AP Report: “Lagos is a mess. But under that mess- there are a whole lot of very good people”

by Chi Ibe

By 2015, the population of Lagos will rise to 12.4 million. This will make it the most populous city in Africa, according to a 2010 study by the United Nations’ Human Settlements Program. By 2025, the U.N. estimates more than 15.8 million people will be crowded into the city on the mainland and its islands.

AP News takes a look at the architectural structure that has moulded the city for decades. The buildings that once dominated Lagos continue to disappear as a booming population, decay and neglect claim the city’s rich architectural past. AP News reports that some preservationists have restored the ornamental archways of the city’s Brazilian-style buildings and kept the wide-roofed British colonial homes of the past. However, they warn more needs to be done now before that history slips away forever.

Desmond Majekodunmi, the president of Legacy, a group trying to protect that architectural past told the AP that the anticipated population boom is putting tremendous pressure on Lagos because she’s surrounded by water.For John Godwin, an architect who arrived in Nigeria in 1954 from Britain and later became a citizen, Lagos Island is both his home and a bittersweet sight. Godwin spent his career designing some of the country’s most iconic buildings with his wife, later serving as a professor at the University of Lagos. He restored the old railway compound house and works on preservation issues with Legacy.

“You have to say that in many areas of Lagos, those building bylaws have been totally ignored,” Godwin told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I think it is making it very difficult for people to live here, I really do. And I think as much as they know that, Lagos is like a drug.”You get emotional about it,” he said, tearing up. “It’s a mess. But under that mess, there are a whole lot of very good people.”

Politics and governance plays a large part in the architectural slump, but things are looking up as there are some efforts now at preserving that heritage, the AP reports. A few buildings on Lagos Island were restored, as well as an 1898 building at the nearby Nigerian Railway Corporation compound. While the old Broad Street Prison was torn down, Lagos state recently opened Freedom Park there, with neatly manicured grass, performance space and exhibits noting the site’s history.

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