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Floating houses in the lagoon

Climate change, urbanization and floodings: the aquatic city of Makoko, Nigeria

courtesy ©2016 NLÉ

The rapid and disorderly urbanization of many African megalopolises, together with the devastating effects of climate change are attracting the attention of the most advanced city planning offices and studies. Some private funds have financed research projects aimed at constructing planning strategies that in Nigeria are generating surprising results: in fact, if on the one hand they aim at rectifying imbalances and contradictions, on the other hand they can give opportunities of socio-economic growth. A fitting example of this transition is the city of Lagos: until 1991 it was the federal capital of Nigeria, nowadays it is the main financial and commercial centre in the country. Kunlè Adeyemi - an architect, founder of Nlè Architects - is convinced that the African continent development depends on the need of dealing with the future management of the relationship between water and rapid urbanization. Lagos Water Communities Project (2012) - conceived by Nlè Architects within the project African Water Cities - limits the research scope to Makoko, the poorest and most heavily populated historic neighbourhood in Lagos, situated in a strategic position as to the crossing of the Thirds mainland bridge, which connects Lagos administrative centre to the airport.

courtesy ©2016 NLÉ

A conglomerate with approximately 100,000 inhabitants in the heart of the lagoon, among pile dwellings and barges used as houses and work places: it has been chosen for an important project of requalification of the lagoon settlement which envisages the realization of socio-residential prototypes and farming platforms, self-managed by the community itself, together with the experimentation of renewable energies. Owing to the presence of leading architects, researchers and private financers, Makoko has revealed unexpected resources and potential, so as to ideally identify Africa in a marketable brand: acting as the protagonist of a recent advertising campaign (Ikirè Jones, men’s clothing for the Western market) conceived and supervised by the architect Olalekan Jeyifous, Makoko assumes a symbolic value for the new Lagos, a city of the future which is realized and possible in that up to now denied part of the world… 2081, Escape New Lagos. In 2013, the Floating Public School was created, namely the first prototype of a modular and adaptable structure.

courtesy ©2016 NLÉ

To this boat/school is associated a series of diversified activities, to be carried out at different times than the teaching: from timber trading to fishing and being together, a place of reunion and fun for the whole community. Adeyemi led a team of Dutch and Nigerian planners, as well as Makoko waterfront community. The triangular section structure - made up of bamboo and local wood - rests on a floating platform consisting of 16 wooden square modules, each of which hooks 16 plastic barrels recycled from Lagos dumps. At present, this school is overcrowded: it represents a socio-economic and cultural nerve centre for the community. Meeting with resounding success has entailed the project extension, defining a possible model of “amphibious” city, which is adaptable to tide variations. In the beginning, this project was self-financed by its planners, but then it has attracted private research funds (Heinrich Boll Stiftung) and financial support from the Ministry of the Environment (UNDP), within the scope of AAP Programme (Africa Adaptation Programme).

courtesy ©2016 NLÉ