Osarieme Isokpan’s project draws upon insights gained from the slums in Lagos, Nigeria, to create a DIY toolkit of strategies for adapting to their new inundated living conditions in Maastricht, Netherlands. This project primarily addresses interior-scale solutions but also has broader implications for the entire city.
Can you (briefly) explain your choice of subject?
As over 1 billion people worldwide reside in poverty, including this inequality in conversations within design is essential. My subject choice was based on informal settlements and their importance within the architectural landscape.
What or who are your sources of inspiration, and can you briefly explain this?
My inspiration came from informal settlements, particularly a slum in Nigeria called, Makoko. I was intrigued by their ability to function as an ecosystem. I aimed to see this settlement as a new source of design inspiration by learning from where, how and why they build. I was curious about applying these settlements’ elements within the Western context and how we, as architects, can learn from this form of design.
State and (briefly) describe the key moment in your graduation project
A pivotal moment in my graduation project was rethinking the role of the architect. And in doing so, what the possible outcome could be. When I started my project, I had the preconceived expectation of my final design being an actual “building”, but that was not the case for my research. By applying the theme of my project to question the architect’s role, my result differed from what I initially expected. Rather than having a final “built” design, I ended up with a manual as my result—a manual on how to respond to diverse situations.
Can you (briefly) explain what design(ing) means to you?
Designing is a form of creative expression and a means of communicating and drawing attention to essential conversations we should have.
What do you want to achieve as a designer in the near the distant future?
In the future, I hope to expand further on my graduation project through design. I want to work more within informality to bring awareness towards its importance. Communication within the industry is vital, and I plan to build a space where these dialogues and discussions can occur irrespective of socioeconomic standing.
What happens when the systems within modern society are threatened and how do we prepare for the inevitable collapse of civilisation? My project aimed to redefine the role of the architect by taking inspiration from slum builders. I was inspired to create a project that approached design alongside materials and their use in a unique manner. The concepts derived in this project are versatile and can be applied to a number of scenarios that society will inevitably face in the near future. It serves not only as a means of raising awareness but also as a guide to how we can approach design in adverse situations.
There is an apparent discrepancy that prevails economically between the rich and the poor. This inconsistency in socio-economic positioning affects how people live, leading to an evident contrast in the structures derived from it.Thus, ensuing in the presence of unplanned informal settlements known as slums. My work served as an investigation into the existence of slums. It traced its existence from its root origin to the present-day forms in the environment. It explored the resilient nature of slums and their ability to perform as an ecosystem. By studying its physical and phenomenological nature, I drew comparisons with vernacular architecture resulting in a unique set of identifying parameters. Thus, redefining these settlements as the new vernacular. My case study was a water-based informal community in Lagos, Nigeria, known as Makoko. I aimed to take back the negative connotations attached to these areas and to see them as new sources of design inspiration. I conducted on-site research in the settlement, where I carried out detailed studies on its ability to function as a fully functioning system. My results were documented through photography, drawings and interviews. 72 % of Sub-Saharan Africa, 59 % of Southern Asia, and 32 % of Latin America’s urban population live in slums accounting for over 1 billion people worldwide. Their existence due to a strain within these systems. What happens when the systems within Western society are also threatened? My project brought to awareness that the systems in western society are prone to collapse, and as such, we have to be prepared. Epidemics, financial crises, war and climate change are just a few scenarios within this collapsing system. I decided to “learn” from these areas and bring them into the European context—my project concentrated on the impact of rising sea levels within the Netherlands. Although away from rising sea levels, Maastricht is affected by the rise in water levels via the Muese due to heavy rain and drainage pressures. By applying the new vernacular through a change in materiality and construction methodologies, I created a design guide identifying how to react as an individual. I aimed to embrace the inevitable collapse as it is not the end but the start of our future.
Academy of Architecture Maastricht