ACG Strathallan alumni Sahil Tiku's keen interest in Māori architecture recently earned him the Art History and Theory essay award at the prestigious 2022 Global Undergraduate Awards in Ireland. Sahil tells us more about the accolade, and what he’s been up to since graduating from ACG Strathallan in 2018.
Sahil, tell us about the award and what it means to you.
The Global Undergraduate Awards seek to recognise high-quality undergraduate academic research. To be recognised on an international platform for undergraduate research is on its own a massive honour, though to me the award symbolises the place that writing has as a viable strength in the architectural field. In a discipline so oriented towards design and graphic skill (among the thousands of other things architects do well), it's refreshing to see that criticism and theory still have a part to play in the grand scheme of things.
Your award-winning essay was titled A Renaissance of Māoritanga: Whare whakairo as novel ‘traditional’ identity. Tell us more.
Te Pare (the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture and Planning) ran a study tour through Te Tai Tokerau Northland in the first semester of 2021 (my last undergraduate year). This was the first real opportunity we had to interact with Māori architecture, both in the realm of theoretical engagement and physically visiting sites of significance. My choice in exploring the subject stemmed from my own disappointment that as a discipline, there was simply not much exposure to indigenous architectural theory.
You finished your degree at the end of 2021. What are you up to now?
I'm still at Te Pare, studying a combined Professional Masters in Architecture and Urban Planning which will allow me to pursue a career in both architecture and urban planning (another discipline I'm passionate and opinionated about). I am also one of five reps for Te Pare at SANNZ (the Student Architecture Network of New Zealand), representing them on Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects' Auckland Branch Committee, alongside which I work as an architectural graduate at Ministry of Architecture + Interiors. To top it all off, I work as a teaching assistant, primarily in HTC (History, Theory, and Criticism) stream courses.
Were there any particular teachers who inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?
Mr Humber was my design teacher for all five years at Strathallan, and his class was one of my happy places (alongside Mrs Fleet's English language and drama class, Mr Laing's classics class, and Mr Mckay's music class... you get the gist!). I think one incredible thing was that every teacher always had faith in you - I fondly remember Dr Greenley's love of physics and her inimitable support in AS Physics: sometimes it's the teachers who make or break whether you enjoy a class even if you're not too good with the subject.
What were the highlights of your time at ACG?
My last year: I knew I would have the points to get into university and picked classes I knew I would enjoy. By that time, I'd realised that the sciences were perhaps not for me and lifted the weight I put on my own shoulders - I followed my passions and did well because I truly enjoyed the subjects I took. Playing in the concert, jazz, and production bands was another privilege - they form a kind of community that leaves a lasting and positive impact on the psyche, even as the people who make up that community go their own ways to take on the world.
Studying architecture is high pressure. How did ACG Strathallan help prepare you?
I found my final year at Strathallan to be comparable to my first semester at university. Of course, the real pressure kicks in around second year, but being able to hit that first semester with the discipline and skill to manage that workload was an awesome step-up.
What would you say to students considering pursuing studies and a career in the field of architecture?
Take painting or photography with design. Design will set you up to manage your time and workload, and familiarise you with fabrication processes like laser cutting and 3D printing and workshop equipment, but the actual subject content doesn't have a strong relation to architecture. Art or photography will give you a solid foundation in software or the graphical skill you need to build a portfolio and communicate/explore/iterate/develop your ideas at university, and make sure you hit the ground in an even better position than I. Enjoy your last year, and pick up a paintbrush or a quill or a photoshop licence and keep the creativity flowing.