Wale Falade is a Nigerian immigrant based in Minnesota. His family migrated to the city in 2000 in search of better economic opportunities. For Falade, the search for better economic opportunities begins with better education.
He went to Minneapolis Community and Technical College for a year and got transferred to the University of Minnesota to study architecture. According to Falade, he was introduced to architecture by his father, who was a draftsman for a major telecommunications company in Nigeria.
“I love drawing and I was very good at science, especially physics,” Falade, who grew up in Lagos, told Sahan Journal.
After graduating as an architect, he established his own firm based in St. Paul called FIHAN, which means “to reveal” in Yoruba, one of the languages spoken in Nigeria and Niger. When he started FIHAN, Falade said he was not sure of success in Minnesota as a Black immigrant but the last three to four years have given him little hope.
According to the Nigerian-born architect, naming his firm FIHAN was influenced by his experience growing up in the Nigerian commercial city of Lagos. The experience, he said, helped him to appreciate things that sometimes people take for granted.
“I believe that one can find beauty in the simplest things. I believe there is more to be seen and learned from the things around us. FIHAN means ‘to reveal.’ The idea is by looking closer and engaging people, we can see beauty in the simplest things, things we might take for granted,” he said.
His architecture firm was recently selected by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to lead a $21 million renovation of North Commons Park in Minneapolis, one of the largest parks in the city near North High School that has been the site of football games, basketball games, community gatherings, and so on. The renovation works will include a community center, aquatic center, athletic fields, ice skating rink and amphitheater.
The reconstruction of the park is expected to commence in 2023 and the park could be ready for use in 2025 if all goes well in terms of fundraising. Falade is not doing it alone as other minority-owned businesses will join him in the renovation project, taking on roles in mechanical engineering and community engagement outreach, among others.
Prior to being selected for the park project, Falade and his wife had completed many DIY renovations on their 1937 St. Paul home, and he helped design and create a public art project devoted to curling, according to Sahan Journal. The 40-year-old also created designs in the stilt housing neighborhoods in his home city of Lagos.