Monthly Archives: February 2014

‘Suitable lodgings for students’: modern space, colonial development and decolonization in Nigeria

Tim Livsey has recently published his research into Ibadan University in Urban History Journal. The article argues that development and modernity have had spatial manifestations. It considers understandings of modern space in colonial and post-colonial Nigeria through the study of University College Ibadan, the country’s first university institution founded in 1948. It contends that the university was shaped by existing West African conceptions of modern space and university buildings took on new meanings with the shifting politics of decolonization. The article also suggests that colonial development involved a range of groups and forms of knowledge. It seeks to recognize the strength of colonial institutions and cultures but also the limits to and contingencies in late colonial power.

It also has some great archival images of Ibadan University from Cambridge University and SOAS Archives.

The planning of late colonial village housing in the tropics: Tema Manhean, Ghana


The Surf Boat Harbour at Accra, before the construction of Tema Harbour. Image c. 1920s, courtesy of Wirral Archives

This paper examines the planning, physical development, and housing in Tema New Town, an appendix of the newly created Tema industrial and harbour city, located on the northeastern part of Accra in the Greater Accra Region in Ghana. The city and its appendage were designed and built during the 1950s, as the country was rapidly approaching political independence. Tema, originally an old Ga-fishing village, became a significant part of a much larger and ambitious scheme, known as the Volta River Project proposed as part of Kwame Nkrumah’s domestic policy, embracing multifaceted and multidimensional development projects. These projects were to serve as a symbol of ‘progress’ and were part of Ghana’s desire for modernization as it emerged from a colonial past. The related schemes were largely funded as a result of the British Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, and this paper investigates the implementation of this policy and the effect that it had on physical planning and provision of architectural solutions in Ghana.


Maxwell Fry’s sketch of the ‘traditional’ Compound House, from Village Housing in the Tropics


One of Fry and Drew’s plans for the fishing village of Tema Manhean, Ghana.

The full paper, published in Planning Perspectives can be read at:

There have been recent debates in the UK media on the need (or not) for the high speed train, HS2, that is being proposed to run from London to the central belt of Scotland. This brought into my remembrance the establishment of the railways in Nigeria beginning from 1895, and its 29 year extension into the hinterlands that concluded in 1926. The establishment of Nigeria’s railway system has often been credited to Sir Thomas Carter, who was the colonial Governor of Lagos from 1891 to1897.


Sir Gilbert Carter in 1893

Certain events however built up to the coming of the railways. After the annexation of Lagos in 1861, the British initially adopted the policy of non-interference with the Yoruba hinterland. Lagos had therefore being administered from Sierra Leone and later the Gold coast. Around 1886, Lagos was detached from the Gold Coast, became an independent colony and began taking a kin interest in the affairs of Yoruba land, particularly with the looming threat of French intervention in the region. Yoruba inter-ethnic squabbles were not only at their pick within this period, the disputes had also resulted in trade route closures to the interiors. This generated a lot of frustration for Britain’s quest into the interiors, as well as for British and native merchants who desired to trade in the hinterlands. By the third year of his appointment in 1893 therefore, Governor Carter set out on a grand tour of Yoruba land, concluding treaties and agreements with the native Egba and Ibadan chiefs. On the successful completion of the tour, he was able to obtain control over routes and the right to build railways.

rail construction

Construction of rail tracks

The PWD was therefore authorized to conduct a railway survey by the colonial office in 1885 under the then colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain. By 1896, construction began from Ebute-Meta on Lagos mainland towards the interior. By April 1899, the line was extended to Abeokuta, and by 1900 the following year, the line was open for traffic to Ibadan, a 120 mile distance from Lagos. The next major construction was the 1909 extension from Ibadan to Jebba, after which several other extensions and new lines were added. By the end of 1926, the total mileage of the system had attained 1,597, with a plan in place for an additional 150 miles of construction every year.

railway map

Railway map of Nigeria, Circa 1928

Though the PWD survey and engineering units undertook the land surveying and rail track constructions in this all new transportation project, its architectural unit had equally designed and constructed the train station buildings. These buildings currently constitute part of Nigeria’s vast colonial architectural heritage, and help raise questions about the PWD’s building programme; For example, were PWD standardized practices employed in the production of these buildings? Was there a ‘type design’ for the larger and busier stations and another for the less patronized? Were these ‘type designs’ strict prototypes enforced country-wide, or were there variants introduced? Where the designs a direct replica of train stations from Empire’s metropolis, or did they reflect local realities? These and other questions of interest could present a basis for further study.

old Ebute-meta

Old Ebute-Meta, Lagos, Platform (Undated)

ebute meta 2

New Ebute-Meta, Lagos Terminus, Circa 1955

Jane Drew (1911-1996): An Introduction

We’re delighted that the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) is to hold an exhibition specifically on Jane Drew, especially as she helped to establish that very institution. The exhibition has been curated by Claire Louise Staunton and Laura Guy, who are part of Inheritance Projects. The exhibition opens on 12th February – 23 March 2014. More details on the website below.


Building Modern Africa

Theme Editors:
David Rifkind, Florida International University (
Itohan Osayimwese, Brown University (

This thematic issue of the Journal of Architectural Education focuses on architecture and urbanism in Africa since the early nineteenth century. JAE 68:2 will explore the processes of modernization that have shaped the continent and their reflection in the built environment.

Essays might investigate increasing levels of political engagement and issues of social identity in the built environment, offer nuanced considerations of colonial and post-colonial design, or posit new theoretical approaches to understanding the built environment in Africa. They may include discussions of trans-national and trans-continental cultural exchanges, comparative studies of urban planning techniques, examinations of experimental building technologies, case studies of sustainable development projects, close readings of theoretical statements, and critical translations of canonical texts. Articles will be chosen to reflect the geographical, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity of Africa.

Essays submitted under the Scholarship of Design rubric may be historical, theoretical or critical in nature, and can focus on any time period over the last two centuries. Comparative studies are particularly welcome, as are works that approach historical subject matter with innovative methodological frameworks. Design as Scholarship articles may discuss built or speculative projects that engage the exigencies of their contemporary context critically. The editors are especially interested in work that offers new models for design as a mode of research. Opinion essays and reviews will be solicited.

Our goal is that the JAE theme issue, Building Modern Africa, will comprise a valuable and unique contribution to the fields of architectural education, design, and architectural history, and will become a standard reference for faculty, scholars and students.

The submission deadline for all manuscripts for this theme issue is March 01, 2014, 5 pm US Eastern Time Zone. Accepted articles will be published in issue 68:2 (October 2014). For author instructions please consult the submission guidelines.

– See more at: