Kunlé Adeyemi on lessons from Lagos

Hosted by

Climate change and the threat of rising sea levels may have us thinking about the future, but for many parts of the world, that future is already here.

Take Lagos, on the coast of Nigeria. It's Africa's most populous city, with about 20 million residents. It’s a relatively young city, founded It was constructed partly on the mainland, partly on some nearby islands. And its coastline is eroding.

“If we could develop a solution and live with water instead of fighting it this may be you know an insight to how future cities in Africa would be,” said Kunlé Adeyemi, a Nigerian-born architect and designer with offices in Lagos and Amsterdam.

Adeyemi was trained in the office of highly influential Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. 

He gained worldwide notice for his small, low-tech response to a big challenge: a floating school for the people of Makoko, a slum on water with nearly 100,000 residents in the lagoon at the heart of Lagos. 

The school-come-community center, made out of local materials including recycled floating barrels, lasted around three years. A stronger version was then built for the 15th Venice Biennale and its lessons live on, as part of a study called ‘African Water Cities’.

“You can use it for a home, you can use it for school, you can use it for public space, you can use it for exhibition space. So it's essentially a simple system for people to build structures on the water by hand,” he said. 

Adeyemi says his work in Lagos offers clues for tackling climate change -- and affordable housing -- to Angelenos, adding that his spirited native city offers experiences “more contemporary cities seem to have forgotten, that are so valuable… things as simple as just walking.”

DnA met with Adeyemi after he lead a workshop at Otis College of Art and Design a few months back. Adeyemi will be in LA on Wednesday, giving a talk at USC School of Architecture. Find more information here.



  • Kunlé Adeyemi - architect, designer and urban researcher, and the founder/principal of NLÉ