You are currently viewing Why Modern Architecture is Replacing Traditional Housing in Nigeria. 

Why Modern Architecture is Replacing Traditional Housing in Nigeria. 

Houses are more than just shelters. They are homes. It is said that home is the starting point of life. Historically, houses were built to shelter, integrate the environment, and preserve culture. In river-like areas, on rocks, on swamps, and on flat dry land, our ancestors found shelter. These houses were cleverly and effectively built in the absence of technology. They upheld and preserved cultural values like family ties while maintaining a level of privacy depending on the cultural and religious beliefs of its inhabitants. 

Traditional housing in Nigeria

From an era where culture was deeply inscribed within every inch of our houses, modern architecture heroically swooped in to cleverly modernize the way we shelter and relate to the environment forgetting to carry along our culture. 

Many have found appeal in the highly aesthetic, highly functional, airy, and simple nature of modern architecture. Its large openings are a doorway to relating with nature and our environments. Its call for use of natural materials is a convenient cover for the discordance of our traditional materials. We fall prey to its elegant vertical and horizontal lines. Forgetting that our mother nature is made of soft curves and undulating waves. 

At this point, One may wonder why everyone should not abandon their individual cultural characteristics in their built houses. But should we? Or should we examine more closely other reasons why Nigerians are opting for this style of architecture which neglects and violates their cultural upbringing?

This essay will attempt discussing on some key factors that influence the proliferation of modern Architecture over traditional architecture in Nigeria.

Technology

No aspect of human life has not been affected by technology. The most current debate is around how Artificial Intelligence is shaping our world for better or worse. The massive wave of technological advancement is a very big factor that ushered in modern architecture. 

Houses are being designed to be smart and responsive, thanks to technology. From the use of solar panels on roofs to the use of sensors on doors that open and close automatically. To the use of sensors on taps as a means to conserve water by reducing wastage, technology is shaping architecture assiduously.

Technological advancement has improved human skills in glass technology which in turn has made us witness the rise of the use of glass in buildings. This is called glazing and it gives buildings a unique appeal and appears less dense and light. 

Urbanization

The world has evolved and continued to evolve to this day. As of 2007, the UN reported that 50% of the world’s population lived in urban areas and the numbers are expected to continue increasing. By the year 2030, 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas around the world. This has some implications on the urban housing demands, planning, and design.

The movement of people from rural areas to urban areas in search of greener pastures is what is called gration/urbanization/development depending on one’s choice of literature. By the time people move to urban areas, they adapt to the ways of the city. This adaptation also manifests in the kind of housing they live in, in the urban areas.

The rural type of housing which is traditional and erected using mud bricks and thatched roofs is sharply different from the modern block housing of the urban area. The more influx of people witnessed in our urban areas the more the demand for such modern architectural housing will be.

Government Policies

Government has an interest in every aspect of our lives and their decision to regulate our activities includes the way and manner we build our houses. This is why every state of the federation has an Urban Planning and Development Board/Authorities. These boards have the mandate to ensure buildings are erected and occupied in accordance with safety codes and environmental standards.

In many instances, especially where new neighborhoods are being created from the scratch, government authorities often create master plans for such neighborhoods and determine the kind of houses to be built in the designated zones.

The masterplans guide the developers on which kind of houses to build in the areas and as modern architecture has the advantage of simplicity in design and economy of use, it tends to dominate such housing estates.

Universal Trends

Architecture, just like every other form of human endeavor is a work in progress. The coming together of time, place and idea give rise to trends. From the clothes we wear to the way we live. Everything comes and goes in vogue. 

Like the Nigerian men of the seventies were known to have kept Afro hair and wear skinny trousers, so does architecture follow trends. 

Distinction of Status

One of the easiest ways to identify the status of people in Nigeria apart from the way they dress and the cars they drive is in the houses they live in. Owning a house is on top of the wish list of every Nigerian and by the time that wish gets to be materialized, they ensure that the message and symbol of their “arrival” are clearly communicated to all and sundry in the type of house they live in. And what better form of architecture to communicate that symbol other than modern architectural design that captures the essence of modernity and the present?

Travel and Exposure

Like the architect who was taught the different styles of architecture in the class room, some architects and aspiring homeowners have the privilege of being well-traveled. In the course of these travels and exposure, ideas on how modern architecture is taking root around the world is seen and most often than not, they seek to replicate those ideas in their own houses back home.

This can also be referred to as the primary or direct transfer of ideas which occurs by directly interacting with the modern architectural styles of other places. The experience gained from such exposure and travels form the basis of such decision to replicate modern architecture in Nigeria.

Conclusion

Modernity and advancement is here to stay. We are only expected to see more and more of the manifestation of modern architecture not only in Nigeria but around the world. Words of caution for all who have regard for our history and culture is to be mindful of the pace at which we are settling for modern architecture at the detriment of our cultural inclinations. 

As it stands, it will take a lot of scrutiny before one can differentiate between the house owned by a Hausa man from that owned by an Igbo woman in highbrow areas of Abuja.

Modern architecture has stripped us of our distinctiveness in an all-important part of our life which is the home. Just as the Yoruba have not abandoned their agbada or the Fulani abandon their nomadism, we can do well to not abandon the cultural elements that give identity to our housing.

Maryam Idris Bappa

Maryam is an Architect and Writer who enjoys other creative activities such as crotchetting and sketching.. she studied Architecture from ABU Zarja and likes to chat with her friends during her free time.