As a child, if you had asked Sayo Adesiyakan, graduate architect at Schmidt Associates, what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have told you she wanted to be a pilot. It’s funny how growing up changes your aspirations—and helps you realize your fear of heights.
Tell me about your background.
I was born and raised in Nigeria. I completed my primary school education (what we call elementary school here in the United States) while I was in Nigeria and completed most of my three-year junior high schooling at an all-girls Catholic boarding school in a neighboring town. Our family moved to the United States and I was able to continue where I left off. Things have truly come full circle, I went to Junior High in the building that Schmidt Associates renovated into Ben Davis University.
You grew up in Nigeria? How did you land in Indiana?
My parents made a major choice to offer my siblings and I a better future by moving here. We lived in Chicago briefly before settling in Indianapolis.
What led you to architecture?
Art inspired me to pursue architecture. From there, I developed a keen interest in the built environment—to me it is a combination of art, design, critical thinking, and decision making on what ultimately impacts the lives of all users. During my college education, I began thinking about how I can use what I’ve learned to improve where I come from. I feel that when one is given a chance to be somewhere with better opportunities, it is important to bring those blessings back home, rather than leaving it behind.
My Master’s thesis focused on compartmentalization—maximizing available space, as well as unused land. This could provide homes for the many who would like to own their homes, but aren’t able to afford the usual process of having their own land and all the money to build. I was fortunate to have met a professor at Ball State who had previously gone back to Nigeria that also shared my vision. My hope is to contribute what I’ve learned (and continue to learn) to do something back home.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to cook and bake. These are things I learned from my mom. Whenever she baked when I was little, I would eat whatever was left of the batter. She encouraged me to start mixing it since I liked eating it so much. That really started my interest, and I began helping her in everything she wanted to do cake-wise. When we moved here, she supported me to take it over. Now, in addition to my architecture career, I also decorate cakes. You can see them on Instagram—Sayobakes.
Sayo and her husband, Adekola, have an interesting story. They come from the same town in Nigeria with their families knowing each other, but never met until in the United States!