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Exploring Local Material in Contemporary Architecture: PWDC Transforms Building Surfaces in Nigeria

In Lagos, a city with a complex urban fabric that includes historical buildings and vast interpretations of contemporary architecture, lies PatrickWaheed Design Consulting (PWDC). This design practice, Co-led by Adeyemo Shokunbi, aims to contribute to a Nigerian architectural language through the renaissance of local materials. Through explorations anchored in local laterite, they have developed the material as a modern finishing technique, investigated its potential as a natural dye, discovered new ways to employ its thermal properties, and now build the research prospect of other local materials. I had the opportunity to speak with Architect Shokunbi, who discussed the initial inspirations and investigations during the construction of two building projects (Mad House & Abijo Mosque) in Lagos. These projects brought the Laterite finishing technique to life and now help build the case for a Nigerian architectural language.

In Nigeria, building wall finishes heavily rely on hand rendering methods to achieve smooth surfaces. However, these methods may result in imperfections and undulating building faces. This was the major motivation for PWDC to initially adopt Tyrolean finishing, which textures the surfaces of buildings in the design of their projects. "We wanted to conceal the imperfections in buildings. And how did we do it? We textured the building with a rough texture," says Shokunbi. "I found that by covering those imperfections with something that is not perfectly smooth, it starts to give the building some level of credibility” He adds noting the essence of visual integrity the technique sought to provide.

Early on, the firm used the Tyrolean technique to explore darker colors that could combat the dusty nature of Nigeria's tropical climate and keep the building's finish durable. However, according to Shokunbi, this led to design questions that challenged the aesthetics and architectural language of buildings in Nigeria. “I feel that we’ve got to a stage that we should be able to have a language, an identifiable language, that is ours, based on what we have locally, not just from a material point of view, but from our understanding, and also from our response to context” he noted. He also sighted that other elements of culture, aside from architecture in the country, such as music, fashion, and arts, have a distinct and recognizable language. This became the foundation on which the firm anchored laterite as a local material and explored its use as a finishing technique for modern architecture.

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