A Floating Slum Turned School, For Nigerian Water Communities


If you have watched the movie Slamdog Millionaire then you can somehow picture how children with no playgrounds and safe streets to play on, find their way into murky waters to show off their swimming skills to one another as a form of entertainment and recreation. I am talking about the children from Makoko in Nigeria who live on water and have been for many years now.

makoko-float_inside7Here is a man who despite his surroundings decided to be innovative for the sake of advancing the children in his community. Kunle Adeyemi is the creator of the Makoko Floating School just off the shores of the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. The school, which opened at the beginning of Nigeria’s 2013/2014 school year, is no ordinary structure. Adeyemi, a Nigerian architect who was struck by the plight of the fishing community of Makoko, decided to extend a helping hand in the form of a low-cost floating school.

Makoko is a sprawling settlement on the waterfront of Lagos, Nigeria, with an estimated population of 100 000 people. “Makoko is a community living on water. For nearly 100 years, it has thrived on fishing and sewing industries, providing over a third of Lagos’s fish supply and most of its timber,” says Adeyemi. “It is a highly dense and urbanised area, yet it has no roads, no land and no modern infrastructure.”

In July 2012, Nigerian government officials destroyed dozens of structures in Makoko, saying the settlement was becoming dangerous. A visit to the settlement was an eye opener for Adeyemi who came up with a bright idea to help ease the plight of Makoko residents. With the help of the Böll Foundation and the United Nations, he designed a low-cost A-frame floating school complete with classrooms, a play area and toilets.


The Makoko Floating School is a 10 Meter high pyramid-shaped building resting on a 10m² base buoyed by 250 plastic barrels. The A-shape design is ideal for a floating object on water due to its relatively low centre of gravity, and provides stability and balance even during gale-force winds. The building has three levels: the first level is an open play area for school breaks and assembly, which also serves as a community space after school hours. The second level is an enclosed space for two to four classrooms, providing enough space for 60 to 100 pupils. A staircase on the side connects the open play area, the classrooms and a semi-enclosed workshop space on the third level.

Work on Makoko Floating School began in September 2012 with floatation mock-ups and testing. Empty plastic barrels which are in abundance in Lagos were used for the building base. The base consists of 16 wooden modules, each containing 16 empty plastic barrels. Once the base was assembled, construction of the A-frame begun and work finished in March 2013.

Since its completion in 2013, Makoko Floating School has been nominated and gone on to win several international awards for cutting-edge design. The school has been nominated in the London-based Design Museum’s Design of the Year 2014 award and received recognition in the 2013 World Technology Awards in Design.

Innovation sees no boundaries, be it on land or water and Adeyemi proves just that. The amazing part about his story is that he has inspired many architects from across the globe to also come up with innovative designs that are not just creative but serve a social purpose especially in disadvantaged communities. Adeyemi is a true Nunnovator and we salute him for that.