African Architect Kunlé Adeyemi Showcases Water Cities and Visions of Future Living in Rotterdam at Het Nieuwe Instituut

Kunle Adeyemis water cities

On May 16, 2023, Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, opened its doors to “Water Cities Rotterdam. By Kunlé Adeyemi,” an awe-inspiring exhibition that sheds light on the remarkable work of the Amsterdam-based Nigerian architect, Kunlé Adeyemi. Known for his pioneering concepts related to floating structures and sustainable living on water, Adeyemi has a rich history of innovation in this field.

Adeyemi’s fascination with water cities began over a decade ago when he conceived the renowned Makoko Floating School in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2011. His pioneering ideas surrounding alternative urban futures, city growth, and innovative living solutions date back to an essay published in 2007 in the journal Log titled ‘Urban Crawl’. The Makoko Floating School, a groundbreaking project, was completed in 2012, offering a glimpse of what the future could hold in terms of water-based living.

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(Image credit: Rubén Dario Kleimeer)

Over the years, Adeyemi continued to push the boundaries of his visionary concepts. His portfolio boasts several notable projects, including installations at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016, Bruges and Chengdu in 2018, and the Floating Music Hub in Cape Verde, which won the prestigious Best Music Venue award at the 2021 Wallpaper* Design Awards. All of these projects shared a common feature – the Makoko Floating System (MFS), a prefabricated, modular, A-frame, and sustainable timber structure designed to provide alternative housing solutions on water.

Adeyemi emphasizes the importance of adapting to the challenges posed by climate change and rising sea levels, particularly in coastal regions. He points out that many cultures across the globe have historically thrived on water, and his work seeks to provide innovative solutions for living and building on water, evolving with each new incarnation.

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(Image credit: Rubén Dario Kleimeer)

Now, ‘Water Cities Rotterdam. By Kunlé Adeyemi’ at Het Nieuwe Instituut serves as a testament to Adeyemi’s forward-thinking ideas and creative vision. Under the guidance of the institute’s creative and artistic director, Arik Chen, the exhibition brings Adeyemi’s proposals and floating models to life. The installation involves recreating the 2016 Venice model, promoting sustainability and circularity by repurposing existing structures.

A significant evolution in this exhibit is Adeyemi’s collaboration with marine life specialists. Underwater cameras have been added to observe the behavior of wildlife around the structure, providing an unprecedented opportunity to explore the underwater world. Adeyemi explains that these cameras will enable visitors to adopt the perspective of underwater life, emphasizing the interconnectedness between human and natural ecosystems.

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(Image credit: Rubén Dario Kleimeer)

Adeyemi’s ultimate goal with this exhibition is to raise awareness and encourage a more open-minded approach to coexisting with water. In his view, as sea levels continue to rise and water-related challenges become more prevalent worldwide, adapting to water-based living may become the only viable option for many communities. He points to historical examples of communities successfully living alongside water, especially in Asia and Africa, as a testament to the feasibility of this approach.

This extraordinary exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut aims to inspire visitors and foster a deeper understanding of the possibilities and challenges associated with water-based living. Moreover, a book titled “African Water Cities,” expanding on the themes explored in the exhibition, is set to be released in June 2023. Collaborations with artist Thijs de Zeeuw and graphic artists Opperclaes further enrich the immersive experience, promising a thought-provoking and inspiring journey into the future of urban living.

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