Adedoyin Teriba, a professor of art history, is already building a strong foundation at Dartmouth, after joining the faculty in the fall. With a focus on the architecture of African diasporic communities and West Africa, Teriba brings a forward-thinking, multidisciplinary view to his classes here at Dartmouth. His current book project is “Architecture’s Figures: Assimilation and Cultures in Colonial Nigeria,” which also investigates the interplay of architectural forms and masquerade processions in southwest Nigeria.
Teriba also brings a notable pedagogical approach to his role as a professor: In his TEDx Talk entitled “Love Breaks,” Teriba speaks to the importance of love in the classroom as a solution for an increasingly divided world. He is slated to teach ARTH 4, “Introduction to World Architecture” and ARTH 47.05, “A Mirror Image: Self, Place, & Home in Contemporary Architecture” in the coming terms.
You have a lot of experience in architecture. How does that connect to your appointment here in the art history department?
AT: Art history is itself a modern discipline that started arguably in the 1800s or maybe the late 1700s in Germany. Architectural history, in some parts of the world, has been seen as a child of art history. Dartmouth has a history of teaching modern and contemporary architecture, which is what I teach. I bring to this position not only the expertise of an architectural historian, but I am also an architect. My area of expertise is the architecture of West Africa and the architecture of the African diaspora.
What is your work experience as an architect?
AT: I worked as an architect in Nigeria very briefly, as an intern. All of my professional experience as an architect has been in this country. I worked for firms in Manhattan, New Jersey and in Harlem for four years. One of my longstanding ambitions has been to create contemporary Nigerian architecture. Architecture can almost become a portrayed culture, for lack of a better phrase. There are some buildings you see that just feel like they belong.
While I was in my architecture master’s program, I realized that it was a very complicated thing. So I started to ask myself, what does it mean to design something that is contemporary? What would contemporary Nigerian architecture look like? It became an intellectual problem.
How did you approach the rest of your master’s degree with this long-term ambition in mind?
AT: I felt I needed the space and time to reflect. The demands of architectural studios did not give me the space, so I wrote a thesis as opposed to doing a capstone design project that most Master of Architecture students do. Wrestling with those questions, I shifted to the thesis track and the thesis became an inquiry of its own. I realized I was just skimming the surface here, and I was enjoying the time. That’s how the idea of an architectural history Ph.D. came into being.
What do you see as your impact in imagining contemporary Nigerian architecture?
AT: In the West, all the way back to the Caesars, the architect has been thought of as somebody who wears two hats. One hat is the designer. The other hat is the theoretician. My status as an academic is still part of the broader definition of what an architect is. I see my impact in the sense that as a theoretician, I’m able to intellectually think about what architecture is. That can both inform my practice and is something I can share with potential architects.
What role do academics have in architectural progress?
AT: I think that academics like myself have a great role, but our potential hasn’t been unleashed. For years I have wanted to do real projects with students in places like West Africa or even others. Samuel Mockbee, from Mississippi, started something called the Rural Studio at Auburn University, and he became internationally known because of it. The studio is still there. It’s a class where Auburn students actually go into low-income communities and design buildings for them. I see myself carving out a role like that.
Which courses are you teaching at Dartmouth?
AT: I am teaching a class called ARTH 47.04, “Architecture and the Uncanny.” We have looked at why people from different backgrounds have thought of architecture and urban space as a mysterious entity through different media. For example, through ghost stories, why is the haunted house a recurring theme? We’ve also looked at the genre of film known as “film noir,” where architecture is portrayed through deep shadows, blacks and whites. The architecture is always very moody and brooding. In addition, we’ve looked at processions — how a procession down the street turns the whole street into a mysterious entity that is full of music, colors, dances.
Do you see your interest in performance and architecture bridging into an impact project?
AT: In my part of the world, which is southwest Nigeria, there is a tradition of oral architectural history, where architectural history is uttered and performed. In one of my classes this term, we looked at masquerades and architecture and I brought a costume to class and demonstrated with music.
This is to say that there are projects where I can get students involved to either record or witness the interaction between performance and architecture. There may also be potential down the road to offer a design class of my own that would bring Dartmouth students together with other students from around the world.
Do you have anything else you want to say about being here at Dartmouth or your career up to this point?
AT: I think one of the wonderful things about Dartmouth, is just the way that the landscape, the fall, the change all blends with the buildings —it’s hard to describe. I had a sort of mental picture of the fall landscape and the buildings that has been just incredibly rewarding for me to see. Part of the reason I am responding in this way is because of my interest in architecture. So for me, a physical place like a campus is very, very important. I’m still getting to know Dartmouth… it’s always an adjustment.