Al Jazeera’s new series Rebel Architecture uncovers the architects who are shunning the glamour of ‘starchitecture’ and using design to tackle the world’s urban, environmental and social crises. The series premieres on 18 August 2014.
Nigerian architect and urbanist Kunlé Adeyemi is one of six ground-breaking international architects profiled.
His episode, Working on Water, focuses on his partnerships with coastal slum communities to pioneer floating buildings, including a school at sea in Makoko waterfront in Lagos and a floating radio station in Chicoco in Port Harcourt.
There was a mass government demolition targeting Makoko’s 250 000 slum dwellers in July 2012, while last year Kunlé’s floating school was labelled “illegal” by the
authorities and threatened with demolition. The school only received federal approval earlier this year after it was nominated as Design of the Year by London’s Design Museum.
The residents of both Makoko and Chicoco live in fear of demolition but Kunlé believes that forced evictions are not the solution, “There are hundreds if not thousands of Makokos all over Africa,” he 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.”
He says the idea of floating structures came out of his discussions with the community about how to resolve the challenges of flooding and of building into marshy, muddy soil.
“I’ve spent a large part of my career developing an expertise on high profile, large scale projects – museums, corporate headquarters for international organisations, skyscrapers,” says Kunlé. “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.”
The Al Jazeera Rebel Architecture episode, Working On Water, was directed by South African Riaan Hendricks, whose breakthrough documentary, The Devil’s Lair, won seven international festival awards last year.
Working on Water premieres on 15 September 2014. Other episodes in Rebel Architecture explore guerrilla architecture in Spain (18 August 2014); disaster relief shelters in Pakistan (25 August 2014); the role of architecture in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the evolution of urban warfare (1 September 2014); an attempt to return greenery to Vietnam’s choking cities (8 September 2014); and an informal builder in Rio’s favelas (22 September 2014).
“This series challenges our conceptions of architecture and design and the way we cover them in the media,” says Giles Trendle, Director of Programmes at Al Jazeera English. “With surprising and inspiring stories from all over the world, it’s completely unlike any other programme on architecture.”