Makoko is arguably the most famous riverine community in Lagos State, the Nigerian commercial juggernaut. It is occupied by homes built on the water, similar to the world famous city of Venice. However, unlike the affluent Venice, which is noted for beautiful scenery, Makoko is a proper slum, inhabited by some of the poorest persons in Lagos. More than eighty thousand persons call Makoko their home, living in wooden homes on stilts.
Officially, the state government considers Makoko as an illegal settlement inhabited by people without any permission to set up structures. This explains why Makoko lacks any sign of government presence. The people are essentially on their own, facing threats of eviction from a government that wants to rid Lagos of slums. Residents lack potable water and hygienic toilets. For many residents, water comes from rain and the river on which they dwell. The same river also serves as toilet for the community. Only one decrepit primary school serves this ignored community. This is where Netherlands-based Nigerian architect, Kunle Adeyemi, chose to make a difference.
Adeyemi brought his creativity to bear via the “Makoko Floating School” project. This innovative design was conceived by his architecture firm, NLE, and some other architects in the Netherlands. It innovatively solves a problem faced by the residents of Makoko, while considering global warming issues and rising sea levels.
Situated in the heart of Makoko, the floating school serves as an extension to the only existing school in the area. Built with local materials and labour, the school floats on 256 plastic drums, supported by an A-frame timber structure. It has three floors, one serving as a playground and communal space, the second floor contains classrooms, with space for 100 pupils, while the top floor is the centre for solar power generation. Talk about an eco-friendly building.
The plastic drums at the base provide stability for the building, and can also store water collected by the rainwater catchment system on the roof, enabling self-sufficiency for the building. These plastic drums are widespread in Lagos, providing a potential waste disposal challenge. Adeyemi and his team have repurposed them to serve this community. The A-frame further improves stability by ensuring a low centre of gravity. The building has its own water and sewage treatment facility, helping to address one of the challenges in the community.
Proposed Floating Community | CREDIT: NLE
From the top to the bottom, the floating school exudes the confidence of a sustainable, eco-friendly building. Adeyemi says this is just a prototype. He envisions a riverine community of homes similar to this school, built with sustainable materials, and serving the needs of the low-cost housing sector. This prototype is part of NLE’s proposed “Lagos Water Communities Project”. NLE is conducting a research project dubbed “African Water Cities” seeking to understand river-centric communities better so as to provide design solutions that incorporate the local culture while embracing sustainability.
Written by Jonah Ibiamagabara