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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Open Discussion

Hello all,

I don't normally create topics which are simply based on opinions, but in regards to my most recent post on "Why do we feel that everything traditional is bad" at http://nigerianarchitecture.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/why-do-we-feel-that-everything.html

A reader of my blog; 't' commented saying that:

"other day, I read of a housing development, some 5-star thing for the Ibori's of this country (pre-jail, obviously) and the advert said that ALL the house finishings were imported, hence it's of the highest highest class of house. I nearly cried. You could easily define the highest class of house as one that uses the best local materials, local talent/craftsmanship, appropriate technology, custom design etc, but these Europe-worshippers went the other way. In this day when we need employment. So help me an tell dem :)"

This comment demonstrated another examples of the ways we think in our societies. It prompted me to write an in-depth response which is the following :

"Thank you t and anonymous for your comments.

In response to t, it is more so the wording of such a statement that bothers me, and we should be bothered.

It is ingrained in our psyche that 'traditional is bad' and to some extent even some people believe that 'African is bad', this is definitely not the case. There are several valid designs and attributes to African traditional methods that deserve more recognition.

Please see the TED.com talk on African Fractals at:

We do many things out of tradition because tradition has been a series of processes which over thousands of years and 100s of generations, has been refined over and over again. Of course the world's move towards modernism has put a strain on many traditions (not just African), and many ways of doing things have been neglected for modern ways of doing things.

Because Nigeria as a whole, is not known for its modernity we are not really known for much within the building world - please look at the post I wrote on wayfinding in Lagos, Abuja.. at:


This issue isn't limited to Nigeria, but the majority of countries across the world.

Without digressing too much, I think that there is definitely something wrong with the way we view our traditions, particularly within buildings.

Do you know that it is a requirement in my course in the UK to produce work that supports environmental sustainability?

This means that whilst our designers and planners are trying to compete with the world's high tech and concrete and fossil fuel driven modern cities, those of us currently living in these 'modern countries' (outside of Nigeria), are working desperately to do the reverse. We are penalised for over use of concrete, and non-renewable resources. I see colleagues everyday proposing new ways of using plant material in construction, methods of building less linear and rectangular forms, the use of straw and earth within walls for insulation etc..

This IS African architecture, of course we are not the only ones using these materials, but in our rural villages, methods of construction of our clay (not mud) dwellings (not huts), we practice these methods of construction everyday.

We have figured out the best ways of using natural resources for the construction of traditional and indigenous homes, what we need now is to find a way to bridge the gap between that lifestyle and the modern one.

In response to anonymous, this is the perfect place to point fingers, the 'three that point back at you' can be used to further analyse and refine our culture, our ways of thinking and of course our architecture.

Thank you.

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