Architecture and Politics in Nigeria : The Study of a Late Twentieth-Century Enlightenment-Inspired Modernism at Abuja, 1900–2016 book cover
1st Edition

Architecture and Politics in Nigeria
The Study of a Late Twentieth-Century Enlightenment-Inspired Modernism at Abuja, 1900–2016

ISBN 9781472465290
Published December 14, 2016 by Routledge
300 Pages

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Book Description

In 1975, the Nigerian authorities decided to construct a new postcolonial capital called Abuja, and together with several internationally renowned architects these military leaders collaborated to build a city for three million inhabitants. Founded five years after the Civil War with Biafra, which caused around 1.7 million deaths, the city was envisaged as a place where justice would reign and where people from different social, religious, ethnic, and political backgrounds would come together in a peaceful manner and work together to develop their country and its economy. These were all laudable goals, but they ironically mobilized certain forces from around the country in opposition against the Federal Government of Nigeria. The international and modernist style architecture and the fact that the government spent tens of billions of dollars constructing this idealized capital ended up causing more strife and conflict. For groups like Boko Haram, a Nigerian Al-Qaida affiliate organization, and other smaller ethnic groups seeking to have a say in how the country’s oil wealth is spent, Abuja symbolized everything in Nigeria they sought to change.

By examining the creation of the modernist national public spaces of Abuja within a broader historical and global context, this book looks at how the successes and the failures of these spaces have affected the citizens of the country and have, in fact, radicalized individuals with these spaces being scene of some of the most important political events and terrorist targets, including bombings and protest rallies. Although focusing on Nigeria’s capital, the study has a wider global implication in that it draws attention to how postcolonial countries that were formed at the turn of the twentieth century are continuously fragmenting and remade by the emergence of new nation states like South Sudan.

Table of Contents

Preface  Prologue  Method, Sources and the Organization of the Book  1. The Literature  1.1. Abuja in Nigerian and African Modern Architectural History  1.2. Locating Abuja’s Urban Form in Global Architectural Modernism  1.3. Abuja as a Post-Colonial Capital City after World War II  1.4. Abuja: A Capital City in Dis-Content with Architectural Modernism(s)  1.5. Public Space in the Aftermath of the Iranian Revolution and in the Post-Berlin Wall Contexts  2. The Inauguration  2.1. The Inauguration in the Civic Space, 2 December 1991  2.2. Contestations and Wars in the Public Spaces of Abuja  2.3. Emancipation in the Public Spaces at Abuja and in Nigerian Cities  2.4. Abuja As The Public Sphere for Transforming Nigeria  3. The Amalgamation of Nigeria and the Search for Capital City Location, 1900 - 1960  3.1 Nigeria: A Union of Traditional and Colonial World-Views  3.2 Modern Landscapes World-Views of Nigeria Capitalist Project  3.3 Colonial Debates to Establish Nigeria and its National Seat of Government  3.4 Lugard and the "Dual Mandate" World-View Plan for Nigeria  3.5. The Social Space Facilitated by Lugard when he Established Nigeria, 1900 – 1960  3.6 Insiders’ Perspective I: Senator Abu Ibrahim and Professor Akin Mabogunje  4. Abuja: A National Development Project or A Military Conspiracy Against Lagos?  4.1 General Obasanjo: Making the Development of FCT Irreversible, 1976 – 1979  4.2 The Competition and the Selection of Thomas Todd and Kenzo Tange  4.3. President Shehu Shagari: "The Light That Failed" During The Rush to Build Abuja, 1979 to 1983  4.4 Insider’s Perspectives II: Umar G. Benna  4.5 Insider’s Perspective III: E. A. D. Nsiegbe  4.6 Insider’s Perspective IV: Denis Browne  5. The Paths to "One of the Most Enormous Commercial Disputes in History"  5.1 An Oil Boom in Patronage of "A Monument to Progress"  5.2. The Cement Scandal: The Military Exculpates Itself from the National Congestion Caused by Its Capitalist Interests  5.3. A Development "At Breakneck Speed": What was at Stake for the Suppliers?  6. Thomas Todd: Reconstructing Nigeria’s Political Consciousness In Washington, D. C.’s Enlightenment Urban Design Ideas  6.1. The City: From Sketches to Urban Spaces  6.2 The City As a Space of Social Interactions and Mnemonics  6.3 Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd (WMRT) of Philadelphia  6.4 Who Designed What at Abuja? The "American Institute of Architects (AIA) Finds Itself in the Middle of a Design Controversy"  6.5 Siting Civic and Public Spaces in Nature at Abuja  6.6. Testing Three Generic Urban Forms on the Site: Compact, Multi-Centered, and Linear Urban Forms  6.7. Influences of Design Concepts from Brasília’s, Chandigarh’s, Canberra’s, and Washington’s Urban Forms on Abuja’s Urban Form  6.8. Establishing the Hygienic and Monumental Government Precinct at Abuja  6.9. Designing Abuja’s Civic and Public Spaces in the Image of Washington, D.C.’s Urban Form  6.10. The Mall: Todd’s Strategies for Translating Abuja’s National Landscapes into Civic and Public Spaces/Spheres  6.11. Discussing Todd’s Modular City: Sectors, Districts, Communities and Neighborhoods  7. Kenzo Tange Urtec and Albert Speer Partners  7.1. A Synopsis of the Journey from Hiroshima and Tokyo to Abuja  7.2 Reflections on the Tokyo Metropolitan Complex  7.3. Designing Abuja’s Central Area in 1981 After Tokyo Bay’s 1960 Master Plan  7.4. Tange’s Fortress Three Arms Zone at Abuja  7.5. Insider’s Perspective V: Ryoji Terajima Interviewed the Interviewer  7.6. Insider’s Perspective VI: Testuo Furuichi, the Elucidator of Tange’s Urban Design  7.7. Abuja’ Mall: Tange’s Epitaph and Desire to Free Urban Space by Lifting Buildings on Pilotis  7.8. Albert Speer’s Plan: An Ecologically-Sensitive Champs Elysees for Abuja  7.9. Insider’s Perspective VII: Matthias Nuss Examines the Master Plans  8. Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC) & Doxiadis Associates’ The Ekistics Science  8.1. Experiencing the Modern Neighborhoods and the Neighbors  8.2 Encountering the "Other" in the Center of Unity  8.3. Insider’s Perspective VIII: John Napleton and the Design for Living "Modern" Life at Abuja  8.4. Doxiadis Associates and the Ekistics Science  8.5 The Satellite Towns  9. Conclusion: The Planned Capital Where the President is A "Squatter"  9.1. Giving Citizens the Opportunity to Participate in Civic Urban and Architectural Projects  9.2. The Military’s Hidden Agenda  9.3 Capital City as the Civic and the Public Spheres for the Exchange of Ideas  9.4. A Late Twentieth-Century Enlightenment-Inspired African Modernism  9.5. The Planned Capital Where the President is A "Squatter"  Epilogue: The Reception   "Abuja, Where Houses and People Live Apart"  A Nigerian Historical Chronology  Index

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Nnamdi Elleh, Ph.D., is Professor of Architecture at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. His research interests include modern and contemporary architecture understood as diverse, multi-centered, regional, vernacular and localized experiences in different parts of the world.


"Elleh’s story of the development of the city of Abuja is likely to be one of the most important books on the impact of urban planning and architecture to emerge from the African continent. Set within the intrigues of colonial and post-colonial Nigerian politics, and enlivened with insights into Elleh’s own colourful experiences (as a child and later as a researcher) in Nigeria, it makes gripping reading. Significantly, however, it supports wider arguments about the role of master planning and modernist architecture in the global South (see UN Habitat’s 2009 Global Report on planning), which suggest that these approaches are frequently used to promote the interests of powerful commercial and political elites, and have very little to do with the making of locally appropriate, well-functioning and sustainable cities. Even more damning, as Elleh shows, is the complicity of international planning and architectural ‘stars’ – those global professionals concerned primarily with making their name on projects such as this one. Misguided desires by Nigerian politicians to show that they could ‘catch up with the West’ aligned with design professionals unable to think beyond 1930s Corbusian modernism, but neither offered much comfort to the many thousands evicted and displaced in the name of urban progress. Elleh is a wonderful story-teller with a real gift for explaining a complex development project in an accessible way to a wide readership." - Professor Vanessa Watson, School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town


"Architecture and Politics in Nigeria is an accomplished piece of scholarship and a fascinating exploration of the relationship between urban design and political aspirations. Elleh has a talent for explaining and reflecting upon complex phenomena, and his book is yet another reminder we cannot conceptualize architecture autonomously from its political and social contexts." – Joseph Godlewski, Syracuse University, USA, Traditional Dwelling and Settlements Review