Obafemi Awolowo University formerly known as The University of Ife was initially conceived in the early 1960’s in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, shortly after Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Arieh Sharon, an Israeli architect and Bauhaus alumna, in collaboration with Nigerian office A.A. Egbor and AMY Company worked on the school’s structures and master plan for a span of 25 years, completing an architecturally and historically-layered campus of concrete buildings, Nigerian patterns, staircases, and courtyards.
Many refer to the project’s architecture style as “post-colonial” or “Quasi-colonial” since the development of the project took place during a transitional period in the Nigerian government. The university was constructed on its present site due to its distinct topography. Sharon reinterpreted the nation’s historic characteristics and integrated traditional Nigerian elements in the details of the space. He also erected buildings that “move up and down the hills”, preserving the landscape and integrating within it as much as possible without physical or visual destruction.
The end result was a “rural-urban hybrid” separate from the city but well-respected by all. While designing the project, the architect was faced with two main challenges: the architecture style and the country’s climate. He put construction on hold to revise all the initial plans and find solutions superior than installing typical sun-shading devices.
To tackle the challenges posed by the climate, most structures on the campus were designed with a North-South orientation with an elongated East-West direction. This aimed at capturing the Southwest winds and minimizing the infiltration of the sun. Moreover, the “fluidity” between the interior and exterior allowed for natural ventilation across the spaces.
A lot of changes have been made recently to adapt to the current spatial needs and previous architectural flaws. Some of them include: the transformation of the amphitheatre and sports centre into teaching and lecture halls to cater for the excess number of students. Also, the initial flat roof design was covered due to the country’s occasional heavy rain.