I never really gave much thought to architects and architecture as a much younger person. I never thought of them as world-changers or people with the ability to make much of a difference in other people’s lives, professionally speaking. I mean, they dealt mostly with inanimate objects; building materials, designs, surveys and the like. They were not doctors who administered to the sick, or lawyers who battled against injustice or police officers who endangered their lives so that the honest citizenry might live unafraid. They just built houses-big, small, conceptual, drab…structures were all they were good for; or so I thought.
I have since repented of my childhood denigration of Architects [I am married to one, hehehe…], and discovering the mighty Kunle Adeyemi is just one more reason to shout, “ARCHITECTS ARE AWESOME!!!”
AdeKunle Adeyemi is a thoroughbred Nigerian Architect who is on a mission to change the world, one project at a time. Born 7 April 1976, in Kaduna, Nigeria, to a father who was a modernist Architect, Adekunle had the opportunity to design his first house as a teenager, for a friend of his father. The urbanist and creative researcher received his professional training at the University of Lagos, Nigeria in 1999 and was the Best Graduating Student upon completion. He went on to earn a Post-professional degree at Princeton University (USA) in 2005.
Between 1999 and 2002, he was the Project Architect for Pieach limited and Inter-Designs Partnership on many built residential projects, a Bank headquarters in Abuja and General hospitals in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. In 2002, Adekunle joined The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) where he worked for almost nine years. As a Senior Associate of OMA he was in charge of several projects: the Qatar Foundation Headquarters, the Central Library and the Strategic Studies Centre all in the Education City in Doha, the new Headquarters tower for the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in China, the Prada pavilion project in South Korea, the 4th Mainland bridge and the master plan project in Lagos, Nigeria.
He also worked on several competitions including the winning entries for a Public Library in Oslo (Norway) and Mercati Generali in Rome (Italy). His exceptional aptitude as a designer and project leader was emphasized by the successful completion of the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul in 2004 and the Seoul National University Museum, South Korea.
Going back to the classroom, Adekunle has taught Design at Delft Technical University (The Netherlands) as well as being a visiting critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in America, the Architectural Association in London, and the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam. In 2006 he was a guest speaker at the ‘Impure Architecture’ symposium held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2011, he was a Callison Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of the University of Washington, faculty of Architecture, teaching and researching ‘The Modern City in the Age of Globalization’ in Chandigarh, together with Dr. Vikramaditya Prakash.
Currently, Adekunle runs his own architecture, design and urbanism practice called NLÉ, located in Amsterdam. NLÉ offers a strategy advisory service and focuses on city development research, conceptualization, creative structuring, architectural-, product- and infrastructure design, arts and urban cultural intervention.
NLÉ means ‘at home’ in Yoruba, and focuses on the rapidly growing cities in developing countries. Adekunle is convinced that there is much to learn from the type of condition that is found in rapidly developing, energetic cities, like one of Africa’s most populated cities Lagos in Nigeria, which may be the inspiration behind his life-changing project of building a floating community in the murky waters of the Makoko slum in Lagos, Nigeria.
For his opening gambit, Adekunle and his firm, NLÉ, are putting the finishing touches on a three-story, 2,300-square-foot floating school for 100 students between the ages of 4 and 12. Constructed from locally sourced wood and a base of 256 used plastic drums, the new school features enclosed classrooms on the second level, an open-air classroom on the third floor, and bathroom facilities all anchored by a waterside playground and green space. Electricity would be provided by solar panels on the roof, and rainwater harvesting would help operate toilets. The Makoko School completes the first phase of NLÉ’s plan to erect a liveable city on the lagoon, free of filth and disease. If he is not changing lives, I don’t know who is.