One of the most innovative schools in the world is now little more than floating piles of driftwood.
After getting pummeled by a heavy rain storm in early June, the Makoko Floating School — located just outside Lagos, the country’s capital — now sits in the lagoon as a crumpled version of its former self.
The collapse strips the local community of its meeting center and space for elementary education, both desperately needed in the poor region. Nicknamed by some as the “Venice of Africa,” Makoko is a slum neighborhood, a village surrounded by water.
The three-story wooden structure was designed by the architecture firm NLÉ in 2012 as a prototype for a whole fleet of floating buildings. With little money to spend on infrastructure in the lagoon, the residents could use the raft-tent hybrids as a way to discuss community issues and politics, create makeshift classrooms and play spaces, or simply throw parties.
They were meant to reverse Makoko’s image as the world’s biggest floating slum.
On June 22, 2016 just a few weeks after the school collapsed non-profit think tank Future Lagos tweeted: “Does Makoko Floating School’s collapse threaten the whole slum’s future?”
Some news outlets have questioned whether the building ever had the level of structural integrity NLÉ claimed at its launch.
“We fell into a PR trap, which hinged on sexy Iwan Baan photographs and respected publications not having the budgets to properly investigate their features thoroughly,” Phineas Harper, deputy director of the Architecture Foundation, wrote on his Facebook page.
In Architectural Review, Tomà Berlanda, a University of Cape Town professor, wrote the firm’s defense of the school was “worryingly misleading” and implied that many of the photos could have been staged to give a heightened sense of success, Dezeen reports.
In any case, losing 1,000 square feet of clean, dry space in an area like Makoko makes it much harder for people to discuss important issues or set up programs for kids.
A GoFundMe page has been set up in the hopes of rebuilding a similar structure.