Meet CCA MAAD HTX Graduate Sitou Akolly

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What inspired you to come to CCA and how were you able to combine history/theory and digital fabrication?

At the time I applied to CCA, I was in my last year of undergraduate school. I was completing a thesis on West African architecture. While developing my thesis, I came across the complexity and rich cultural heritage of West African architecture history. I couldn’t really dive into this extensively, due to the time and design constraint of the undergraduate thesis. I wanted more out of the research. CCA offered a one year independent research in History and Theory of Architecture, which was perfect for me because I wanted a full year dedicated to my research. Another thing that attracted it me to CCA was its strong list of faculty such as Lisa Findley, David Gissen, Andrew Kudless, and Jason Johnson, and whose work I already knew. Knowing that I could potentially study in such an innovative and free thinking environment was exciting.

How did you become interested in the pre-colonial architecture of Togo?

There are three reasons why I chose that topic. Growing up in Togo, at a young age, I grew interested in architecture. I noticed Togo exhumes a rich cultural heritage that is displayed in the traditional and societal behavior, yet the built environment of contemporary architecture doesn’t support that societal fabric. I was curious and invested in West African architecture because there weren’t enough materials out there that looked into the evolution of architecture and its contrasting foreign influences and societal shifts. The second is that my goal is to one day be one of the trailblazers to solve the physical context of architecture in West Africa, and the research made me aware of the present political, economical, and ethnical challenges it entails.

How will your research at CCA inform your work now and in the future?

At CCA I pursued two of the three MAAD programs they offered. The Theory and History program provided a place for me to intensively conduct and develop research into “Post-colonial” architecture, while the Digital Craft degree equipped me with contemporary skills and immersed me in the current dialogue of Architecture and rapid prototyping. Through my time there I developed an intensive knowledge in research of architecture technology and theory which enabled me to think critically about the past and current practice of architecture. Ultimately, at CCA I started to define my understanding of architecture. Hopefully one day I’ll start a school of thought in West Africa that challenges African design culture to secure African design thinking as part of the global dialogue.

Finally, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now?

A lot happened since I graduated. Where do I start? After graduation, I stayed in the San Francisco Bay Area and had the opportunity to collaborate and work with most of my faculty such as, Irene Cheng, Hugh Hynes, Andrew Kudless, Jason Jonhson, and Nataly Gattegno. As I wanted to eventually venture into education one day, I also had the opportunity to teach at Calvin Simmons Middle School for a year which taught me a lot about myself and teaching in general. I now live in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where I started working at the UNStudio. I like it here. It is a different pace and a different culture. The office is great and really welcoming and I am learning exponentially here. Although I miss the Bay and everyone I met there. I’m sure I’ll be back sometime in the future. Who knows!?