My Hustle | Meet Shade Abdul

My Hustle is a new feature on the BBU Blog where we ask inspirational and trailblazing people in construction to share their career story. We start with an architect who started her own practice Shade Abdul.

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How did you start your career in construction?

My career started working for small practices whose work inspired me in some way or another. I think collectively, they inspired me to start working for myself in 2010, 3 years after becoming a registered architect. I think one cannot fully understand the business of architecture until you are up in a director level or running your own business and I wanted to know as much as possible.

Explore the practical business of getting experience – even a two weeks experience can influence your future decisions.

What or who inspired you to work in construction?

The idea of working in architecture really came about through a two weeks work experience set up by my school at the age of 15. The story goes a little like this: In my first art lesson in secondary school, another student who had great drawing skills said she knew what she wanted to be when she grows up and that was an architect. I think I might have even asked her what that was. 4 years later, I remembered that proclamation so well that I conspired with her that if she chose the local council’s architect’s office as her first choice and the graphic design office I really wanted as her second choice, and if I did the reversal then we would both get the placements that we wanted. The strategy failed – I ended up in the local council’s architect’s office and became an architect, she went to the graphic design office and became a graphic designer. I’m very grateful for those two weeks experience that my school – a state school – provided.

I would describe architecture as...

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For me architecture is about experiences, how people feel when they see a building from the outside or how they feel when they are moving through the spaces inside.  I would describe architecture as the design of experiences.

It takes time to qualify as an architect, how did you stay motivated?

It takes such a long time to qualify that there were occasions where I wondered whether I had made the right choice. Thankfully in the UK, architecture schools vary in their teachings. I gravitated towards schools where I felt that my artistic interests could be pursued and that always allowed me to see the course as a gateway for other career paths if, at the end of my studies, I decided that the architectural profession wasn’t for me. The knowledge that other career options were possible kept me motivated.

Running my own business

I set up as Shade Abdul Architecture, however, I’m currently in the process of rebranding as Studio Shade Abdul as a result of how I see my practice developing going forward. The core projects that I carry out are private residential, but I also would like to work on commercial spaces. I get very excited about projects where design can happen at different scales from architecture right down to the furniture.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in people and places. Designing architecture is a collaborative effort with clients, other consultants, builders and craftsmen. The conversations and exchanges that occur inspire me and the design ideas that come to me. And of course, architecture doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so the places where projects sit in inspire me as well as faraway places discovered through travelling.

Getting into construction

My advice to anyone wishing to work in construction is to find out what you like about construction and what inspires you about construction. Then explore the practical business of getting experience – even a two weeks experience can influence your future decisions.

What's next for you?

Expanding the sectors that I work in beyond private residential and collaborating with other architects where there is a synergy of ideas and approach both in London and in Lagos.


About Shade Abdul

Shade Abdul runs an architecture and interior design studio based in London. The studio undertakes bespoke projects at the intersection of architecture, interior and furniture. We work collaboratively with clients, consultants and highly skilled tradespeople to design engaging spatial experiences.

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W: www.shade-abdul.com

"My Hustle" is a careers story feature which highlights amazing people working in the construction sector and breaking the mould. If you would like to share your story, contact BBU at info@builtbyus.org.uk