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Contemporary African Architecture Designs For Growing African Cities

With the world’s attention on the schoolgirl abductions in Chibok, Nigeria, the right for all to an education has once again been brought to the forefront of global consciousness. It was therefore quite touching to see the Makoko Floating School Project, designed by Architect, Design and Urbanism practice, NLÉ, nominated for the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year Award 2014 in the architecture category. Although it did not win, the Makoko Floating School Project has been heralded as one of the standout projects from the list of nominees, a reflection of NLÉs commitment to providing contemporary African architecture design solutions that respond to the specific needs of Africa’s growing, urban cities, and in this instance helping to make education accessible no matter the environmental challenges faced.
[Image credit: Makoko Floating School Project – NLÉ]

[Image credit: Makoko Floating School Project – NLÉ]
The project was conceived in 2011 by Nigerian-born architect, Kunlé Adeyemi, who founded NLÉ in 2010. Based in Lagos, Nigeria and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, NLÉ has a primary focus on developing cities and has launched an African Water Cities Research Project. Home to around 100,000 people, Makoko is a water-based community located in a lagoon, in Lagos. Along with the challenges that have come with rapid urbanisation and climate change, being water-based has meant no formal structure in terms of having firm land underfoot and roads to get on with day-to-day life. Houses are normally built on stilts, and the community had one school, which was built on reclaimed land making it susceptible to heavy rains and flooding. Becoming increasingly unstable and unsafe for use meant that local school children could not attend regular lessons. Responding to these challenges, and seeking to find sustainable contemporary African architecture solutions Kunlé worked in collaboration with the Makoko Waterfront Community to design and build the simple, yet ingenious structure that is the school.
[Image credit: Makoko Floating School Project – NLÉ]
In a fine example of contemporary African architecture, and as the name suggests, the Makoko Floating School is a movable building supported by recycled empty plastic barrels for buoyancy. Designed to adapt to tidal changes and water levels, the structure is comprised of an ‘A’ frame/pyramid type structure, a shape chosen for its stability, and the ability to withstand flooding and maintain its balance in heavy winds. As such the school can safely support up to 100 adults in extreme weather. The structure is dived into three levels, the first serving as an open play area for assemblies, breaks and an after-hours community space. The second level is an enclosed space for two-four classrooms that can accommodate between 60-100 pupils. The third level, reached by staircase, houses more classrooms, a workshop and another open play area. The school was constructed from eco-friendly materials, utilising bamboo and wood sourced from a local sawmill. Sustainable technologies have been employed to help towards the running and maintenance of the school, including waste reduction, water and sewage treatment, and solar panels to enable renewable energy sources.
[Image credit: Architectural Drawing, Makoko Floating School Project – NLÉ]
The school was completed in 2013, and in addition to teaching is also used as a social, cultural and economic centre by members of the local community. And, the vision does not stop there, expanding to include the Lagos Water Communities Project, an entire floating community that although still in concept design stage, has been visualised in the image below. To hear Kunlé Adeyemi explain the process of building in Makoko, see the his CNN Inside Africa interview here:
[Image credit: Visualisation of the Lagos Water Communities Project – NLÉ]
The Makoko Floating School Project, and all the other nominees can be seen as part of the Designs of the Year Award 2014 exhibition, which is currently running until 25 August 2014. Designs of the Year is in its seventh year, and brings together a year of the very best cutting-edge innovation and original talent from around the globe, across the disciplines of Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphic, Product and Transport design.

Additional details:
For further information about NLÉ visit:
Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award 2014 tickets start at: £12.40 (a booking fee applies)
For further information abut the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year Award 2014 visit:

[Image credits: The images shown belong to: NLÉ. If downloaded and used elsewhere must be credited accordingly]

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