My 2021 Top 10 Buildings in Nigeria

Compiled and Written by Yakubu Paul & Adewuyi Olorunfemi

Last updated:

Prologue

Femi: Here we are again talking about some of the buildings we found really interesting in the year. Do you remember when we started this project 2 years ago? We both had the idea but you sort of got things started.
Paul: Yes, one of the key drivers was to engage the public in the discussion of what good architecture is, what we can learn, what innovations are available to us even in limited economic means. Overall, I think the articles have garnered public attention and have initiated a conversation.
Femi: The public discussion is super important because not only are architects educated but also prospective clients. I think we have also achieved this by opening the conversation to the public for their suggestions for the top design projects during the past year.
Paul: You see, the power of the engagement is that architects & professionals are willing to share the work with us and in turn, the public.
Femi: Talking about the public reminds me of the huge disparity in the types of projects. Public versus private projects. There seems to have been fewer of them in our lists over the years. Meanwhile, they are very important because more public projects can democratize the discussion.
Paul: Yes, this is evident with Lagos being the state with the most featured projects. But, we've been able to curate a diverse list that celebrates small projects with Local innovation and large projects with more sophistication from around the country.
Femi: This year was peculiar and as the 3rd year of the pandemic, it affected the construction industry. So, what are your expectations going into this review?
Paul: I am looking forward to some projects that were expected to be completed and also to seeing a vast array of architects, designers and projects from around Nigeria. 
Femi: Apart from the usual suspects haha.

1. Jewel Aieda

  • Architect (concept stage): CAD8DE-ATTITA
  • Architect (Detailed design stage): OAC Architects
  • Project Location: Hakeem Dickson Link Road, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, Nigeria
  • Contractor: Brick House construction company
  • Photography: OAC Architects

The Jewel Aieda is a mixed-use development with a mix of programs that spread over a 3000 sqm area including car parking. This building combines numerous ancillary spaces which include a restaurant, a bar, an auditorium, meeting rooms, an indoor children’s play area, expandable seminar rooms under its curved shell. Conic sections are the key form of this building, extruded in 3 dimensions, the conic sections then intersect with the primary extruded
form resulting in loggia on the lower levels and service terraces on the higher floors.

The roof of the building which span around the top (highest point) and bottom (lowest point) profile of the form is probably the most prominent aspect of this project; it is made of standing seam roofing sheets to provide seamless geometry without any joints. Sustainability features are taken into consideration with the use of double-glazed heat strengthened glass for the glazed openings.

Exaggerating the interior spaces – through double volume reception, suspended ceilings, and grand staircases and attention paid to accessibility improve the user experience. Diverse space programming and the prestigious location of this building make it a one-stop point for different activities. Altogether, this new event space is a breath of fresh air to the already over flogged and limited convention centres In Lagos.

2. Number One Lagos

  • Architect: Chapman Taylor
  • Project Location: Akin Adesola Street and Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos
  • Photography: myphotography.ng & OOJarts

The challenges of renovating a building that has a significant architectural history are many. However, the architects of this second life of this building have managed to execute a sleek reinterpretation of the once-revered International Merchant Bank(IMB) building. The decision not to completely demolish the old building is a bold one, but it also points to why this building is on this list.

The creative expression of inverting the central form in the opposite direction of the central form of the old IMB building creates tension between the old and the new, maintaining some of the structure of the old building means that they have paid attention to some sustainability values. The polarity between the lighter interpretation of the new building through transparent glazing and terraces vs. the brutality of the former building are some of the
conceptual narratives that the new architects took to let us see the building in a fresh light, all this while still taking cues from the old building with the blue tint to some of the glazed panels.

Overall, the architects have created an interesting re-interpretation of this building not only visually through the interesting facade and exoskeleton but also functionally through the form inversion the architects were able to free up more usable space for this 7-floor building offering about 7,700 sqm of offices space.

3. Mobolaji Johnson Train Station

  • Contractors: China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC)
  • Project Location: Ebutte Metta, Lagos
  • Photography: myphotography.ng

Transportation architecture is peculiar because of the sheer volume of space and human traffic that have to be accounted for, this means that the buildings are not only mega-sized they must be designed to function with a vast range of services. This building is therefore a good interpretation of what would have no doubt been an ambiguous brief. The scheme is a good blend of architecture and infrastructure as trains flow through the building profile to engage with passengers.

The use of large panes of glazing allows natural light in the building, the sinuous profiles that run across the facade act as a brise-soleil and reduce heat gain in the interiors, The large roof overhangs also assist to keep the interior temperature cool. The building divides the functions into wings. Administrative areas are at the base and the
waiting area at the top with a view to the train coaches. Altogether, this scheme is stitched together to allow for interaction between building and infrastructure, infrastructure and humans in a symbiotic manner.

4. Frankfort Height II

  • Architect: Urban Primer Limited
  • Project Location: Onikoyi, Ikoyi, Lagos.
  • Photography: Ruby’s Polaroid

Mid-rise residential blocks usually have a very stark visual typology with windows dotting the facade. The traditional look of these residences however did not appeal to the designers of this project. The result is a 7 floor building where the south end of each floor is statically rotated a few degrees off the next, at once this design move begins to animate the facade while providing a strong silhouette. The large pane glazing on the sides of the building means that the users enjoy lots of indirect sunlight into their space.

The form of the building suggests that it might be an office block, however, this building houses 5 spaciously planned 5 bedroom apartments across 5 floors. The ground floor houses the reception and parking while the second floor hosts the shared amenities such as gym and communal spaces. A shared terrace with a meticulously
designed steel facade is a crown to this mid-rise building in Old ikoyi.

5. Slow Lagos

  • Architect: Design Dot
  • Project Location: 2nd Musa Yar’adua St, Lagos
  • Photography: seniorministerofenjoyment.com

Restaurants continue to push the extent of design with their raw creativity and interesting use of craft and materials coupled with the adaptive re-use of the buildings housing them, they are proving to be a new driver of the architecture in Nigeria. Slow Lagos is undeniably one of the best-designed restaurants from 2021. Intelligent space planning allows for pockets of spaces to provide intimate dining experiences.

The bar is located in the middle of the space with a skylight above it creating a desirable encounter with the bar. The blurred lines between the outdoor and indoor through the full pane glazing and the tall plants zoning off some dining areas contrasts nicely against the warm lighting and brown upholstery of the seats, overall the space brings you
into an exotic ambience that makes your stay though ephemeral worthwhile and notable.

Interlude

Paul: Let's take a break. From these 5 projects, what strikes you the most and what are the aspects of comparisons or contrast?
Femi: The projects all excel strongly in terms of formal explorations: cantilevered volumes in Frankfort height, inversion of form in Number 1 and the blend of conic sections in the Jewel Aieda.
Paul: True, all projects embrace nature and light in the design of a befitting space. The detailed use of plants in Slow Lagos, use of large windows in the railway station and deep terraces that shade and cool the space in the Frankfort Height building.
Femi: I am also particularly impressed with the Number 1 building because many a time when buildings of architectural significance are remodeled in Nigeria it’s usually a shabby job. The obeisance paid to sustainability is very commendable, the same can also be seen in Slow Lagos which is an addition to an existing scheme that houses a concept store (Temple muse). We continue to see more adaptive reuse projects and that is interesting.

6. Child Life Line vocational Centre

  • Architect: MOE + Art Architecture
  • Project Location: Ikorodu, Lagos
  • Photography: Jide Ayeni

As another example of MOE+AA’s ethos in sustainable design, the project aims to be low cost in its material and construction methodology. It exhibits locally sourced resources such as compressed earth brick, bamboo and raffia as the key materials of the building fabric. They simplify the project’s construction across all stages and eliminate the need for contrived refinement while creating a peculiar aesthetic character for the building.

The classrooms of the Centre are designed around a courtyard. This increases the natural light in the spaces and enables natural cross ventilation as full height louvred windows control the interior climate. The bamboo screens placed at high levels of the building’s perimeter and at the entrance, serve as a diffuser of harsh light and as a security system when the Centre is not in use. In the long run, the Centre aims to harvest rainwater via water collection through the roof gutter, for use in the toilets.

7. Slice Lagos

  • Architect: Interior Culture
  • Project Location: Victoria Island, Lagos
  • Photography: @enjoy.ng

A restaurant and lounge that comes alive through a novel blend of material textures, lighting fixtures and furniture selections. When experiencing the restaurant, one is immediately drawn to its spatial focal point – a collage of light fittings made from different shades of rattan in various forms. Together they form a central sculpture that captivates the eye while creating an ambience that elates the users.

The design reveals rich materiality through a play of a concrete wall finish with the rough textures on the entrance spaces leading to smooth textures at the dining spaces. This sense of materiality also extends to the furniture within the space. Mosaic platforms, velvet couches, wooden tables, rattan chairs, ribbed concrete ceilings, grey stone tiles and more all make for a sensory experience within the space. Reviews from the space term it as picture-perfect as all dining areas are curated as a canvas for memories.

8. Kappadoccia Lagos

  • Architect: Rere Studios
  • Location: Victoria Island, Lagos
  • Client: Moor Foods
  • Photography: Kappadocia Lagos

Kappadocia is an experiential dining space that draws conceptual influences from the ancient cave-like city of Cappadocia, Turkey. It is popularly referred to as the cave restaurant, it greets people with its rough-textured façade with an earthy tone that resembles cave walls and leads them to an interior with a similar surface that forms its walls and ceiling.

This offers a unique dining experience that takes visitors on a savoury journey of adventure and discovery through the interior space. At every moment, surface and space is an inquisitive experience of spatial elements. Moments such as the atrium dining, the entrance foyer with an interior fountain, immersive bar experience with LED screens and a private dining room with special lighting.

The building size is about 247 sqm with two dining halls and two private dining rooms. The rustic materiality of the walls and ceiling is an artistic testament made from sculpted papier-mâché and finished with an earth tone Tyrolean (sprayed concrete). The space is a true reflection of the enchanting city it was named after. It serves a Turkish menu and treats guests to an intentional rugged feel just like the urban fabric of Cappadocia.

9. Art-Tech District

  • Architect: Rere Studios
  • Project Location: Wuse 2, Abuja
  • Photography: @arttechdistrict & ng.worldorgs.com

Art-Tech District is an immersive space that leverages technology to bring Nigerian art, history, and culture into the modern world. As the first technology-driven theme park in Nigeria, it’s a compilation of different unique structures, mostly made from containers, which host installations and attractions to cater for specific experiences. The park has a discovery museum, children’s play area, restaurants (Lagos Bistro & Sketch Café), pavilions, installations etc.

The Discovery Museum, a departure from the conventional museum concept, relies heavily on cutting-edge technology to digitally express the history and story of Nigeria engagingly. It allows users to travel through time by the way of colours, interior textures, unique pieces of art, and intentional installations. Another notable project in the park is the Sketch Café.

It’s a modernist interpretation of a classic European breakfast and brunch experience. The interior is a time lapse experience through the use of 2D and minimalist diagrams on a neutral colour template to represent Classical art. It is a melting pot of art, creativity, and European-inspired food.

10. Marriott Hotel

  • Architect: G1 Architecture
  • Project Location: Ikeja, Lagos
  • Client: Sifax Group
  • Main Contractor: DORI Construction And Engineering Nigeria Limited
  • Photography: Travelocity.com

At the heart of Ikeja is a seven-storey structure that houses a complete get-away experience. The form of the building is developed in a U-shaped courtyard to host 250 rooms capturing the views of Ikeja from all sides. The building also has a Ballroom which caters for 800-1000 people, banquet Halls, executive meeting rooms, spas, indoor and outdoor restaurants, swimming pools, tennis courts, club lounge, fully equipped gym.

The elevated courtyard is the highlight of the hotel. It curates various experiences with a stepped green roof, outdoor lounges and a poor. The project exhibits dexterity in the use and construction of materials across all spaces. It gives peculiarity to every interior space as distinct materials are designed to evoke the functions of each space: wood and concrete for calm bedrooms, ribbed wooden ceilings for elating lounges, lighting fixtures and mirrors for excitement in ballrooms and so much more.

Epilogue

Femi: So, what do you think about this range of projects? I can start; I really like the polarity between the local technology used in Child Life Line Vocational Centre and the sophistication displayed in the Marriott hotel. It shows the various scales of innovation and proves that good design doesn’t have to be expensive.
Paul: I really appreciate the attention to sustainable design which can be seen in the materiality of Child Life Line Vocational Centre and the reuse case of the restaurant schemes. It further highlights unused buildings as a canvas for novel design interventions.
Femi: Yes, I agree. Overall, I think the projects this year were very interesting with a lot of highlights on formal explorations and material explorations.
Paul: I also feel the inclusion of interiors made the review more exciting and broadened the conversation.
Femi: I hope that people are just as excited as we were when we discovered the projects on this list.
Paul: No doubt. Looking ahead to 2022, I am excited about particular projects with expected completion during the year and I cannot wait to see how they turn out.

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