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Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Catholic Church of the Transfiguration - Lagos

London based architects DOS Architects, were appointed to design The Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Lekki, Lagos (2009).

Visually the design is very striking. I am particularly pleased to be able to share with you, the 'architect's' thoughts on his building. One thing about architecture is that there is always a thought behind it, much like art, sometimes your experience of the building/piece can be transformed by simply understand why and what was the thought behind the building.

It seems as if they were not intending on producing anything vernacular or related to the culture or traditions of the people living in Lekki, and because this is a commercial project that is a very justifiable standpoint to take. This building therefore becomes an icon or landmark rather for the church and brands the church. Since the shape is so striking, I can only imagine all the interesting descriptions people would give to describe the building perhaps to a wayfinder, perhaps it is the 'fish shaped building' or 'the building shaped like half of a traditional 'African' drum'.. I could go on (post any suggestions in the comment box below).

When asked the architect said that:

"Even though our design proposal may seem unconventional to the untrained eye, it is actually based on traditional principles of Catholic Church design: The main congregation Hall features a Latin cross above the Organ and altar; The hall has a nave and two aisles at each side which are all coincident with the main axis of the Church; we have placed a Latin Cross on the highest point of the Church’s structure, which will become an icon for the city of Lekki and Lagos as a whole."

Pictures below..

"The project consists of an organic skin which, in one single gesture, becomes the roof and external walls of the Church, enveloping and protecting the Congregation within. The main access is placed in the narrowest and lowest part of the building and leads into a spectacular entrance foyer, from which the visitor has views and clear access to both floors of the Church. The main staircase in the entrance foyer divides the Church into two halves which are visually linked by the large atrium that traverses the building. The funnel effect within the entrance foyer moreover reinforces the huge and spectacular scale of the main Congregation Hall and the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration to either side."

"The architectural concept and structural form are integral, with a series of arches of varying heights producing the sculptural form of the building as a whole. Arches are one of the oldest and most efficient forms of structure, utilizing the full height of the building to provide stiffness resulting in a relatively slender structure. Fabricated steel arches are positioned at 4m centres along the length of the building, with cold‐formed steel purlins spanning between the arches supporting the roof finishes and ceiling within. These arches are supported on each side of the building by a series of piled foundations taking vertical loads into the ground beneath. The horizontal thrust which results from the arching action is resisted by a reinforced concrete ground slab which ties the two bases of the arch together."

Pictures follow (click for larger views): 


I am interested to know your thoughts about this project. I understand that visually it does not appear vernacular nor traditional, however this is a non-Nigerian firm that designed this project, and unless specified by the clients/church they had no obligation to design from a different stand poit. Do you think they have been successful, are you convinced that the design has fulfilled the brief, surely it has fulfilled the functional aspects of the brief, which is to provide a church suitable for the size of the church's congregation, however, has it convinced you that this is a great response to that, or is it simply a sore thumb in the environment for all the wrong reasons.

Comment below and I will post my opinions shortly.

Also if anyone happens to have pictures of the construction process please email them to me : tjdesignz [at] hotmail.com

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

What does an Architect do?

I sometimes ask my friends, family and colleagues to tell me what they think of what an architect does, or what the job entails, so true to fashion, I ask again:

"What does an architect do?"

And if you find that hard to define, please tell me "What do you think their job entails/involves".

Much appreciated.

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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