Kunlé Adeyemi Interview: Living on Water



Step inside the world of Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi – praised for his ability to build innovative architecture on water. He here argues that architecture must respond to the changing environmental conditions and growth of population.

“It’s not about floating architecture, that’s really not what my practice is focused on.” The relationship between water and the city – between water and people – is essential. Adeyemi’s practice recognizes that with the changing environment, the presence of water will only increase: “We are just starting to brace ourselves and learn how to live with water as opposed to fighting it.” Building on water has its challenges, but also many opportunities to explore: “Water is a much more unstable form to inhabit. At the same time it allows a much more fluid ground condition.” Adeyemi, who feels lucky to have experienced different parts of the world, is inspired by and wants to learn from the environment, keeping in mind and respecting the difference between building in e.g. Chicago and Makoko: “For both, we are constantly trying to ensure that the solution comes from the environment. The materials are local, so they belong there, and at the same time they add to the conditions there.”

Architecture always starts with people. For this reason, Adeyemi furthermore aims to have his architecture address the social aspects of living: “It’s about the experience that you generate, or you create or you curate with people and for people – and hopefully by people.” People need to be in an environment that not only shelters them, but also motivates and empowers them. An example of this is Adeyemi’s project ‘Makoko Floating School’, where the school itself represents an educational idea about living on water.

Kunlé Adeyemi (b. 1976) is a Nigerian architect, urbanist and creative researcher. His father was a modernist architect, who started one of the first indigenous architecture firms in North Nigeria in the 1970s, and Adeyemi had the opportunity to design his first house – for a friend of his father – in his teens. Adeyemi worked for several years at Office for Metropolitan Architecture, where he led the design, development and execution of numerous projects in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Among these projects were the award winning Samsung Museum of Art, the Seoul National University Museum, NM Rothschild Bank in London, Shenzhen Stock Exchange tower in China, Prada Transformer in South Korea, Qatar National Library, Qatar Foundation Headquarters and the 4th Mainland Bridge and master plan in Lagos. Adeymi is founder and principal of NLÉ, an architecture, design and urbanism practice based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His recent work for the firm includes ‘Makoko Floating School’, which is an innovative floating structure located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, and provides a multi-storey school building that glides on top of recycled plastic containers. This acclaimed project is furthermore part of an extensive research project – ‘African Water Cities’. For more about Kunlé Adeyemi and NLÉ see: http://www.nleworks.com/

Kunlé Adeyemi was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in June 2015 in connection to the exhibition ‘AFRICA – Architecture, Culture and Identity.’

Camera: Julie Madsen
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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