Makoko Floating School was a finalist for the 2nd International Award for Public Art.

Makoko Floating School is a prototype floating structure, built for the historic waterfront community of Makoko, located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos.

In 2011, Kunlé Adeyemi took on the challenge of creating classrooms for impoverished waterfront communities in Lagos, Nigeria. Working in Nigeria and the Netherlands, where he maintains his design practice, he strove to create structures that do not rely on land for structural integrity.

Makoko Floating School is the realization of a prototype for a series of schoolhouses located in Lagos Lagoon, a densely urban waterfront area where dry land is at a premium. The Floating School supports the goal of offering primary education to the lowest-income families. The project is an ambitious urban design solution realized by skilled artisans in the waterfront community of Lagos.

The most compelling attributes of the project are conceptual. Adeyemi reimagined water as his project’s construction site. He designed structures to harness and improve the skill sets of local artisans. The project was created from leftover materials donated by a local sawmill and locally grown bamboo, and it took the tradition of personal floating structures and made them into a community center.

It is not known whether the school is yet in operation, nor is it known if there are any amenities in the structure, such as electricity, fans, restrooms, built-in benches or desks, or mooring. One prototype—a four-story A-frame structure complete with solar-powered systems—debuted in 2013.

From an urban planning perspective, the project has successfully created usable space on the water surface. However, there is no mention of how covering a large plot of water will affect fish, crustaceans, and aquatic plant life. Taking away the sunlight affects subsurface communities in water as well as the human communities who rely on aquatic agriculture or fishing.

While the project was submitted without an identified public artist or public art goal, this unique design demonstrates an innovative use of water as site, and it engaged the community by employing local tradespeople in completing the untraditional design.