture in the restaurant, which she confessed would be carried over into their new project, an extension to the present facility, being planned for the adjoining plot which had been recently acquired and cleared for temporary parking space.
Nosy-so-and-so that he tends to be when it comes to design matters, the design sleuth seized the opportunity to ask who would be designing Terra Kulture Phase 2.
While Mr. Osibodu glossed over the question, Mrs. Austin-Peters was straight and direct. The South African firm @126 Group, an integrated design firm led by the dup of Nick Ristic and Jack Neeves, which had made a few incursions into the Lagos design scape were doing the honours while MOE Identity Assets would be handling the interiors… Mr. Osibodu didn’t seem to have her time when she needed his architectural expertise she sort of intoned, while the architect looked away sheepishly.
GEEZ, in a recession bitten third world economy, some architects still have the luxury of being too busy for certain clients, especially clients like Terra Kulture - a prime culture venue in the country’s hippest city that could and did allow some leeway in terms of quirky notions like African themed furniture and ramps that curve to the first floor like primeval suspension bridges… is MOE still that busy building all those Guaranty Trust Bank branches they chew their way through like school kids chewing through their favourite wafers?
When I grow up, I want to be like Mr. Osibodu and be too busy to answer briefs from clients like Terra Kulture, busy enough to let a South African firm do it while I concede to squeeze in the time to just do the interiors… for old times’ sake.
But it wasn’t only Goke Osibodu that was in the building on that night, there was also Alan Davies of James Cubitt Architects who the design sleuth was too happy to say hello to though I can bet my spectacles he was struggling to remember where we’d met before (he can be forgiven, he’s come a long way) and Theo Lawson of The Lawson + Odeinde Partnership, who graciously took the design sleuth down memory lane on an old pet project that had found a life of its own.
Meeting one’s former bosses at a book launch is not something that happens to you every day especially when you are a layabout like the design sleuth, but if there’s vodka and campari and red wine and small chops and Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80 band and good company peppered with delectable ladies to go with it, then it gets all that more significant. It was the book presentation for Outsider Inside — longtime serving expatriate, Keith Richard’s book on his experiences in and out of different board rooms in Nigeria and…the Design Sleuth was nicely snuzzled…you must have figured that out already.