In the LRC: Lagos/Koolhaas

by Megan Connolly*

Nigeria, located on Africa’s eastern coast, is home to Lagos, a city whose population is estimated to reach 25 million by 2020. The metropolitan area of Lagos is the country’s industrial and commercial hub.

Lagos/Koolhaas, a film by Bregtje van der Haak, takes the viewer into the heart of the gridlocked city. Lagos is a city that is not only heavily populated, but is also a city that was developed haphazardly.

Between 1965 and 1973 as world oil prices skyrocketed, Lagos was responsible for 40 percent of the external trade in Nigeria. The world recession of 1981 resulted in a dramatic decrease in oil prices, which, in turn, sent Lagos into debt. This resulted in the halt of the expansion of infrastructure in Lagos.

The sewer systems, transportation and housing were all affected, as well as the accessibility to water and electricity. This has made Lagos a city of chaos, one that is plagued with problems.

The city suffers from an ever-worsening water supply shortage, and has also suffered from insufficient sewage drainage systems. Also, with congested bridges, it takes two to three hours to travel 5-10 miles.

Lagos/Koolhaas offers an interesting look at Lagos, as it follows Rem Koolhaas, a Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Harvard University, as he explores the chaotic city.

Lagos gives Koolhaas and his students, from the Harvard Project on the City, a place to learn about how the urban environment is affected by a population that growing exponentially.

For the past four years, Koolhaas and his students have come to Lagos regularly to research the environment, and have interpreted the congested city in a positive light. The students and Koolhaas have found that the jam-packed streets, which are almost always in a gridlock, are never ending marketplaces. They have discovered that Lagos is a place that is bustling with entrepreneurial activity.

Instead of writing Lagos off as a city that is doomed, Koolhaas states, “Anguish over the city’s shortcomings in traditional urban systems obscures the reasons for the continued, exuberant existence of Lagos and other mega cities like it. These shortcomings have generated ingenious, critical alternative systems.”

*Megan Connolly is a Moraine Valley student, who writes a regular column, “In the LRC,” for the student newspaper The Glacier. In this column, Ms. Connolly reviews and highlights new additions to the library’s collection. This article has been reprinted with permission.

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