‘African Cities Provide Solutions For The Rest Of The World’

The Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi is founder and principal of NLÉ, an office based in Lagos and Amsterdam that’s specialized in the development of cities in the global south. Working for OMA in Rotterdam he was involved in big architecture projects all over the world. Now Adeyemi has chosen to focus on urban design for coastal regions and water-based communities, particularly in the African continent. On Thursday September 18th he will give a talk at Stroom in The Hague about his visions on developments in African cities and in the rest of the world.

In the African Water Cities Project, Adeyemi identified a Top 20 of cities on the African continent that share their huge relation with water. These water-based cities all deal with specific issues concerning water quality, urban growth and sea-level rise. Lagos is one of them. 40% of the surface of the Nigerian capital is covered by water. One lake within the new borders of the city hosts Makoko, a floating district consisting of small houses and barns on the water that give shelter to 250,000 people. Often referred to as ‘Venice of Africa’, Makoko is an 18th century fishing community that’s been completely consumed by the Lagos’ urban sprawl. Makoko currently faces all kinds of challenges, ranging from massive urbanization and water pollution to heavy diseases.

Kunlé Adeyemi

Kunlé Adeyemi

Adeyemi and his office designed and built a floating school in the heart of Makoko. The building, that functions as a school and a community center, was constructed using only local resources and materials, is naturally ventilated, and makes use of solar panels for its power supply. On the first floor the school gives room to a green area where food will be grown on the composted rests of the purified local waste. The building breathes flexibility — its floating foundation allows for easy relocation in the future, but it can also easily change function and become a church, mosque or market when necessary. Besides that, the concept is complete scalable. From three levels the school can be downgraded to a two-level or one-level building. Moreover, in case of potential expansion the complete building can be multiplied.

Makoko Makoko

“We’re living in interesting times in Africa”, says Adeyemi during an interview at the AZA 2013 Conference. The content is facing both huge opportunities and challenges. Africa has the unique chance to learn from the developments in architecture and city building that the rest of the world already underwent. The main question, according to Adeyemi, is whether Africa is going to learn from failures in other parts of the world, or if the continent will develop an own new style and urban practice. He believes that cities in Africa increasingly put forward interesting solutions for problems that could also benefit the rest of the world.

On Thursday 18 September, Kunlé Adeyemi will give a talk at Stroom in The Hague. Within the context of the Knight’s Move lecture series he will focus on the lessons that the Western world can learn from the current urban practise in African cities such as Lagos. Click here for more information and to make a reservation!