architect, designer and ‘urbanist’, Kunle Adeyemi of NLÉ in partnership with the Heinrich Boell Stiftung, has proposed plans to build a three-story school out of 16 floating platforms lashed together, capable of holding 100 students and teachers, in the waterfront slum of Makoko, area of Yaba, Lagos.

Makoko, where shacks stand above the murky, fetid water on stilts of cast-aside lumber, is visible to motorists plying the city’s Third Mainland Bridge each day on the way to the Lagos’ commercial hub – Victoria Island.

The proposition is part of  NLÉ’s plan to develop an improved type of architecture and urbanism for water settlements in African coastal cities, starting with the building a prototype of a Floating School in Makoko.

The school is expected to serve the urgent needs of educating children in the community. The prototype floating building will be modular, flexible and adaptable for other building typologies: homes, community centres, playgrounds – to gradually cultivate an improved quality of architecture, urbanism and living on water.

A ‘floating’ building simultaneously addresses different issues including flooding, land occupation, and foundation construction. The energy supply is based on renewable energy technology while the currently inexisting sewage system would rely on compost toilets.

If successful, the project could be transformed into homes for more than 100,000 people who live in the slum.

Adeyemi who disclosed that the school project has received notice from international groups, said it will cost about $6,250 to complete.

While that’s not an incredible sum of money, that’s far more than the worth of any of the small, single-room homes raised on stilts above the water of the Lagos Lagoon, he said.

The project involves building the platforms out of locally sourced wood and empty plastic drums, then using wooded beams to build a structure that would have a common area for children to play on as its base, with two floors for classrooms above it. The building would also include bathroom facilities, something lacking in a slum where most relieve themselves by taking a dump in the water.

Adeyemi believes the projects like the school will improve homes on the water,  while making the area less of an eyesore. It would rid it of the constant smell of smoke and decay.

Recently, some houses in Makoko were subjected to demolition by the Lagos state government leaving 3,000 people homeless. Even residents who have lived there for several decades still harbour the fear of the entire neighbourhood being subjected to further demolition.

Those living in Makoko are mostly fishermen and workers in nearby saw mills, cutting up water-logged timber that is floated into the city daily. They have created their own life independent from the state, with its own schools and clinics, however, they are ill-equipped.

“If the people don’t live here, they’ll live somewhere else, what we’re only trying to do is offer them a better solution,” said Adeyemi.

Adeyemi, who also doubles as a working architect in Amsterdam, Holland, said government officials are largely supportive of his project which could help the neighbourhood survive no matter the environmental challenges they face in the future.

“Particularly in view of climate change, there’s a need to adapt buildings.” “We decided to use this as a prototype for developing something whether the water level rises or goes down, the building responds to that,” the architect said.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Adeyemi studied architecture at the University of Lagos where he began his early practice, before joining the world renowned Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 2001. Over the years, Adeyemi has held a track record of conceiving and completing high profile, high quality projects internationally.

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