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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

My Concerns about Eko Atlantic City

The blurb on the EkoAtlantic website describes the city as being:

"Our City  

Lagos and Eko Atlantic are expected to become the new financial epicentre of West Africa by the year 2020.

By that time, Nigeria will be one of the world's 20 largest economies.

Eko Atlantic will be a city to live and work in. With its tree-lined boulevards, waterways, manicured gardens, elegant plazas, three marinas and a stunning ocean front promenade, the new city will be a complete contrast to the congested, traffic-filled streets of Lagos."

This seems to be the idealic city, the city in which dreams are made, manicured gardens where the height of grass represents an element of safety, the neatness, the coyness of the detailing in the environment just speaks of a place that would make anyone feel like they are in a place, and not just a meaningless left-over space.

It all seems perfect, but as you might have observed, I am rarely pacified by the prettiness of things, and I seek to find something much deeper within this project.

First of all, I will never condemn a project that is developing our country and I commend all those who are involved in bringing much needed change to a place that has been neglected for decades now. I am pleased to hear that something is finally being done about the eroding coastline and also the flooding that occurs during heavy raining seasons. My only issue is the human aspect to this project.

My studies in architecture have led to me to strongly believe that the best built forms are those with meanings. Well I guess it may be unfair for me to undermine the general human desire for wealth to provide comfort and safety, but I still can't help but feel that this could be so much more.

If you look deeply into project and really think about it, it can give off a "very important person" *only* vibe. My question is: "How is the average Lagosian or Eko person going to relate to this project".

If you don't own a car, are a market trader or working class, will you feel included in Eko Atlantic City? Is it for you? Well I am sure when you think of this question, you will most likely, like I have, come to the conclusion that no it isn't. Eko Atlantic is for big investors, for the rich, for the elites, the people who Nigerians in power constantly remind us are the only important ones. They surely are the ones who will be able to afford the rent there.

This leads me to believe that Eko Atlantic could be yet another gated community, gated by the price which many may not be able to afford, the price of this luxurious lifestyle.

Now why does this bother me, after all you may say that Lagos has been needing some finessing for a long while. Well, I am concerned for those who will inevitably fall through the sieve, again it will be the working class.  They will be left in crowded Lagos, and continue doing what they have always been doing and there will be no real change. Eko Atlantic fails to operate at a deeper level; the community, how will this project help improve the lives of the average Lagosian, and the children who inevitably will become the adults of the future? Have we forgotten that there are children in Lagos, have we forgotten that there are people who make average wages? Have we forgotten what it is to be a real Lagosian?

Many people have outrightly blamed the project for not being sensitive to these particular people, the people who can't afford drivers, who can't afford to stay in luxurious hotels in the 'expensive' parts of Lagos, and wonder why the project avoids confronting Lagos' biggest issues.
Well I simply believe that the purpose of Eko Atlantic city, is to demonstrate that Lagos can be a place of great luxury, a place of development and a place with many investment properties. Eko Atlantic lying at the coastline in an analogy is the new paintwork that hides the cracks in the walls behind or the mould that will inevitably seep through with time.

My hope is that once Eko Atlantic is completed, this fresh front to Lagos does not distract us from the city's desperate need to accommodate more people, the city's need for better infrastructure, the people's need for electricity and working social services.

I believe all of this is very possible, and in an ideal world I would love all of these projects to be going on all at the same time.

I am thankful that more and more roads are gradually being maintained and refurbished, but of course, I continue to hope for more.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Eko Atlantic Update

One thing I am always happy to report about is the Eko Atlantic development in Lagos or Eko as I now prefer to call it.

I appreciate that the development has continued and the state has continued to channel funding towards the project. I am very certain that there is a lot of international interest, after all consultants from projects in Dubai were brought on board also, and though many Nigerian projects may become lost, those endorsed or more correctly, shall I say; encouraged by 'outsiders' are more likely to actually be completed.

So to cut the long story short, I have composed a post of updates on Eko Atlantic.

A satalite image of the constructed mass of land on January 2011. 

Info and images from:

(A GoogleEarth image of the inital stages of the island).

I find the shape very interesting and I await with bated breath for what the plan will actually look like, especially in the era of GoogleEarth, we are now able to view land masses from satelite views. It could be very beautiful and a shining example of development in Southern Nigeria.

Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka describes Eko Atlantic as "Rising like Aphrodite from the foam the Atlantic."

On March 16 2011, Eko Atlantic City achieved it's milestone of reclaiming 2 million square meters of land (by moving typically 10,000sqm of sand each day), this landmark was celebrated at the site.

Click here to read what the New York Times  things about Eko Atlantic City in their article "Making Over Lagos".

Friday, 26 August 2011

Documentary: The Chinese Are Coming

Trade between China and Africa has exploded in these past few decades. The first country shown in the documentary; Angola is China's no.1 supplier of oil, so this is definitely not a one-sided trade.

This documentary shows the dynamics between the Chinese workers and Africans, the positives and negatives.

Where does this boom in interest leave other Africans looking for work, where does this reliance on Chinese trade leave the Chinese?

Many westerners are starting to feel the pressure of competing with these Chinese companies, and this is understandable, but are we (as Africans) just doing what we did a century ago with relations with the westerners? 

Is this relationship sustainable? Are they truly contributing towards the development of our nation? 

Documentary summary:
"Travelling across three continents, Justin Rowlatt investigates the spread of Chinese influence around the planet and asks what the world will be like if China overtakes America as the world’s economic superpower. In the first of two films, he embarks on a journey across Southern Africa to chart the extraordinary phenomenon of Chinese migration to Africa, and the huge influence of China on the development of the continent.
While many in the West view Africa as a land of poverty, to the Chinese it is seen as an almost limitless business opportunity. From Angola to Tanzania, Justin meets the fearless Chinese entrepreneurs who have travelled thousands of miles to set up businesses.
Justin Rowlatt crosses Brazil and the United States on an epic journey as he continues to investigate the spread of Chinese influence around the planet.
In Rio, local industries, including bikini factories, are threatened by cheap Chinese imports, and in the Amazon, Justin witnesses the phenomenal impact of the Chinese hunger for resources on the indigenous people and the environment.
In the US, from California to the rust belt, Justin encounters the rising undercurrent of American fury over their own decline in the face of competition from China."

My full opinion:

As an African, I can safely say that we are very much aware that we are being exploited. However, we have very few options, those companies and charities that emphasise fair trade rarely actually trade fairly, and charities and aid work have been working in this continent for centuries now - to no avail.. (people don't need food and handouts, they need AFRICAN education that will teach them how to succeed with the environment but most of all they need good governance). For many African countries we CAN do it all by ourselves, that is the physical stuff, we have the resources, and man power we can build our own roads, schools, hospitals, and we do build the majority of them ourselves - BUT we don't have good governance!! You might think that colonialism is the big excuse, but it is no less than the truth. The way Africans govern typically is a tribal matter, our land was divided and different tribes with different outlooks on life were put together, we are very spirtual people and our beliefs do matter to us. All of these traditions that our ancestors held were discouraged, unrewarded and almost abolished after colonialism, so we were forced to adopt a false 'democracy' or government, and the 'colonials' took all of this with them after decades of reigning our countries.

My point is: (sorry to have rambled) :

The Chinese are not in any way contributing to the governance of our countries, and so they are not improving our situation.

They are merely tapping resources back to their homeland.

It may seem selfish to bite the hand that feeds you, but this is the truth, we did it once before, we celebrated in an quick union with the British Empire and when they left, which the Chinese will also ultimately end up doing (as I doubt that they will ever see themselves as Africans), they took it all with them.

Visiting my home country in Africa, I see all of these cheap Chinese products, cheap scratchy plastic bowls, weaning out our bamboo or calabash wooden bowls? We are now in the age of sustainability and renewable resources, these plastic bowls do nothing but litter our land..

It's really sad that my nation is looking for quick fixes.

Also, the Chinese immigrants and companies often offer labour at ridiculously competitive prices, and out compete local trade, which can't afford to compromise on costs, many have gone out of business, this is definitely not sustainable - like I mentioned, what will happen when the Chinese leave?? Where will our own tradesmen and women go?

Another point is that the Chinese respect their culture, but to the extreme that they rarely integrate into other cultures or partake. There will be Chinatowns within these African countries, and they will live segragated from the citizens. I have read reports that some of these Chinese businessmen and women only buy from Chinese stores, and only eat Chinese food etc.. talk about integrating.

Also one more point is that many smart Chinese entrepreneurs have purchased land in the African countries, so that they can inherit when they self brought-on boost occurs in the cost of land.

As an African, it's very uncomforting to know that the land your ancestors were buried on may be owned by a person who is not willing to engage with your culture, who might build a skyscraper, or some strip joint (exaggeration), but may not respect the site, or might be only interested in selling it back to you for as high a price as possible.

These are all my fears for my nation.

I do see one major positive with the Chinese though; they have increased the interest in the endless possibilities available in African countries - Yes India and China are booming, but along with Mumbai, Mexico City, Lagos in Nigeria, West Africa is also one of the world's MEGACITIES, the Chinese are VERY VERY smart, they will increase competition for Westerners who have been ever to comfortable with trading with Africans.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cities & Societies in Comparative Perspective - Call for Paper Proposals

The European Association for Urban History (in Czech Republic) is hosting it's 11th International Conference on Urban History, with the topic "Cities and Societies in Comparative Perspective" in which it is calling for entries of Abstracts from various designers.

"Dear Colleagues and Friends,

You are warmly invited to take part in the 11th International Conference on Urban History 'Cities & Societies in Comparative Perspective', which will take place in Prague from 29 August until 1 September 2012.
Paper proposals are welcome from 1 June 2011 until 1 October 2011. 

In the folder ‘Sessions’ you now can find the list of the sessions which were accepted by the International Committee. We hereby invite you to propose papers for these sessions, and submit them on line with the help of the application software which you can find in the folder ‘Call for paper proposals’, open till the October 1, 2011. After this deadline the session organizers will make selection of accepted proposals and will notify all authors about their decision by January 31, 2012.

We look forward to welcoming you in Prague on 29 August 2012.

Best regards,

The organizing committee of EAUH in Prague 2012."

"We propose to approach this topic not via individual biographies"..  "but rather by looking at various types of networks of communication between different professionals. In order to establish a typology of transnational networks of expertise in the field of urban planning in sub-Sahara Africa, we look for papers that are using a comparative approach and that go beyond the canonical events. Instead of highlighting the famous CIAM-conferences, we aim at revealing less known networks with a significant importance for the dissemination of urban planning expertise throughout Africa, such as the Aga Khan Foundation, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the International Federation of Housing and Planning which organized the 1952 Lisbon conference on housing in tropical climates or the inter-African Housing Research Conference held in 1952 in Pretoria, South Africa, under the auspices of the Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa South of the Sahara.

Session chairs:
Luce Beeckmans (Groningen University, The Netherlands) - l.beeckmans@rug.nl
Johan Lagae (Ghent University, Belgium) - johan.lagae@ugent.be

All abstracts, maximum 500 words, with a brief CV should be submitted by
October 1, 2011.

11th International Conference on Urban History
Cities & Societies in Comparative Perspective, Prague (29 August-1 September 2012)

For more information, please visit the website of the conference on http://www.eauh2012.com

c/o TU Delft
RMIT - Faculty of Architecture
PO Box 5043
2600 GA Delft

Info. from:  ArchiAfrika.org & eauh2012.com

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Fantastic Read #1 - Public Places, Urban Spaces

If you are indeed studying architecture, or have a keen interest in it and wish to learn more, I will be introducing a series of posts dedicated to a few books that I have read that have helped me gain further insight into the topic.

To start of this series, I want to share a book great for understanding architecture and its relevance within the cityscape. I purchased this book in my second year of study, and I find it very interesting to read. I recommend it because it is very straight forward and so, easy to understand. It covers a wide range of topics, and it really makes you more aware about how decisions made within the built environment of our cities affect our day to day life.

Did you know how safe we feel in a place depends not only on the police and the camera, but also the atmosphere a place feels? In a country like Nigeria, we go on and on about lack of policing, but I tell you, it is time to start looking at the architecture of our cities, and whether they make us feel safe.

I mean, how open the public spaces are, which provide many options, routes out and into the city even, which subconsciously frees our minds, we are subsconsciously aware that if anything was to happen, we would not be boxed in, with no exit.

Our road networks are not only dangerous because of the pot holes, or bad drivers, but also because it is very easy to become boxed in.

If there was an accident and someone needed to be rushed to the nearest hospital, we know that this limited road network will pose a significant threat on that person's survival.

I rate this book:

- In terms of topics that it covers: 5/5
There are several considerations, digital means of safety & natural means of safety and plenty of real life examples.
- In terms of images and examples: 4/5
Most examples are European or American, but there is a wide range to choose from, making the book easy to comprehend.
- In terms of usefulness: 5/5
This book was the backbone to a module I took in Urban Design Theory, and contains a surplus of information in sufficient depth, enough to give a person the feeling that you have truly learnt something after reading it.

I definitely recommend this for the budding designer.

The formal synopsis:
"Public Places - Urban Spaces is a holistic guide to the many complex and interacting dimensions of urban design.

The discussion moves systematically through ideas, theories, research and the practice of urban design from an unrivalled range of sources. It aids the reader by gradually building the concepts one upon the other towards a total view of the subject.

The author team explain the catalysts of change and renewal, and explore the global and local contexts and processes within which urban design operates. The book presents six key dimensions of urban design theory and practice - the social, visual, functional, temporal, morphological and perceptual - allowing it to be dipped into for specific information, or read from cover to cover. This is a clear and accessible text that provides a comprehensive discussion of this complex subject.

* Learn all you need to know about design of urban spaces from this one-stop introductory guide
*Gain a comprehensive overview of the topic through the authors' holistic approach
*Complex ideas are presented logically for ease of understanding."

Link to book on Amazon.co.uk

If you have any books to suggest please email me at: tjdesignz [at] hotmail.com

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Oladayo Oladunjoye announced as the shared winner of the First Prize in ArchiAfrika's Blueprints of Paradise competition with his project "Redesigning the Temporal"

Oladunjoye's design will be featured along with other entries in the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal, the Netherlands.

The Blueprints of Paradise competition sought to ask "African architects and artists to visualise the future of built Africa".

The responses were described as being "intriguing and in some ways surprising". "They did not choose to merely present a building or a monument, many of them realised that public space in Africa is very accommodating and that this could serve as a generator for future developments."

"The jury suggested that some of the ideas put forward in the entries could also be possible solutions to design challenges faced elsewhere in the world when dealing with public space."

Read more here: ArchiAfraka's Article & Newsletter.

All images, info and content from & copyright ArchiAfrika: http://www.archiafrika.org/en/node/1288

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Igbo pyramids?

Spot the difference..

African Legacy

Well apart from the varying number of levels, all of these are pyramids, commonly known to originate from Egypt, however only the last picture was taken in Egypt, (Saqqara), the first two were actually taken in Nsude, in Enugu state. The Nsude pyramids are yet to be carbon dated, but judging by the black and white photos (taken in 1935), they are 'very old'.

Ok, so technically, pyramids are known for having four sides (square based), and these stepped pyramids are circular (circle based), but non-the-less we can refer to them as pyramids.

I thought it was interesting to share these images, as many theorists claim that the people who went on the colonize western Africa could have been decendants of the ancient Egyptians. Now, looking at these images it's not so hard to believe.

I am sure if a study was conducted on the two groups, more correlations would probably be drawn.  I'm waiting scientists!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Pic of the Day!

Bookshop on Obafemi Awolowo University campus, April 2011.

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