Samuel (Sam) Óghale Oboh, FRAIC, is the 76th President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada following a formal 2015 President Investiture Ceremony this evening.
About 130 Canadian and international guests attended the ceremony at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, which featured a keynote address by John Ralston Saul, Canadian author, essayist and president of PEN International. Saul spoke of the need for architects and engineers to work for the improvement of First Nations communities in Canada. “While there are wonderful aboriginal architects and wonderful buildings within aboriginal communities, in general, the architectural and engineering communities have abandoned the indigenous communities,” said Saul. “They have been treated, at best, as mining camp sites.
“One of the most important things the architectural community should be doing today is turning its mind to this abandonment of one of the three standing pillars of the country,” he said.
During the investiture, Oboh held the RAIC Lamp of Architecture and recited the seven major principles as defined by John Ruskin’s 1849 essay The Seven Lamps of Architecture: sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory and obedience. “Through the work we do, architects demonstrate a lifelong dedication and commitment to improving the quality of life in our communities,” Oboh said in his investiture address.
“This is a day to celebrate architecture and the values that bind us together in promoting excellence in the built environment,” he said. “It is a time to reflect and share our collective experiences to foster inclusiveness and social equity through the work that we do.”
He received the President’s Medal from the 2014 President Wayne De Angelis, FRAIC, of Vancouver BC.
During his tenure, De Angelis oversaw a renewed vision and mission for the RAIC, which focuses on advocacy and socially responsible architecture. In his speech, he described socially responsible architecture as “an approach to design that values justice, equality, participation, sharing, sustainability, and engages social issues.”
Guests included RAIC members, the RAIC board of directors, and representatives of architectural organizations, such as Chitra Weddikkara, president of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, and Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Samuel Óghale Oboh, FRAIC, was born March 27, 1971 in Lagos, Nigeria.
Sam holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the Bendel/Edo State University (now Ambrose Alli University) and a Master of Science degree in Architecture from the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria.
He graduated from the University of Alberta with a Master of Arts where he was a recipient of the Herbert Marshall McLuhan Graduate Student Award. He was also an honourable nominee for the Student Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies by the Dean of the Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta.
Sam is a licensed architect in both Alberta and Texas. He has worked in the field of architecture for more than 20 years.
As a design architect, Sam has worked on significant projects with various firms including O2 Architecture, Kasian, IBI Group, FMA Architects in Southern Africa and F&A Services (in collaboration with Seifert Architects in London, UK).
Such projects include the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone, Botswana (for the U.S. and Botswana governments), City of Red Deer Civic Yards, Villa Caritas health care facility in Edmonton, and the Alberta Legislature Centre Redevelopment Master Plan.
Sam recently led the reorganization and establishment of a new Architecture and Engineering Centre of Expertise for Public Works Government Services Canada, where he currently works as regional manager.
Sam joined the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 2001 as an International Associate based in Southern Africa. In 2003, he emigrated from Botswana to Canada and became actively involved with the RAIC.
In 2006, working with Past President Vivian Manasc, FRAIC, and Len Rodrigues, FRAIC, Sam helped establish Canada’s first local RAIC chapter in Alberta where he later served as its President from 2007- 2008. During his tenure, he championed several initiatives that raised the awareness of the importance of architecture in Alberta — including an exhibition of Alberta architecture at the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, where he curated the exhibits in the Urban Alberta pavilion.
Sam has served as an adjunct lecturer at the Durban University of Technology, and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He has also been a studio critic at the University of Calgary and Carleton University. A member of the American Institute of Architects, he was a Chartered Architect with the Royal Institute of British Architects (2000-2007) and is Fellow of the RAIC.
An enthusiast of numismatics and philately, he lives in Edmonton with his wife Aisha and three children, Noora, Fego and Oreva.
Sam hopes that his achievements and career path will serve as an inspiration to a new generation of Canadians.
A PERSONAL NOTE BY SAM OBOH
Practicing in Canada as an architect is the first time I’ve stayed in one place for very long. My father was a mechanical engineering technician, and we were always moving around. By the age of 20, I lived in six different cities in Nigeria.
Living in different regions gave me the opportunity to see different cultures and people, and to experience what it means to be transient. It also made me understand the value of meaningful friendships.
As I look forward to serving as the 76th RAIC President during 2015, I would like to share some experiences that have shaped my views.
I’m the third of six children: three boys and three girls.
My mother operated a cafeteria-style restaurant in an open-air market, serving homemade food such as jollof rice and beans. We had to wake up every morning at 4:00 am to help my mother and get ourselves ready for school. From the age of 9 until I was 15, I had to fetch pails of water from a few kilometres away for my mother to use. There was no excuse. You had to meet your responsibilities and carry your weight within the family.
Where we lived there were a lot of natural features – mainly savannah plain. You saw open landscape interspersed with trees and mountains and rivers.
I was always inspired by nature and its inherent efficiencies. As children, we made our toys, occasionally trying to mimic features from natural systems. For example, we would find snails and use the shell to make toys that spin around. You learned a lot about conical geometry and motion.
My parents had friends. I thought they were architects. In hindsight, I know they were draftsmen. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to work with their company during the summer. I fell in love with it.
When I was 16, I received an offer of admission to study architecture at the Bendel State University. It was joyful news. However, there was a problem—we didn’t have the money to pay the tuition. My parents had to borrow money from a neighbor. I was the first in my immediate family to study at university.
At architecture school, everything was done in the studio, including theoretical courses. It was where we slept when we had tight deadlines. We had desks big enough to contain our equipment – drawing boards, T-square, set square, tracing paper. Everything was drawn by hand. Assessment was done through a jury of external examiners who were practicing architects. In a studio culture, you get used to having critics and learn to see ideas from various angles.
My Dad was also a farmer. He grew corn and rice. I’d always come home a
round harvest. My favourite time was to sit and roast the corn.
My wife was excited and intrigued by the idea of moving to Canada .The view of Canada that we have in Africa is of a caring, compassionate society. What we see is peacekeeping, development, educational programs. Canadians are very friendly, respectful and polite. That was our vision of the kind of society in which we would like to raise our children. We moved to Edmonton in 2003.
I decided years ago to put my volunteer time and effort into the RAIC. I want to advocate for excellence in the built environment.
We need to demonstrate the economic and social value, and also the civic pride that comes out of the work that architects do every day.