Iwan Baan

Makoko Floating School - Lagos, Nigeria

by NLE, Kunle Adeyemi

Makoko Floating School is a prototype floating structure, built for the historic water community of Makoko, located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. As a pilot project, it has taken an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanizing African context. Its main aim is to generate a sustainable, ecological, alternative building system and urban water culture for the teeming population of Africa’s coastal regions. 

See also: New York Times: School at Sea - Michael Kimmelman 
And Abitare, May 2013: The floating school of Mak


Makoko Floating School - Makoko, Nigeria

Every school day, close to 100 Nigerian children from the coastal city of Lagos head off in boats to a most unusual schoolhouse on the water.

The 3-storey, A-frame structure bobs on the waves of the lagoon that lines the waterfront slum of Makoko. A severely overcrowded water community that already hosts a stilted fishing village with a population in the tens of thousands, Makoko was an ideal location to test out this eco-friendly architectural model.

Designed by NLE Architects, the  Makoko Floating School is part of a “pilot project” that will unfold in a total of three phases, the school’s completion in 2014 marking the completion of phase one. The project is an attempt to tackle both Makoko’s specific needs and the urgency to provide sustainable living solutions as climate change continues to directly affect coastal communities at large. The goal? To create alternative, green building systems that can support rapid urbanization and adapt to climate-induced issues that could affect infrastructure. 

Already nominated for the Designs of the Year 2014 by the Design Museum in London, Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi’s floating school seems like a very promising option. The A-frame structure sits atop 256 recycled plastic barrels, and is made mostly of wood and local materials. Its triangular shape allows for several levels, its low center of gravity providing stability even in high winds.

For even more on the Makoko Floating School, keep reading on Atlas Obscura!


Watch: Nigerian Architect Kunlé Adeyemi’s “Floating School” in Makoko Highlighted in Al Jazeera Documentary.

Two years ago, this pioneering school in Lagos’s ‘floating’ slum of Makoko was deemed ‘illegal’ by local authorities who then threatened to demolish it. This year, the brainchild of Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi has been nominated as Design of the Year by London’s Design Museum.

Adeyemi’s innovative design was developed through a collaborative effort initiated between himself and those living in Makoko. After several discussions with Makoko residents on the ways in which issues surrouding education and the resolvement of the environmental issues that concerned the local community, Adeymei’s “floating school” was born. His design also came about during a time where the Lagos government had been threatening to evict Makoko residents and demolish the slum. Through his efforts, Adeyemi managed to not only successfully draw attention to issues surrounding life in Makoko, he did so in a way that gave Makoko residents a platform in which to regain their agency - all whilst contribute something of value to the community.

“There are hundreds if not thousands of Makokos all over Africa,” Adeyemi says. “We cannot simply displace this population; it’s important to think about how to develop them, how to create enabling environments for them to thrive, to improve the sanitation conditions, to provide the infrastructure, schools and hospitals to make it a healthy place.

“My belief is that in developing Africa we need to find solutions that can be developed by the grassroots, through the grassroots, and achieve the same level of significance as we have on the high-end projects.”

In this documentary project by Al Jazeera that looks at unconventional pioneers in the architecture industry, Adeyemi’s floating school is brought to life in the Working On Water episode directed by award-winning South African filmmaker Riaan Hendricks. The episode forms part of the network’s Rebel Architecture series. 

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Life in Soggy Treasures

Here’s a photograph of a boy in Makoko. This is probably the most exploited slum in Nigeria and contrary to what most people believe, they’re really lively and happy people. The major occupation here is fish processing - By Longe Olubusayo

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Dedicated to the Cultural Preservation of the African Aesthetic



My Africa Is: The Lagos Chronicles Episode Two— The Floating School. We dove into Lagos’s largest settlement Makoko. A floating community that has been a hot button issue in the urban development conversation. Kunle Adeyemi, the architect behind the floating school allowed us to come with, as he finished up the first phase of the school. It was so amazing to be in this much discussed, but rarely ventured into community, and see a different side of Lagos. 

Day 11 of 14: Makoko. Lagos, Nigeria.
Makoko is a slum neighborhood in Lagos, with a population nearing 100,000. Established in the 18th century primarily as a fishing village, much of Makoko rests in structures constructed on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon. Makoko is essentially self-governing with a very limited government presence in the community and local security being provided by area boys.

Today the area is being threatened by local government who has already begun forcibly removing the population by demolishing homes without warning, claiming it is a sore eye to foreign visitors crossing the third mainland bridge. Others suspect the government wants to build residential properties for the upper class. The authorities also claim they have no responsibility to relocate the population since they are there without permission in the first place.

©2011 Carlos Cazalis/All Rights Reserved. October 21, 2011. Lagos, Nigeria.

Lagos, Nigeria

A boy rows a canoe made out of half a plastic barrel as he makes his way to a floating school in Makoko. Supported by the United Nations development programme, the school was built for children of the Makoko community who live in homes over the water Photograph: EPA