Design and urbanism practice NLÉ, led by Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi, is building a new multilevel school in Makoko – a region of Nigeria's most populous city, Lagos. While that doesn't sound too unusual, the difference here is that in an effort to address the issues of land scarcity and poor waste management that affect the flood-prone area, this school is being built on floating platforms.
Designed for 100 pupils and their teaching staff, the Makoko School is 1,080 sq. ft. (10 sq. m) at its base, 33 ft (10 m) high. The design uses approximately 256 plastic drums to float on the water and the frame is constructed using locally sourced wood. Solar panels are planned to provide electricity along with rainwater harvesting to facilitate the newly installed compost toilets as a solution to the non-existent sewerage system. The design team has included a playground on the base level with a further two floors for classrooms above.
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As Nigeria’s commercial capital and economic center, Lagos has an estimated population of fifteen million which makes it larger than London, Buenos Aires and Beijing. The 250,000 strong community of Makoko has lived in stilt houses above a lagoon for generations. The waterway lifestyle, where daily travel takes place in canoes, prompted Portuguese colonists to name the city Lagos (which means "lakes") and the longest bridge in Africa connects the main city to the lagoon islands. In the last year local and national discussions have taken place about the impact of climate change upon the water settlements as rising sea levels, coastal erosion and tropical rains have overwhelmed the current system.
NLÉ hopes the Makoko School design will be a prototype to improve the architecture and urbanism of African coastal cities and create floating homes, community centers and play spaces. Kunlé Adeyemi states that if the initial school building is successful, replicated structures could provide homes for over 100,000 people in the area.
After successfully completing test floating platforms in September 2012, NLÉ says the prototype building is almost complete and will hopefully be ready to welcome a new school year.
"Information on the cost is not yet available," advises Kunlé Adeyemi. "For now, we can say, it is certainly cheaper than building on land."