Dencity 2017: Special Mention


Entry by: Aloysius Goh, Daniel Ho, Leong YiBin


Dubbed the “Venice of Africa”, the shanty town of Makoko is often invigorated and full of life. Sprawling across the lagoon are stilt-houses sitting cautiously above the water. Serene and picturesque, Makoko is a sight to behold. However, the government thinks otherwise.

Makoko stands in between the government and their goals. Attempting to achieve a “Megacity” status, the Lagos government is in constant push for demolition of the slum. In July 2012, a demolition exercise was initiated. 5 days into the exercise, the assault exacerbated with armed police firing gunshots indiscriminately – killing a resident. This forced the government to halt the demolishment process. With the people of Makoko unyielding and the government of Lagos at a loss of what to do; their relationship has become stifled.

With the passage of time, things will only get worse for Makoko. Without a proper sewage and waste management system, partly due to the government refusing to recognise it as a legal settlement, the already polluted water will only continue to degrade. The oily murky water has rendered the water no longer viable for fishing, threatening the livelihood of the people.

The future of Makoko looks bleak and an imminent demolition of the floating slum seems unavoidable. Yet, the people of Makoko remains hopeful.

The Concept

The proposed plans tap into the potential of Makoko, the site as a lagoon, its people and their way of life – it’s Genius Loci. Accentuating the lifestyles of Makoko, our ideas cater towards the most important needs of the people, yet, sensitive of its cultural influences. It addresses three critical issues: environmental sustainability, social integration within and outside of the community and spatial design. Breaking it down into 2 primary phases, it aims to reconcile the difference in ideologies adopted between the lagoon dwellers and mainland governors.

Phase 1

Centred around the idea of community empowerment, the first phase aims to leverage on the potential of the population to clean the environment. How this will be conducted is through an upgrade to the canoes; an essential tool for their livelihood with an addition of a trash collection and filtering device, a non-intrusive passive alternative to cleaning their environment as they go about their daily lives. As the design is modular, it becomes adaptable depending on the user and the intensity of cleaning. For instance, a peddler that sells food would not be moving much and thus, could opt for a single module with a finer filter such that the amount of trash collected would not impede their business. On the other hand, residents keen on doing more to clean up the area could expand by using 3 modules with varying filter sizes to not only collect more, but also sort the litter they collect. Thus, everybody will be able to play their part in contributing to a cleaner environment, regardless of significance. The goal here is to educate and create a sense of awareness about the environment and inculcate a culture of “togetherness” that strengthens the peoples’ sense of belonging to Makoko.

The first step of this phase is to introduce and educate the people, particularly those in the fishing and crafting community about the design and its construction. Hence, this allows them to craft the device themselves and disseminate the knowledge to the rest of the village. Due to the simplicity in the design, construction is simple and cost effective in part due to the abundance of local materials. Much like a rotated table, using just a rectangular piece of wood and wooden axle pegs at each corner, it is connected to hollow cylindrical holders, such as pipes, which will be added to the side of the canoe. Filters made from nets are latched onto 2 of the pipes vertically, forming a “barrier” that redirects litter into catchment nets outside of the device. The constituent parts of the device are recyclable and can be replaced easily.

The programme will slowly implement as villagers come for repairs on their canoes, eventually replacing every existing canoe. As the cleaning progresses, many job opportunities are opened. These include net-weaving for both the device and fishing, wood-crafting, and repairing. A cleaning industry can also be established, which Makoko lacks and desperately requires. Through this, the skills of the natives are enhanced and can even apply the skills they adopted into other fields such as fishing.

Phase 2

As the issue of environmental degradation alleviates, its benefits start to become clear. With cleaner waters rid of plastic debris and waste, a rise in fish population will be observed; revitalizing the dying fish industry. This also encumbers the spread of diseases with lesser pockets of stagnant waters clogged by trash, breeding mosquitoes, a prevalent issue in the area. The overall aesthetics, blooming biodiversity makes for a more pleasant Makoko to reside in. The list of benefits goes on. The goal, however, is a wake-up call for the government. Proving that Makoko has just as much potential as any other developments, it raises doubts on the need for demolition and encourages cooperation between these two parties instead.

Now with the help of the government, Makoko can advance to the next stage. Developing on the initial idea, phase 2 is about providing the necessary infrastructure to sustain the waste collection process from phase 1 and providing more opportunities for development.

The idea is to provide multifunctional decentralized infrastructure spread around Makoko, which could play hosts to many different activities. Its primary purpose is a trash collection and sorting point for the trash collected in Phase 1. On a weekly basis, nearby residents would collate and deliver the trash to collection points. The trash is then further sorted out into recyclables and non-recyclables and finally brought out of Makoko for proper disposal. The infrastructure also provides educational spaces, where lessons can be held and discussions between government officials and village chiefs can be or coordinated. A central access way which could be used for housing stalls or common spaces also runs through the building.

Through this, residences will see the chance to be upgraded as well. A possible construction of the second floor could help mitigate overcrowding issues, and improve the quality of living. Bridges can be developed with the aid of the government to form cluster communities, centred around the multifunctional decentralized infrastructure. These implementations act as the link between the city and the slum dwellers; strengthening the social fabric within the settlement and extending its reach beyond the local level. Serving as a platform for communication, it empowers the Makoko community by promoting understanding between the community and the government; paving the way for future developments.


“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying small stones”. Positive change is an arduous process and can never proceed without self-understanding. Crafted as a timeline, our proposed interventions start out small and slowly growing beyond the regional level. Beginning with the curbing of waste as a community through a collective of individual efforts, it acts as a trigger to extend their reach to the government. Promoting cooperation between the Lagos government and the Makoko community, the future of Makoko will head in the right direction.

About the entrants

Aloysius Goh, Daniel Ho and Leong YiBin are third year Diploma in Architecture students from Singapore Polytechnic. Keen in areas of conservation, social housing and growing income disparities; Using the influence of architecture to challenge ever-changing unconventional problems. Ambitious and always seeking new challenges, we hope our work may one day have a deep positive impact in communities.