Project of the Week | Makoko Floating School


photo by camping c
Location:  Lagos, Nigeria
Programme: School, Community Building
Area: 220 m²
ArchitectsNLÉ Architects
Status: Completed 2013
Collaborators: Blok Kats van Veen Architects, Dykstra – Naval Architects, Thieu Besselink, Roel Bosch, Urhahn + Borra, Pieters Bouwtechniek, Ikeyi & Arifayan, Solarmate Engineering Ltd., Renderings Tim van Bentu

Makoko Floating School is a prototype floating structure, built for the historic coastal community of Makoko. Makoko is largely a self-sustaining, self-governing fishing community that is also a slum neighbourhood. It  straddles Herbert Macaulay, Yaba, and the Lagos Lagoon located on the fringe of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. As a pilot project, it is receiving an upgrade to its current solution, which is homes supported on stilts within the lagoon’s waters. 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. Its main aim is to generate a sustainable, ecological, alternative building system and urban water culture for the teeming population of Africa’s coastal regions.


Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria; Image Capture © Google Maps 2013 via ArchDaily

design boom materials

Makoko Floating School © NLÉ architects


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ architects


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects

Construction on the project began in October 2012 and was completed in February 2013 with grand appraisal from the community. Residents of Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront in Yaba Local Council Development Area, LCDA, will enjoy the luxury of a floating school built with sponsorship from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Heinrich Boell Foundation from Germany and NLÉ Works, Nigeria. The  three storey  floating building is part of  the regeneration plan for the coastal community. The construction of the school  is aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Goal II, where the main objective is universal primary education. This came only a few months after the Lagos State government demolished hundreds of ‘illegal’ structures in the area to seize property for redevelopment along the waterfront. Mr. John Adugbo, a resident of Makoko said,

All we have is a school that was constructed to serve as a palliative measure because of our peculiar challenge of being surrounded by water.

The founder of NLE, and promoter of the floating school, Mr. Kunle Adeyemi went on to say,

The desire to construct the school was burn out of curiosity after I visited the community and interest in the coastal community, where despite the little income made daily by the breadwinners, they have never stopped developing the infrastructure.  The ground floor of the school would serve as an open recreational space for the pupils during the day and at night and weekends, their fathers can converge and hold meetings. The structure will accommodate over 100 students and their teachers and it is an extension of the only existing school in the coastal community.

The community which has over 100, 000 residents has only one primary school, called ‘Whayinna Nursery and Primary school’ and no secondary. The new floating school is an extension of the existing school. It is designed to have a broad base and a narrow top like a ship that will be impregnable during storms.


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects

The Makoko Floating School and the total planned projects makes use of local materials and resources.  Wood is used as the main material for the structure, support and finishing.  The overall composition of the design is a triangular A-Frame section, with the classrooms located on the second tier.  They are partially enclosed with adjustable louvered slats.  The classrooms are surrounded by public space, there is a playground below, and the roof contains an additional open air classroom.  NLE has also employed strategies to make the floating architecture sustainable by applying PV cells to the roof and incorporating a rainwater catchment system.  The structure is also naturally ventilated and aerated.

But how does it float?  The completed structure rests on a base of plastic barrels.  This simple solution reflects a reuse of available materials that can provide multiple uses.  The barrels at the periphery can be used to store excess rainwater from the catchment system.


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects

For waste management, they would collect the waste and take it to a central point on land,

For organic waste we are looking at recycling, compost systems and the compost will be used to produce manure for vegetable garden. The toilet is designed to be under the staircase of the ground floor.

The second phase of the project will include the construction of individual homes that follow the same aesthetic as the school.  These elements will be able to connect to each other or may float independently.  Phase three will allow for the development of a large community of floating architecture.


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects

What the future of Makoko will be is unclear – by political or environmental standards.  But NLE’s design and development of a sustainable floating community and its UN support indicates that the community is looking forward to adapting a resilience to its architecture.

Capturedesign boom

Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects

NLE arch

Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects

The Makoko Floating School is not the only project to develop a floating concept to combat unpredictable climate changes and global sea level changes. See ArchDaily for examples of such projects.


Makoko Floating School © NLÉ Architects