The co-founder of Gbolade Design Studio enjoys working collaboratively and is always ready for a new challenge. He is also pretty nifty on a pair of ice skates
Why did you choose construction as a career?
As a young boy, I remember visiting Spain to stay with my uncle and his family during his time as the Nigerian ambassador. It was the summer of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The iconic opening ceremony celebrations combined with the experience of living in a Spanish villa shaped my interest in the built environment from then onwards.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Co-founding and establishing Gbolade Design Studio with my partner, Tara, has been hugely rewarding, especially as we are still relatively young (in architecture terms!). It gives me great pride to see the diversity of our studio and what we have achieved to date with project commissions.
We are also very proud to have launched a self-initiated product - the award-winning Architect’s App – which provides a platform to push the boundaries on innovative built environment ideas we’ve talked about for over a decade during our formative professional years.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?
As a client lead, heading up a strategic DfMA & MMC innovation roadmap with one of the UK’s largest housing associations has been a major professional and personal challenge.
The process of developing the strategy, building the team, working with a collaborative group of stakeholders and curating a holistic product library has been a demanding but hugely rewarding process.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
I consider myself a “people person”. I enjoy working with others to shape teams and ideas as I believe more can be achieved as a whole than with individuals working in isolation.
For that reason, I would love to imagine the potential if we removed often-adversarial contract forms to allow truly collaborative forms of engagement across industry supply chain members.
What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?
“Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.” It seems like a bit of a cliché, but I have always believed I can do anything I put my mind to.
As I acquire a few grey hairs (and wisdom, hopefully) it becomes more important that I never settle or feel as though too much time has passed to take on a new challenge. For me it is important to live in the present and make the most of what I have now.
Name your favourite building in the world?
Tough question! There are so many buildings and spaces I have been to - and loads still to visit - but the Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi stands out. It’s a cavernous, majestic building that makes you feel time has stopped when you are in it and the sun is streaming through the stained-glass windows.
I had the pleasure of living in Barcelona for six months over a decade ago and took the opportunity to spend many afternoons there sketching.
Which famous building do you most dislike?
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?
Not a building in the modern-day sense, but the Pyramids as a truly epic feat of engineering, teamwork and innovative construction. I have yet to visit them but am working on a plan. If it had to be closer to home, I would say the Shard due to its awesome scale.
What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?
Be open enough to learn from every opportunity that comes your way.
Who do you most admire in the construction industry?
People who appreciate that achieving anything in life is mostly about working with others to build something great.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Work hard, treat people well and make the most of every situation.
What do you think your best quality is?
I try to look for the wins in every challenging situation.
Name three things that you like
Design entrepreneurism, sport (playing and watching) and my local church.
Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have:
I’m pretty nifty on skates and with a hockey stick having played ice hockey back in my university days.
Early bird or night owl?
I used to be a night owl, but have become more of an early bird.
What is your favourite food?
I’m partial to a Thai massaman (prawn or chicken), and can never turn down the offer of Nigerian jellof rice and plantain!
What would your superpower be?
The ability to travel back in time as history has so many unanswered questions.
Lanre Gbolade is co-founder of Gbolade Design Studio and product innovation lead at L&Q