Author Archives: Academic Consult for Architecture, Construction and Built Environment

The 20th Century Urbanism and Landscape in Africa conference recently held at the Edinburgh School of Landscape Architecture (ESALA), University of Edinburgh. It took place from 7 to 8 October, and focused on the subtheme of ‘Research Challenges and opportunities’.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to presentations by the four Key Note speakers, who were Dr Rexford Oppong of KNUST Ghana, Prof Luc Verpoest of KU Leuven, Prof Johan Lagae of Ghent University and Dr Iain Jackson of University of Liverpool. Although their presentations all brought the conference’s key theme of ‘Research Challenges and Opportunities’ to the fore, their various approaches and contexts had provided more divergent and interesting perspectives to the discussion.

The areas of interest covered by the four speakers ranged from Dr Oppong’s  “Challenges and Opportunities of Conservation Research and Documentation on the Urbanist and landscape heritage of KNUST”, to Prof Verpoest “Mind the gap: from historiography to [urban] preservation. The African case” and Dr Jackson’s “Research Challenges and opportunities in West Africa”. Prof Johan Lagae also presented a talk on the challenges of his on-going research on urbanism in Congo.


Cover picture for Dr Jackson’s “Research Challenges and Opportunities in West Africa”

In Dr Oppong’s talk, he presents the KNUST as a campus set, and much preserved in the Modernist architectural theme of the 1950s. However, the current state of its architectural drawings archives as highlighted in his presentation, need urgent conservation and documenting for posterity. He therefore gives insights into his current research in this regard, and the challenges of the project. One main challenge he sights is in getting the current University and secondary school students (who also played a part in the survey) to recognise the input of indigenous Ghanaian Architects in the building designs.

vc lodge

The Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge, KNUST Ghana

The challenges of conservation and documentation raised by Dr Oppong, was a theme which ran through the other presentations. However, in Prof Verpoest’s talk, he suggests that further strands of investigations are needed to be explored on the subject. Rather than being limited to buildings and famous architectural pieces he argues, researching conservation, preservation and documentation should look at the wider picture of processes, institutions, mechanisms and historical context. In essence, it should go beyond the built object as an individual subject of analysis. He therefore discusses this in the light of recent projects by Docomomo, where research is being done to go beyond individual building conservation to urban building conservation. He also explains how the organization is seeking to have regional linkages in selected African countries.


An image of Africa’s changing society as illustrated in Prof Verpoest’s presentation

Prof Verpoest’s  suggestion of research into urban, rather then individual building conservation, preservation and documentation in Africa and globally, is also seen to form the crux of work done by the third key note speaker – Prof Johan Lagae. In his current research in Congo, Prof Lagae looks at various types of infrastructure – Missionary, Railroad and Hospitals, but all within the wider urban form context and everyday living. He also looked at the Post Belgian period in Congo around 1965, and raises the issue of building production and technology – but again questions “where were the Congolese in all these?” On the challenge faced in his research, he stated practical issues of language, electricity, relating with local chiefs etc. He also notes the fantastic data and drawings present in the archives, but which unfortunately lacks infrastructure.


Picture of King Leopold II of Belgium in an archival administrative document on the Congo

Prof Lagae’s question on the contribution of natives, and poor archival infrastructure are two issues which Dr Jackson’s also raises in his presentation on Research Challenges in West Africa. With regard to the native contribution, he suggest that urgent work is required on the works of native architects in particular. While supporting the need for improved archival infrastructure in West Africa, however, Dr Jackson also makes a case for more fieldwork participation – arguing that “We have to get our hands dirty and explore…to create new photographs and records of the buildings”. He also suggest that further to such fieldwork exercises, the adoption of new technologies, like Drones and GPS need be encouraged to produce astonishing results. As seen in Professors Verpoest and Lagae talk, Dr Jackson was also of the Opinion that Architectural history needs to move beyond the conservation and preservation of important buildings. He argues rather, that research in this area become more inclusive of the intangible and the ephemeral, and sample user experiences and opinions. His talk raises several other questions on research challenges in West- Africa, including the theoretical base, further studies into Village plans and the PWD, art works and murals, architectural teaching etc. A most significant point he however raises, is on the need for collaborative research, rather than the lone-wolf and fear of plagiarism approach.

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Delegates at the 20 Century Urbanism and Landscape in Africa Conference on 8 Oct 2015; Left to right are Meshack, Dr Alex Brymer, Dr Ola Uduku, Dr Rexford Oppong, Dr Iain Jackson (on Skype), Professor Verpoest, Yemi Salami, Dr Ruxandra

Scheduled for the second day of the conference were two presentations to be given by Yemi Salami and Anthony Folkers. Anthony Folkers was not in attendance at the conference but had his paper presented by Dr Uduku The paper was titled “The Spirit of George Lippsmeier and His Institute for tropical Building”. Yemi, had only recently submitted her PhD and is awaiting her viva to take place. She gave a talk on the challenges of undertaking a doctoral research in Nigeria, and her paper was titled: “Challenges of Conducting a Doctoral Research in Nigeria: Reflections from my PhD work on “the Architecture of the Public Works Department in Nigeria, c1900-1960”. Here she discussed challenges ranging from very slow bureaucratic processes, to ill equipped archives and security and insurgency issues, as some of the hindrances she faced during her research. The symposium then held at the end of Yemi’s presentation, with Dr Jackson joining the debate via Skype.



Scottish independence. Should there be an independent Scotland, or should Scotland remain an integral part of the United Kingdom? As the clock ticks closer to the proposed referendum on 18 September 2014, the debate rages on. Although the mid-twentieth century independence of West African nations took place under completely different circumstances, this article uses the present independence debate to re-ignite a discussion on Nigeria’s decolonization years, the attainment of independence and the architecture which emerged as a consequence.


The Governor General of Nigeria Sir James Robertson, and the new Nigerian Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on Oct 1, 1960


The clamour for independence and self-rule in West Africa gradually began after World War II.  This achieved its highpoint in 1957, when Ghana became the first African nation to attain independence and transit from colonial rule to self-governance. One feature which perhaps, became widely synonymous with the country’s drive for independence was the Pan-Africanist movement and the frontline role of Kwame Nkrumah, who later became Ghana’s pioneering president. However, a less referenced but equally important tribute to Ghana’s independence, were the architectural monuments which were constructed to commemorate the event. Chief among these is the Accra independence arch.


Independence Arch, Accra, 1957


As with Ghana, self-governance calls had pervaded different levels of Nigerian society before the October 1 1960 independence date. The most prominent perhaps were those propagated through African edited newspapers like the West African Pilot, and which echoed the voices of native elites and politicians. Nigeria’s formal decolonization process however appears to have started with the 1945 promulgation of Richard’s constitution. Not only had this constitution granted greater levels of native participation in the legislative house, it equally paved way for the much sought after regional system of governance. Nigeria was therefore reorganized along political and administrative lines into a Western region with headquarters at Ibadan, a Northern region with headquarters at Kaduna, and, an Eastern region with headquarters at Enugu, while Lagos remained the Federal Headquarters. With this new organizational structure came the formation of regional houses of Assembly and the election of its representative members.


Design for Eastern Nigeria parliamentary complex, 1960

Of equal importance were the new parliamentary complexes being built to usher in the emerging era of self-governance, beginning from October 1 1960. The new buildings may therefore be described as some of Nigeria‘s most prominent symbols of transition to self-rule, and were indeed the ‘architecture of independence’.
















14 May was a PhD research presentation day at the school of architecture. Students were required to describe the progress made in their research; what had been done in the previous year, what the foregoing research plan is, and how they intend to get it done. Going by these guidelines, I outlined how my research had developed from inception to its current stage of findings. I equally provided a Gantt chart to relay the progress made, as well as the projections for ensuing months.

My research has been examining Nigeria’s Public Works Department (PWD), with specific interest in the composition and outputs of its architectural unit between 1900 and 1960. The explorations have largely been conducted along three historiographical strands. First is on the department’s administration and its linkages to the wider colonial system of the day, the second on standardized building production practices it employed, and third on its architects; who they were, why they came to practice in Nigeria and how this relates to the wider notion of empire building. Going by the PWD flourish period also, these architects appear to provide the pioneering legacy in the study of Nigeria’s architectural profession.





Transnational Architecture Group in Sicily

The Transnational Architecture Group (TAG) were participants in the just concluded Cost Action conference, “Rethinking European Architecture Beyond Europe”, from 13 to 16 April 2014. Pictured are the founder of the Group, Dr Iain Jackson on the far right, along with three members; Dr Ola Uduku (2nd Right), Yemi Salami (middle), and Jacopo Galli (far left).

Dr Jackson is a Senior lecturer at the School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, and Yemi Salami is running her PhD in the same department under he’s supervision. Dr Uduku is a Reader at the Edinburgh School of Landscape Architecture (ESALA), and Jacopo Galli a PhD Student at University of Venice Italy, (IUAV) .

At the conference, Dr Jackson and Dr Uduku had co-chaired the session titled ‘Examining tropical architecture in different international contexts’, while Yemi and Jacopo had both presented papers within the same session. Yemi’s paper, titled “British Architects in the colonial PWD: Unravelling Nigeria’s early Government Architecture”, saw her examining Nigeria’s colonial administrative architecture, though a time-line of events that produced a network of architects and specialized building design mechanisms. Jacopo’s Paper is titled “From tropical Medicine to tropical architecture.” In it he examines the generic process by which tropical health parameters had determined climate influenced designs for the tropical regions.

By and Large however, the conference provided an opportunity to deliberate on research trajectories in a varying range of subjects within the conference theme, present current research findings, get useful feedback on on-going research, and of course to savour some Mediterranean cuisine and sunshine!




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.

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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

With the current array of communication media available in today’s world – the electronic or email, the short message service or SMS, voice and video calls, sharing and exchanging of information and ideas through social media – it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine a world where most of these did not exist. It is also of interest that a good number of the media have only come into use in the last twenty years approximately.

1901 one shilling southern Nigeria postage stamp

1901 one Shilling Southern Nigeria postage stamp

Communication has always been a top priority of the human existence. This is perhaps attested to by the picture writings of archeological findings on ancient cave walls. Postal communications (and the radiotelegraph developed later) were probably the only means of long distance communication in Nigeria during the early and mid-twentieth century period of colonial rule. It may also appear that next in the line of priorities after hospitals, was the development of the colonial Post Office. The provision of hospitals and health care infrastructure were of top priority. The first few years of European presence had resulted in so many deaths for the new settlers, it unfortunately earned the African continent the sobriquet “white man’s grave.”

Post offices were of almost equal importance. They provided an undisrupted flow of communication between the colonial office and the administration in Nigeria, and thereby represented a pivotal tool in the colonial administrative process. Their function was however not limited to providing postal services; the post offices were also often equipped with telephone exchange facilities. Aside from their role in relaying official correspondences, post offices equally helped colonial civil servants, service personnel of the Royal West African frontier force (RWAFF) and other settlers of the time keep constant touch with families back home.


The ‘Sorting’ office

The Public Works Department (PWD) had designed and built these post offices across Nigeria as part of the wider colonial building program. As with most other public buildings of the time, the designs were based on ‘Type’ categories. These categories had perhaps reflected the postal requirements of various settlement types. This ranged from village, to native administration center, division, provincial headquarters and colony. Like the example shown below, the post offices were mostly designed in simple geometric open plan forms. The postage and package sorting office is the focus of activities, and has a larger dimension than the other spaces. The entrance features an open porch, fronted by a classical archway and topped by a parapet. The hipped roof form provides a conical, prism shaped backdrop, that makes the design exude a note of brilliance, simplicity and well-proportioned forms. 

post office

1946 PWD Post Office drawing


Exports Only?

Export Architecture. To the casual reader, this phrase may come across as almost self-explanatory, devoid of any further need for clarification. Export, most will reason, literarily connotes the transfer of a product from its source of production to a foreign or external recipient, usually in exchange for a fee, charge or emolument. As for Architecture, the reader might almost think, well, we all know what architecture is! Caution is however advised, as such perceived ‘knowledge’ on architecture could often be very superficial.

In spite of the lack of complexity to the reasoning described above, it does provide a basic insight to export as a means of product transfer. The ‘Product’ here, is however largely limited to a perception of manufactured (or material) goods, but which exportation clearly transcends. Culture, lifestyle, language, and fashion among other things, are immaterial endeavours also exported across borders. Architecture, possibly rated material in terms of the physical building components it employs, and immaterial with regards to construction methods, building forms and functional requirements – has been exported all through history by explorers, adventurers, and new settlers.

Lagos European Quarters

The architecture established in Nigeria during the British colonial era could well be assumed a classic example of export architecture, with features that reflected architectural traits from the heart of empire and were alien to the prevailing indigenous buildings of the time. It may however constitute a very hasty and almost erroneous judgement to assume that all British colonial buildings were export products. Could there perhaps, have been instances where indigenous architectural style and features were adapted, or even wholly copied in colonial building?

Writing on the building works carried out by European builders in Nigeria, Arthur M. Foyle in a 1951 The Builder Journal, had noted the character of early houses for government staff in Nigeria. He observed that while they were built of timber in the south, in the north and in the more inaccessible areas, staff housing were usually constructed of local materials and often by local labour using traditional methods of construction.


Hausa Built form, Northern Nigeria

This ‘Type Mud brick European quarters’ designed by Nigeria’s colonial Public Works Department presented here, was sourced from a 1933 technical paper of the department, and rightly corroborates Foyle’s observation. The European quarters’ adapted features may perhaps, be better understood if analyzed on surviving Hausa built form models of Northern Nigeria. Although its plan retains a European model with a garage, hall, pantry, store and dressing room on the ground floor, and features a bedroom and bathroom upstairs, the quarters design largely adapts local form and materials to accommodate the colonial lifestyle.


1933 Drawing of European Quarters at Katsina

Nigerian Public Works Department Troop Quarters, designed for the Royal West African Frontier Force

While recently going through archival materials on Nigeria’s colonial Public Works Department, I came across a troop quarters design for the RWAFF. The abbreviation sounded familiar, but I could not readily remember what it stood for and had to do a google search for further insight.  Results returned from the search brought it all flooding back to my memory; RWAFF is the abbreviation for Royal West African Frontier Force. To gain an initial casual understanding about the force, I took a quick look at Wikipedia and was able to obtain this excerpt – “The West African Frontier Force (WAFF) was a multi-battalion field force, formed by the British Colonial Office in 1900 to garrison the West African colonies of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia. In 1928 it received royal patronage, becoming the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF).”

13.3.6 GeorgeV

Soldiers on Parade for Visit by King George V and Queen Mary.

In a 1952 paper entitled “The story of the Royal West African Frontier Force”, published by the Royal United Service Institution journal, Brigadier F.A.S Clarke (DSO) however attempts to give a more scholarly account of the origins, services and numerical composition of the Force. In telling the RWAFF story, he sums up his account of its activities with this assertion: “though the force habitually wore a scarlet suave jacket, fez, and cummerbund on ceremonial parades, it has never been merely a ‘picturesque constabulary’ as some would now have us believe”. He gives instances of laborious and painstaking operations,expeditions and invasions conducted by RWAFF units in their bid to capture enemy territory. More importantly, he provides the organizational structure of the force, as well as its numerical composition. According to him, the force consisted of a Headquarters Company, a Raffle Company, platoons and battalions.  He equally notes that the total strength of a 1938 WAFF battalion, apart from British personnel, was 591 African troops and 219 carriers (those who bore the WAFF’s heavy loads of ammunition and supplies), with Nigeria providing the major quota.

13.3.6 Troops

RWAFF troops boarding a military plane.

The availability of such data might suggest a basis on which P.W.D architects developed accommodation schedules for RWAFF troop quarters designs. One of these designs was what I had sourced from my archival search, and is presented below:

13.3.6 Quarters

Drawing of RWAFF Quarters by the Nigeria PWD.

The troop quarters consisted of a ten-room block with an external measurement of 108’3”. It was fronted by an open veranda, and surrounded by an open drain which conveyed waste water to a surface disposal system. Each room had an internal measurement of 18’6” by 10’0”, and was accessed through a doorway from the open veranda. Although each room had a rear window, the space between the top of the door and the wall plate was also fitted with an expanded metal ventilator. This enabled cross ventilation and adequate air flow within each room. The roofing favoured a deep gable design to facilitate rain water run-off during the frequent tropical rain storms.

Research Seminar Presentation

Wednesday 13th February was the PhD research seminar day at the Liverpool School of Architecture. I gave a 15 minute presentation on the recent progress of my research. My research had started out by examining the development of Nigeria’s architectural profession during the mid-twentieth century. Findings made in the course of the research, however, revealed an outstanding level of architectural output by the country’s colonial Public Works Department (PWD), yet to be the subject of any known research.

This translates into an apparent gap in the studies done on Nigeria’s architectural history as a whole, and its British colonial architectural history in particular. My research’s new line of investigation is therefore centred on British colonial public works architecture in Nigeria, with the aim of bridging this gap in literature. In a bid to provide a fuller understanding of the department’s output as well, the research’s focus of investigation now covers the period from 1900 to 1960.

As my presentation discussed, one issue raised from literature is that private sector architecture tended to blaze new trails and to produce more innovative designs than the PWD. I therefore employed these images from the West African Builder and the Architects’ Journal to analyse this argument.

13.2.18 Lagos

13.2.18 Lagos2

The first is the 1959 General Post Office, Lagos, designed under the supervision of Charles Stevenson, PWD Senior Architect.  The other image is the 1960 Nigerian Port Authority Headquarters, also in Lagos, designed by W.H. Watkins Gray & Partners. With both buildings featuring a similar modernist approach to their designs at that time, the ‘less innovative’ view to public works designs may need to be further questioned.