Saturday, December 20, 2008

Learning from Lagos

Just finished looking at the Lagos films with Rem Koolhaas 'Lagos Wide and Close' and 'Lagos/Koolhaas' as well as read a piece of the 'Lagos Handbook' that GSD students produced with Koolhaas (Loeb Library special collections). Two things called my attention; Koolhaas' evolving view of planning and infrastructure and the discussion of Makoko as a prototype for the growth of Lagos and other cities.

Discussing Lagos Koolhaas said that he had come with a great apathy towards planning. He then began noticing self-organizations all throughout the city and found them interesting. But the breakthrough came when he noticed that these self-organizations from the informal Alaba Market to the sea of informal traders around the trains and highways are completely dependent on the formal infrastructure of the modernist infrastructure of the 60's and 70's. The informal and formal are not unfriendly binaries but rather careful dance partners with the architect's new role coordinating and synchronizing that dance. Thus Koolhaas' belief in planning was renewed.

Koolhaas also mentions the informal community of Makoko in Lagos as a possible prototype for growth there and in other cities. He is interested by the way the community has grown around the bay to saw, store, and ship lumber. In Makoko we can see an intersection of ecological conditions, commerce, infrastructure, and community. This slum and Koolhaas' reading remind me of the diagram (above) I produced for the NICAestudio. This diagram was meant to say that the new housing in informal settings needed to be embedded with commercial and social activities and then critically set within the landscape. Furthermore, this reading also signifies an evolution of Koolhaas' urban/ecological views from La Villete...

One last thing I found interesting is that Koolhaas said that he was concerned about being careful as a 'white European'. He wanted to neither romanticize conditions nor scandalize them with stereotypical images of despair. I think this critical anxiety is important to recognize as it is something that designers (of all races and nationalities) need to come to terms with in order to work within this context.

(YouTube Video of Introduction to Lagos/Koolhaas)

4 comments:

Dk said...

only love to lagos, but your comment (following) is patently untrue:

"with the architect's new role coordinating and synchronizing that dance"

...in the example you give, the architect is neither coordinating nor synchronizing any dance- unless you're pulling the retrospective (that the infrastructure-dependence signals architectural intervention)

the real question is- will rem ever publish the latest lagos book? i pre-ordered it like a year ago- it keeps missing publication dates- and amazon bugs me to renew my pre-order...

yo q- new ideas on networks in the works. werd up

quilian riano said...

I think I am being speculative with that one, so it can neither be true nor false.

It is true that architecture's role right now is that of an unwilling and at times unresponsive partner (the infrastructure), but I think that Rem's study (and that of others) leaves space for that more active role.

I wonder what's up with that book, even the librarians at the GSD laugh when I ask if they have any insider knowledge.

Cannot wait to see your network magic.

Enjoy Ghana,

q

nat slayton said...

hi - good to hear that the POTC lagos study is being used. the single copy in loeb's special collections is likely the extent to which it will ever be broadcast. i was involved in the thesis group and then continued working on the (now dormant?) book for a couple of years. For some reason I continue to keep a closet full of drafts, slides and dvds; it could be that this stuff may be of some value to your or someone else's research. it may also be worth looking at david hecht and abdou maliq simone's "invisible governance" (1994) - at the time our group was somewhat enamored with this little book because it seemed to present new ways to look at informal/formal urban relationships.

Dk said...

Nat thanks for the Invisible Governance reference. I've been reading Simone's texts- he's kind of the Godfather, it seems, on African urbanism. Also, Loeb Library finally made a B&W photocopy of the POTC thesis book...so we can check it out and actually read it. It's impressive, pretty awesome document.