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Prior to the commencement of the project, the children of Makoko only had access to one primary school which was inadequate, built on reclaimed land and was frequently threatened by recurrent flooding. In 2013, a Nigerian architect, Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ proposed to transform the water slum status of the Makoko waterfront community to a floating island by creating a functional building prototype. He collaborated with Non-Governmental Organisations including Heinrich Böll Foundation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Federal Ministry of Environment Africa Adaptation Programme, Yaba Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and Makoko waterfront community to execute the project.
The Makoko floating school comprises alternative sustainable buildings and structures designed to adapt to the resident communities' aquatic lifestyle. The floating school utilizes local materials such as bamboo, timber and resources to produce architecture that applies to the physical, social needs of people and reflects the culture of the community. Wood is used as the major material for the structure, support and finishing of school building.The form of the school building is a triangular A-Frame section with about 1,000-square-foot play area. The classrooms are located on the second tier and are partially enclosed with adjustable louvered slats. The classrooms are also surrounded by spatial public greenery. There is a playground below the classroom while the roof contains an additional open air classroom. The classroom spaces can be used for communal functions especially during out-of-school hours. Sustainable features include application of solar cells to the roof, rainwater catchment systems and composting toilets. The structure is also designed to use about 250 plastic barrels to float on the waters and be naturally ventilated and aerated. There are considerations to use the building prototype to provide additional infrastructure for the community including an entertainment center, a community hub and health clinics. The floating school design won the 2013 AR+D award for emerging architecture and was shortlisted for the London Design Museum's 2014 Design of the Year award. It also received a nomination for the 2015 International Award for Public Art.
On June 7, 2016, the Makoko Floating school structure was adversely affected by heavy rain, and collapsed. No casualty was recorded as the students and teachers had relocated three months earlier due to safety concerns. An improvement on the building prototype will be used as replacement.
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