Tag Archives: Architects’ Co-Partnership

Adjena Revisited

Ola Uduku writes;

It was a long and dusty journey, we soon understood why the taxi wouldn’t haggle down from the amount he quoted. The road definitely existed, it was just in very poor condition and work was being done near the end of the journey to Adjena to re-grade the laterite. We finally pulled into a gathering of housing on each side and slowed down, I said this looks likes ‘tropical designed housing’.


A hand-operated water pump caught our eyes and we watched a small gathering of  women and children pump up their water into buckets and containers and then take them away for use.  We walked to two elderly men dozing under a tree and asked the throng if we could wake one up.


‘Is the Adjena resettlement area?’, we asked.

‘yes’ came the reply.

Our first informant was in his eighties and  had arrived when the first set of resettled villagers were moved to the site in 1957. He explained that there was a school further along and more housing.

We went further into the clearing and hit gold – a small school designed around a courtyard to specific tropical standards. Windows were deep and allowed light to penetrate through the classrooms, and the verandas were ample to enable their use in teaching.  The school was foregrounded by a number of trees which seem to have been planted to a specific format, unfortunately they seemed to be dying, but they still helped frame the school and looked as if they were very much part of the school grounds.


Moving on from the school we came to a clearing with a designed kitchen–cooking area central to a number of small dwellings. We stopped and talked to Agnes, whom we asked about what she remembered about moving to Adjena. She immediately recounted that she had been 27 when the move had taken place and she was 87 now. A quick date check confirmed that these dates tallied with the move of the settlement in the Volta valley to Adjena. As we chatted with her on the step to the kitchen she explained that she preferred the new settlement to the old as the new buildings were  ‘Cortex’, the name given to the company who built the settlement made up a concrete frame with infill breeze block walls.


We passed a number of small dwellings designed as part of the scheme. All dwellings now had electricity with television sets to prove it, however water was only available via the standpipes that we had seen when we walked into the settlement. The communal WCs did not seem to well used, one supposes that in this very remote rural area this option was unlikely to be popular.

For a resettlement scheme approaching its 6th decade Adjena was in good condition, it now had a junior secondary school and the road carried both the electricity lines and also the mobile phone masts. The road also ran through to the community council offices and there were other settlements which were now part of the greater extended Adjena community.

Developments were coming to Adjena, and we had been made welcome guests to this sleepy, yet thriving community. What would Leo De Syllas and the other designers of the then New Adjena think of their creation more than half a century on? An understated success we’d say as we made our dusty way back to the town.



The Alan Vaughan Richards Archive Project

Ola Uduku and Hannah Le Roux

13.4.30_AVR House Interior

Alan Vaughan-Richards House Main Living Room Interior, photo for Nigerian Interiors Magazine.

The Alan Vaughan Richards archive project seeks to preserve, record and archive the works of the late British-Nigerian Architect, Alan Vaughan-Richards (1925-89). Its ultimate aim is to make available a digital and physical archive of Vaughan-Richards work to the public. This archive, comprising drawings, artefacts, and texts will be made accessible to the public to view online, or by visiting the renovated Alan Vaughan-Richards house in Ikoyi, Lagos. The Vaughan-Richards House, built by the architect in the 1960’s, is acknowledged as a unique example of West Africa tropical modernist architecture.

The archiving project is being funded by the British Academy with a further University of Edinburgh research grant held by Ola Uduku, at the University of Edinburgh, with Hannah Le Roux, at the University of the Witwatersrand, along with financial and logistical support from the Goethe Institute in Lagos and Remi Vaughan-Richards, Alan’s daughter. In 2012 over 300 drawings and other artefacts were brought from Alan Vaughan Richards’ home office in Lagos to be digitized and preserved for archiving. In September 2012 a short exhibition showing the work completed in digitizing the first batch of artefacts, and documenting Alan Vaughan-Richards’ career and life in Lagos was presented at the Matthew Gallery at the University of Edinburgh. This digital archive is held in the name of the Vaughan-Richards family in Edinburgh. The Alan Vaughan Richards blog was created as part of this process.

At the same time as the exhibition, Candice Keeling from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven documented the condition of the existing house in-situ and created as-built drawings. It is hoped in the future to develop the house as an artists’ residence and the home to a physical archive, accessible by appointment to academics and West African architecture enthusiasts. There are ongoing plans for the renovation and redevelopment of the Vaughan-Richards house in Lagos to enable its transformation into the archive and art residency space planned.

The project throws a number of challenges. The harshness of the tropical climate has contributed to considerable decay of materials such as carpeting and textiles. The cost of restoring the structure and aesthetic of the house requires the transformation of use of part of the property in ways that will sustain the conservation of its elements and intentions. These challenges will be addressed by ongoing design and research. On a broader note this project is hoped to generate interest in conservation in West Africa, where many other modernist buildings are in need of maintenance, conservation and reappraisal of use.

The archival work, residency proposals and related information on the Vaughan-Richards family form the material for an exhibition proposed to coincide with the ArchiAfrika conference in Lagos in December 2013.

The project welcomes participation from with researchers and modernist conservation practioners in West Africa, as well as anyone who has further information on the architecture and other work of Alan Vaughan Richards, as a partner in the  Architects’ Co-Partnership and later as an architect in Lagos.

Contact email: and


Permission to publish all images on the blog for educational purposes, has been granted on behalf of the Vaughan-Richards Estate, by his daughter, Remi Vaughan-Richards, a film director, whose feature films and documentaries throw a sharp lens onto contemporary Africa.

Three Buildings by the Architects’ Co-Partnership

Iain’s last post mentioned Leo De Syllas, one of the founders of the Architects’ Co-Operative Partnership (ACP) created in London in 1939. The practice originally consisted of 11 members recently graduated from the Architectural Association who wished to work without office hierarchies and on projects of a predominantly social character. They were strongly influenced in their methods by Berthold Lubetkin’s Tecton. The original members other then De Syllas were: Kenneth Capon, Peter Cocke, Michael Cooke-Yarborough, Anthony Cox, Michael Grice, A. W. Nicol, Anthony Pott, Michael Powers, Greville Rhodes and John Wheeler.

De Syllas was the African mastermind of the firm that set up a studio in Lagos in the early 50’s. Their contribution to Tropical Architecture has never been fully studied and is greatly underestimated. De Syllas was one of the most important figures of the second generation of tropical modernists alongside other designers such as James Cubbitt, John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood. Works from Architects Co-Partnership are largely displayed in Fry and Drew’s masterpiece, Tropical Architecture in the Dry and Humid Tropics in 1964. This shows how Tropical Architecture was intended as an innovative design system used by a small group of designers willing to disseminate their design ideas, in an article on Architectural Design in 1959 De Syllas stated: the work shown on the following pages is a record of the adaptation of the principle of tropical architecture to various requirements and some of the lessons learned in the process may be universally useful. 

Architects CoP - Ansarur Deen School - Lagos - Nigeria

I would like to present three buildings by the Architects Co-Partnership that show their highly experimental attitude. I believe that the appliance of scientific principles and climatic design tools such as solar diagrams and wind charts is highly sophisticated and a perfect example of the tropical design approach. The first building (above) is the Ansar-Ud-Deen School in Lagos, it is a simple design with a concrete structure common to many of the school buildings built in those years. The interesting part of the design is the usage of a single device, simple but yet highly effective. It consist of an horizontally pivoted timber framed shutter that can change position in the different time of the day and become a shading device while assuring cross-ventilation.

Architects CoP - House - Kano - Nigeria

The second building is a private house in Kano, in northern Nigeria. I see this building as the direct architectural result of the appliance a periodic heat flow diagram. The materials used, the type of openings and the general concept are all chosen in order to control the diurnal variation of temperature inside the building. The first floor, where the daily life takes place, has 60cm thick stone walls and small openings while the first floor with the bedrooms is a light timber structure with floor-to-ceiling openings. This structure, alongside the use of the double height internal patio, allows to reduce the time lag period in the diagram assuring a longer comfort period. In this case we can assume the whole building as a single climatic device acting towards a specific purpose.

Architects CoP - Department of Marketing exports - Ibadan - Nigeria

The last building is the Department of Marketing Exports in Ibadan, a t-shaped building with facades facing all four of the cardinal points. A different device was used in each facade: in the east and west facades we find vertical pivoted shades, in the south facade fixed overhead shades and a system of openings assuring cross-ventilation and in the north pivoting storm shutters. The facades reach highly sophisticated solution dealing at the same time with sun-protection, air flow and protection from occasional rainstorms. In the north and south facade in particular we can see the usage of mixed devices: shutters, shades, venetian blinds both movable or steady. The highly experimental will of this building is demonstrated by the fact that it was first built on two floors and then after experiments were made on the function of the different devices increased to three floors.

I’m currently conducting a deeper investigation and a re-drawing of many other Architect Co-Partnership buildings and I would love to be able to get in contact with someone who works or worked in the firm. Have you worked in the office? Have you got any information on this African designs? I’d love to hear from you, feel free to contact me!