Floating not flooding: Adeyemi’s ‘Ark-ademy’



Photos © 2014 NLÉ


And what is this extraordinary structure?

Why, a floating school of course. It is also a prototype building created by Nigerian-born architect, Kunle Adeyemi  and his Amsterdam-based company NLÉ. Adeyemi has more plans too, ones that will relieve the dire conditions for the 100,000 people who currently live in this, Nigeria’s Makoko slum. The fishing settlement in Lagos Lagoon has been there since the 18th century. To cope with changing tidal levels, the shanties are built on stilts, rising from the lagoon mud; the main way to get around is by boat. There is zero sanitation, and consequently much disease. Life expectancy is reckoned to be less than 40 years.

For the past two centuries Makoko slum dwellers have adapted to tidal changes, but now climate change, with rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather events, is putting them at grave risk.

Recently the Nigerian authorities have addressed their plight by demolishing many of the stilt-built dwellings, making the inhabitants homeless. There will be re-development  naturally – not for the poor who have long lived there, but to replace their community with flashy lagoon-view high rises. Makoko as it stands is deemed a blot that must be erased. It is an interesting approach to social deprivation: to make it worse.



See instead Adeyemi’s vision:


Now doesn’t this make your heart sing? Homes to live for.

And here is where it begins:


Diagram courtesy of NLÉ.


Makoko floating school, then, is literally the flagship of NLÉ’s proposed waterborne city. The structure was designed and built in collaboration with the Makoko Waterfront Community and with input from Dutch naval architect, Erik Wassen. It is movable, and capable of dealing with storm surges and flooding. The triangular frame which is mounted on 256 floating plastic barrels makes it very stable and with a capacity to keep 100 people safe in storm conditions. PV cells on the apex generate solar power, and there are facilities to recycle organic waste and harvest rainwater. Most importantly of all, it was built using the techniques and skills of local craftspeople. It is a building that fits with people’s view of themselves. And it is beautiful.



Photo © 2014 NLÉ

The school has three levels with a capacity for 60 -100 pupils. The 1st level is an open play area for breaks and assembly. Out of school hours this space may be used by the community. Level 2 is an enclosed space for 2-4 classrooms, and Level 3 has a partially enclosed workshop space.

The only fly in the ointment of NLÉ’s scheme for Makoko’s regeneration is the fact that Nigerian authorities say the floating school is an illegal structure, and should not be there. NLÉ are currently in negotiation with Lagos state government and are said to be optimistic that no immediate action will be taken.

I for one hope that this African solution to an African problem will be seen for what it is – an amazingly wonderful, life-giving, life-enhancing scheme of which Nigeria should be heartily proud. The floating school addresses both present need and future uncertainty, and in ways that its community can reproduce and embrace. It has inherent sustainability. It is a pattern to build on, adapt, develop, replicate, but on an individual human scale that everyone can understand. And as time goes on, we may all have need to tap into some of NLÉ’s ingenuity if we wish to continue living well and safely on our home planet. Town Planning that gladdens my heart and gives me hope, and believe me, that does not often happen.

text copyright 2014 Tish Farrell


Further info:

Kunlé Adeyemi Founder NLÉ


The Architectural Review Jan 2014



Flickr Comments F – archive

33 thoughts on “Floating not flooding: Adeyemi’s ‘Ark-ademy’

  1. What a wonderful post filled with hope. It’s a win win situation all round….and as you say a blue print for many other communities around the world seriously threatened with climate change. Thank you for sharing this. Janet:)

  2. Adeyemi’s heart is in the right place thinking of solutions to his peoples problems. In many other more stable societies this concept could work but it would be difficult in Nigeria and Lagos in particular. Aside from planning issues, floating structures have problems with services though solar solutions can help to provide power sewerage and rubbish is a real issue. Whether these structures are used for schools, hospitals, productive gardens or almost anything else the issue of security is paramount. These structures can burn and there will be little resistance to theft and other worse outcomes. As houses, it would be a nightmare. Eventually the structures will be linked to each other to create linear floating streets with all the same problems. We all wish him well in this creative venture, but do it in Holland first!

    1. I see your points, Tony. But then a lot of the problems you mention already exist in the stilt-shanties. Something to aim for, perhaps. One day Nigeria must surely get its act together. It has so much talent after all.

      1. Hi Tish. I can be positive. Adeyemi’s solution is for floating structures with the benefit stilt houses don’t have ie they are fixed to the edge of land and shallow water, but when I think about it the postman is going to have a devil of a time finding houses which have floated away and disengaged them selves from services like electricity and sewerage.
        His idea of course is for a few structures to house schools and community facilities. It’s not going to work for housing. I’m out…

    1. Thank you for reading, JF. It’s good when those with expertise talk to the people who need help first, and everyone can then work together to solve problems. That way, the solutions are much more likely to work.

  3. The school looks fabulous – what a wonderful place to study. And the idea of floating houses is great as well. Let’s hope that at least the school can stay and serve the children.

    1. Glad you smiled, Victoria. Yes, this is a new theme. The old one was making me feel claustrophobic, and I wanted a bigger photo space. Good to hear it’s easier on the eyes.

      1. I love the boarder around it, too. An artistically clean, inviting/engaging theme. 🙂

        That last, futuristic picture you posted was amazing. Also, I was stunned that the life expectancy there is only around 40 years. When we realize that just one Christian denomination, alone (the RCC) rakes in 171+ billion dollars a year (that’s only what is reported), and only about 2 percent go to help the poor, it literally makes me sick to my stomach when I see such a huge inequality gap, a high suffering and death rate among the poor, and so much wealth among the Jesus following hierarchy who do little for those who are truly in need. But they keep building the gaudy cathedrals and churches. Sorry for the rant, and again, I appreciate the hope/inspiration you shared.

    1. Yes, you’re right. I’d forgotten about Waterworld. That conjures quite a bleak futurist view though. Hopefully this project will a) take off and b) improve the lives of many people.

  4. Ark – ademy indeed!
    I thought Noel would be the first to jump in, being the architect that he is.
    This reminds of a village built along similar lines in Vietnam that was featured at the end of a Top Gear Special.

  5. Seeing something like this makes my heart sing! I just hope the govt does see the potential instead of doing like so many others, making things worse for the people who live there.

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