A Design for Makoko’s Regeneration

09 Mar 2013

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Makoko floating houses

Makoko, a slum community that straddles Herbert Macaulay, Yaba, and the Lagos Lagoon, will get a much desired reprieve through a regeneration initiative supported by the UNDP. The transformation programme begins with a floating school but the building design could replace their homes, writes Bennett Oghifo

Makoko’s environment compels sobriety. Homes in the community are posted on stilts raised above putrid, black water that oozes other forms of gases, leaving only a little room for oxygen. Amazingly, the residents seem oblivious of the grime that is caused mainly by the deposit of solid and liquid wastes in the water that serves as receptacle for the by-products of their sanitation.

The level of the challenge in the environment was communicated to visitors invited to the unveiling of a prototype of a floating school being constructed in the community. The new floating school is an extension of the existing school.
Renewal project
The school is designed to have a broad base and a narrow top just like a huge ship that will be impregnable in the worst storms. Its designer, Kunle Adeyemi, an architect and urbanist, said Makoko’s outlook inspired him to develop the building. “I visited the community once; I was very shocked and at the same time inspired by the way they have managed to build this large community that is thriving and increasing in size and seem quite self-sustaining to a large extent.

Adeyemi, the founder of NLE, an initiative to shape the architecture of developing cities explained that it was possible to live on water instead of constantly considering the idea of reclaiming land, particularly in an environment where Lagos State is almost covered by water. “Water is a huge asset and we are yet to maximise its potentials. The idea is that we can use this type of structure in view of the huge urbanisation that is happening in most African cities; housing shortage and climate change effect.”

An evidence of climate change, Adeyemi said was flooding and heavy storms, particularly in areas that usually were not affected by flooding. “The building was designed to float and, it is designed such that whether the water level rises or low it is always above the water and will never get flooded. It adapts to changing conditions of the water.”

He said the Makoko community is adapted to water lifestyle but that because their homes are built on stilts, they could be flooded from time to time. “The school building is the first prototype building that mitigates that problem of flooding.”

On the adaptability of the building to various uses, he said they could be built to scale, adding that they are being constructed with local materials and local resources. “Local labour and technology is readily available. It is scaleable in itself. The school building is on three floors but it can be scaled into a home, hotel or into other facilities. It can be used for different purposes since it is a multi-purpose building that can be adapted to suit different things and uses.”

The building, he said is designed to be very robust and the shape of the building is in very rigid form and that it allows it to be stable in different kinds of water condition. Light weight wood is used.

Water storage facility is designed into the building and rain water harvesting is one of the ways of supplying water to the residents of the building. Also, there is ground water that he said could be gotten through boreholes.

He said for waste management, they would collect and take them to a central point on land. “For organic waste we are looking at recycling, compost systems and the compost will be used to produce manure for vegetable garden. The toilet is designed to be under the staircase of the ground floor.

It is hoped that the Lagos State Government would be present for the official launch, which would be done after the rains. He said the building is low cost but that the final cost was still being worked out. “It is cheaper than building on land; we are looking looking at getting a very reduced cost for housing modules, which will be under N1 million for sure in some sort of scheme that can be used for development.”

He said his company started the building’s construction and that at some point they got assistance for the Henrich Boll Foundation and, “then we did a research, which is fundamental and after that we completed the design to build the school under the UNDP’s African Adaptation Project through the Federal Ministry of Environment.”

UNDP’s interest  
The floating school is one of several projects that would regenerate the Makoko community and that is where the interest of UNDP lies.
“It is the dream of every child to be educated and for the community here it is also their dream to have their children educated, “said the Country Director of UNDP in Nigeria, Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, who was present at the unveiling of the school’s new building.

Lekoetje said in addition to schooling the people desired to live better and that with the right projects the community would develop.
She said the Makoko regeneration initiative was being done with the collaboration of the UNDP, the Lagos State Government and the people of Makoko. “I am most delighted because we have a representative of the government and I have discussed with him.”

The huge crowd formed by residents of the community, who danced and presented their biggest masquerades, she said was an indication of the acceptance of the project.

The construction of the school was described as an interesting development by a community leader, Chief Francais Agoyon Alashe, because it was a departure from the sudden demolition of some structures in the community last July by the Lagos State Government. “The demolition caused great fear and suffering and some people died. Up till now some people are sleeping in their canoes. With this school, we were surprised.”

The Programme Officer of the United Nations Habitat, Paul Okunlola, said Makoko’s regeneration project was a befitting slum upgrade project and that it keyed into Goal 7 target 11 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Makoko’s trials
Makoko is a slum neighborhood located in Lagos, Nigeria. At present its population is considered to be 85,840; however, the area was not officially counted as part of the 2007 census and the population today is considered to be much higher. Established in the 18th century primarily as a fishing village, much of Makoko rests in structures constructed on stilts above Lagos Lagoon. Today the area is essentially self-governing with a very limited government presence in the community and local security being provided by area boys. In July last year, Lagos State Government officials destroyed some of the residences after giving residents 72 hours notice of eviction. One resident was killed in the action.

Urban regeneration
Urban renewal is a programme of land redevelopment in areas of moderate to high density urban land use. Renewal has had both successes and failures. Its modern incarnation began in the late 19th century in developed nations and experienced an intense phase in the late 1940s – under the rubric of reconstruction. The process has had a major impact on many urban landscapes, and has played an important role in the history and demographics of cities around the world.

Urban renewal may involve relocation of businesses, the demolition of structures, the relocation of people, and the use of eminent domain (government purchase of property for public purpose) as a legal instrument to take private property for city-initiated development projects. This process is also carried out in rural areas, referred to as village renewal, though may not be exactly the same in practice. In some cases, renewal may result in urban sprawl and less congestion when areas of cities receive freeways and expressways.

Urban renewal has been seen by proponents as an economic engine and a reform mechanism, and by critics as a mechanism for control. It may enhance existing communities, and in some cases result in the demolition of neighborhoods.

Many cities link the revitalization of the central business district and gentrification of residential neighborhoods to earlier urban renewal programmes. Over time, urban renewal evolved into a policy based less on destruction and more on renovation and investment, and today is an integral part of many local governments, often combined with small and big business incentives.

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