Within a week of its successor being awarded the Silver Lion at the 2016 Venice Biennale, the original Makoko Floating School collapsed. Designed by Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ Architects, the school was located in the Lagos Lagoon in Nigeria. Now, almost two years later, Lagos-based writer Allyn Gaestel has investigated the vulnerable coastal community and architect behind the project in a remarkable narrative nonfiction piece, "Things Fall Apart."
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This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Tale of Two Cities: Unravelling the Brutal Backstory Behind Africa’s Emerging Megacities."
As reported by Nigerian news website NAIJ.com, the celebrated Makoko Floating School, designed by Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ, has collapsed after heavy rain battered the city of Lagos. Photographs show the roof of the school still largely in tact, but sitting directly on top of the building's floating base of 256 plastic drums, as the lower levels and supporting structure appear to have failed completely.
Prisons are often seen as problematic for their local communities. After centuries of correctional facilities discouraging economic growth and occupying valuable real estate as a necessary component of towns and cities, many of these institutions have been relocated away from city centers and their abandoned vestiges are left as unpleasant reminders of their former use. In fact, the majority of prisons built in the United States since 1980 have been placed in non-metropolitan areas and once served as a substantial economic development strategy in depressed rural communities.  However, a new pressure is about to emerge on the US prison systems: beginning in 2010, America's prison population declined for the first time in decades, suggesting that in the near future repurposing these structures will become a particularly relevant endeavor for both community development and economic sustainability. These abandoned shells offer architects valuable opportunities to reimagine programmatic functions and transform an otherwise problematic location into an integral neighborhood space.
In the United States alone, more than 125 million plastic bottles are discarded each day, 80 percent of which end up in a landfill. This waste could potentially be diverted and used to construct nearly 10,000, 1200-square-foot homes (taking in consideration it takes an average of 14,000 plastic bottles to build a home that size). Many believe this process could be a viable option for affordable housing and even help solve homelessness.
International design firm NLÉ has recently shared its competition-winning design for the financial headquarters of the microfinance bank Credit Direct Limited. Located in Lagos, Nigeria, in the Ikeja district, the bank’s design abandons the forbidding presence of most financial institutions for one that is open and welcoming. This decision not only invites clientele inside, but creates opportunities for adaptation to the tropical weather of Lagos.
Kunlé Adeyemi, the 38 year-old former disciple of Rem Koolhaas, made headlines last year with his Makoko Floating School, which enabled better access to education a slum community in Lagos. In this profile of Adeyemi and his Practice NLÉ Architects, originally published by Metropolis Magazine, Avinash Rajagopal explores what drives the young architect, explaining why he was selected as one of 10 designers in Metropolis Magazine's 2014 New Talent list.
The latest episode of Al Jazeera’s Rebel Architecture takes us to Nigeria, where architect Kunlé Adeyemi has designed floating buildings to help solve overcrowding and flooding in the country’s waterside slums. “I am constantly inspired by solutions we discover in everyday life in the world’s developing cities,” he says. Yet, despite his studio NLÉ’s easy-to-build, low-cost, sustainable prototype for a floating building, Adeyemi still struggles to get approval for their construction from the local authorities. This 25-minute episode follows Adeyemi as he seeks to implement his floating buildings.
In this interview conducted by the Brigtje van der Haak maker of the documentary Lagos Wide & Close, Rem Koolhaas discusses his research on the urbanization of Nigeria's largest city, Lagos. While this research is as yet unpublished, Koolhaas discusses external influences on the city’s architecture, how his visits have affected his view of the profession, and Lagos’ future potential. The documentary by van der Haak, released on DVD in 2004, is an interactive exploration of Lagos from a multitude of scales. Now, it has been adapted for the web, and can be viewed in its entirety here!
In this article, originally posted on Future Cape Town as "Designing African Cities: Urban Planning Education in Nigeria", Professors Vanessa Watson and Babatunde Agbola discuss a paradigm shift occurring in Nigerian Planning Schools: from the American and European planning theories that have so far been applied in Nigeria to new theories more suited to dealing with the unique challenges presented by African cities.
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