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Silver Lion winner Kunlé Adeyemi gives lesson on community resilience with Makoko Floating School

Nigerian-born Kunlé Adeyemi, leader of Dutch practice NLÉ and member of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury has won the Silver Lion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition. He was presented with the prize for promising young architects for his Makoko Floating School, which sets out to solve the issues of flooding and overcrowding in Nigeria’s waterside slums. Although there are no roads or infrastructure, the Makoko slum is home to almost 100,000 people who are completely adapted to an unconventional life on the water.

Designed by NLÉ Architects in 2013, this small-scale floating project in Lagos, Nigeria is an alternative building system that provides space for education and cultural programmes in Africa’s coastal regions. As a pilot project, it has taken an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanizing African context.

Kunle-21.jpgOften referred to as the “Venice of Africa”, the community was facing eviction by the government until Kunlé Adeyemi and his team collaborated with the local community to build the floating school. This led the authorities to reconsider their eviction plan. To solve this issue of flooding and other social and environmental challenges, the floating structure is a low-cost three-story A-frame, buoyed by 250 plastic barrels – which makes it movable and adaptable to changing tides and water levels. Makoko Floating School is designed to use renewable energy, recycle organic waste and harvest rainwater. The school received funding from the Lagos state government to install solar power and lighting to the waterfront in 2015.

Kunlé Adeyemi was winner of an Awards Acknowledgement prize in 2014 for Chicoco Radio: Community building designed for urban flooding. The floating media platform for waterfront slum communities, connecting land and water. The design is part of the “African Water Cities” project, which investigates the challenges and opportunities of rapid urbanization and climate change in African coastal cities.


The Makoko Floading School has been constructed at la Biennale di Venezia, and is located behind the Arsenale this year in Venice after floating down the Grand Canal. Kunlé Adeyemi is also a Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Planning (GSAPP) at Columbia University (USA), and will be a member of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Middle East Africa in 2017. The 5th International LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction with USD 2 million in prize money is most significant global competition for sustainable design. Entries open on July 4, 2016 at:

Last Updated: May 28, 2016
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Kunlé Adeyemi
Kunlé Adeyemi

Kunlé Adeyemi is Founder and Principal of NLÉ based in Lagos, Nigeria and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and was a member of the LafargeHolcim...

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