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Lagos' flood-beating floating school nears completion


February 14, 2013

The Makoko school frame was completed in December 2012 (Image: NLÉ)

The Makoko school frame was completed in December 2012 (Image: NLÉ)

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Design and urbanism practice NLÉ, led by Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi, is building a new multilevel school in Makoko – a region of Nigeria's most populous city, Lagos. While that doesn't sound too unusual, the difference here is that in an effort to address the issues of land scarcity and poor waste management that affect the flood-prone area, this school is being built on floating platforms.

Designed for 100 pupils and their teaching staff, the Makoko School is 1,080 sq. ft. (10 sq. m) at its base, 33 ft (10 m) high. The design uses approximately 256 plastic drums to float on the water and the frame is constructed using locally sourced wood. Solar panels are planned to provide electricity along with rainwater harvesting to facilitate the newly installed compost toilets as a solution to the non-existent sewerage system. The design team has included a playground on the base level with a further two floors for classrooms above.

As Nigeria’s commercial capital and economic center, Lagos has an estimated population of fifteen million which makes it larger than London, Buenos Aires and Beijing. The 250,000 strong community of Makoko has lived in stilt houses above a lagoon for generations. The waterway lifestyle, where daily travel takes place in canoes, prompted Portuguese colonists to name the city Lagos (which means "lakes") and the longest bridge in Africa connects the main city to the lagoon islands. In the last year local and national discussions have taken place about the impact of climate change upon the water settlements as rising sea levels, coastal erosion and tropical rains have overwhelmed the current system.

If the prototype is successful, replicated structures could provide homes for over 100,000 people in the area (Image: NLÉ)

NLÉ hopes the Makoko School design will be a prototype to improve the architecture and urbanism of African coastal cities and create floating homes, community centers and play spaces. Kunlé Adeyemi states that if the initial school building is successful, replicated structures could provide homes for over 100,000 people in the area.

After successfully completing test floating platforms in September 2012, NLÉ says the prototype building is almost complete and will hopefully be ready to welcome a new school year.

"Information on the cost is not yet available," advises Kunlé Adeyemi. "For now, we can say, it is certainly cheaper than building on land."

Source: NLÉ via FastCompany

About the Author
Donna Taylor After years of working in software delivery, Donna seized the opportunity to head back to university and this time study a lifelong passion: Architecture. Originally from the U.K. and after living in many countries, Donna and her family are now settled in Western Australia. When not writing Donna can be found at the University of Western Australia's Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts Department. All articles by Donna Taylor

Great Idea....

I have advocated grounded houseboats, or pontoon houses in flood prone areas for a long time....

Provided the house is protected from flood-borne debris, and well anchored (better than the pontoon jetties on the Brisbane river) it will rise and fall with the surge of the flood..... (a lot of if's may-be.)

People will cite cost, but I reply with rebuilding costs every 5-10 years in a lot of cases (especially on the flood prone deltas of the developing (or stagnated) world.


With a single point piling for the the school to pivot upon and two others further from the far corners for mooring lines and a hand winch the whole school could be easily rotated to follow the sun from dawn to dusk increasing solar out-put significantly. A child could even manage the task once every few hours.

Leif Knutsen

I like the school could also be moved around for optimal accessibility as well.


Fine idea, if a bit tardy. For nearly two thousand years this approach has been used in Insular Southeast Asia where, at one time, whole kingdoms were on houseboats. There are still people in Malaysia and Southern China who live principally on the sea, often moored in estuaries.


Normally I like looking at the ingenuity of of the unique homes shown on this site. But I usually think they will be a one-off due to cost or construction style acceptance (here in the US banks get real worried about giving a mortgage out for unusual houses since they have no idea what they will be able to sell it for if the person defaults...). But this fits the area so well, the design meets unique conditions and the technology is not expensive. I think for the area it may be a winner.... I would hope when this one is finished they just keep making them and find buyers....

The pictured platform must be bigger than 10'X10'. Hem up 30 kids and they each get a sq. yard. Yeh, right. They'd be "accidently" falling in the creek constantly.




Good catch, 10 meters X 10 meters perhaps? That would be in keeping with the size of the people in the photos.

Also due to the sloping A-frame roof construction, the areas near the edge would only be good for storage.


We are discovering more and more flood prone areas as climate change progresses. A house that can float out of trouble would be attractive if you could be sure it would come back to a flat space.

John D
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