On the edge of Lagos, Nigeria, the Makoko water community stands as the world’s largest floating slum city. Homes on stilts cluster the area, and tiny boats roam about on the waters. Makoko is home to thousands of people, but the unattractive appearance of the community has caused Nigerian officials to tear down parts of the shanty town. Not only is Makoko threatened by the government, but it is also threatened by flooding. Heavy rainfall can cause damage to the stilted structures. Over time, the wood used to build the homes can rot, and the structures may collapse. As a prototype to recreate the water community, Kunle Adeyemi and the NLÉ architects, designed the Makoko Floating School as a unique structure that can serve many purposes for the community and pose as a model for sustainable living.
The design of the Makoko Floating School is simple and practical. A very noticeable feature of the structure is that it is triangular. This design is ideal for rainy conditions because rain can easily slide off. Many wooden supports hold together this minimalistic structure allowing for stability. None of the sides are completely enclosed, so the building can have natural ventilation. The school floats on 250 plastic barrels, and it is anchored down to avoid drifting. There are three levels in the school connected by one main stairwell. The top floor is the workshop, the middle floor contains four classrooms, and the bottom floor is the play area. The roof of the structure is equipped with photovoltaic cells that provides electricity from sunlight. Makoko Floating School is constructed from only a few materials, but the design is efficient and environmentally friendly.
Since environmental concerns are growing, a lot of questions stem from how to transition to the use of renewable energy and whether or not current practices or products are sustainable. The Makoko Floating School aims to address the topic of sustainability. The construction of the school requires minimal pollution. The wood used for the majority of the structure was supplied locally, saving on cost of construction and gas emission from transportation. The structure is powered by solar energy, which is very fitting for the hot climate of Lagos. The barrels that help float the school can also be used to store rain water and collect waste. In the future, the design of the floating school can be used to replace the stilted structures in Makoko. This idea of floating structures can be replicated in other water communities as well. Drawings of such water communities show the possibility of growing crops in the buildings and applying a similar idea for floating vegetation. It is clear today that climate change is happening, but as the architect, Kunle Adeyemi said in response to rising sea levels, “we are just starting to brace ourselves and learn how to live with water as oppose to fight it.”
The construction of the Makoko Floating School finished in March 2013. However, on June 7, 2016, the school collapsed suddenly from a rainstorm. Luckily, no one was hurt from this incident. The Makoko Floating School served three years of heavy usage by members of the community. Prior to the collapse, the schoolmaster, Noah Shemede, noticed that the structure was worn out, so he relocated the students to a different school. Although the Makoko Floating School is no longer standing, hope for a sustainable water community is not dead. Kunle Adeyemi has released a second design of the structure that can hopefully have a longer lifespan. It is important to note the failures to develop even better structures. The plan for the water community is still on its way. For now, the plan remains a concept, but it serves as a reminder of the architectural possibilities on water.