Student Works: P.L.A.T.F.O.R.M


The Public of Lagos Agency of Trash Formation, Organization, Remediation, and Management (PLATFORM) is a graduate thesis project by Brian Lee of Rice University. The project addresses the issue of waste management in slum neighborhoods of Lagos. Lagos, Nigeria is a significant commercial, financial, and population center in Sub-Saharan Africa and the world. It is a city of rapidly shifting conditions and perpetual crises with issues of over population, pollution, limited circulation, waste management, density, poverty, and social disparity. For Lagos, an estimated population growth of nearly six percent equates to about a half a million new residents per year. The largest and fastest growing city in Sub-Saharan Africa, Lagos barely manages to support the influx of migrants and rural transplants seeking work in the region’s financial and commercial center, let alone the extreme internal birth rate of its own people.


The growth of Lagos has led to a conflict between two types of development. As the formal publically planned urbanization strategies have failed to keep pace with current growth rates, new inhabitants advance the expansion of informal slums. These slums rely on access from the water, bypassing existing modes of urban circulation and development. Large, dense communities have arisen along coastal regions, some settlements actually built on the water. The slums act as infill to the cities minimal vacant space and ignore the geographic boundaries of the city by expanding into the coastal waters of Lagos Lagoon. Not only do these slum areas face extreme challenges of poverty and sanitation, but predicted levels in sea-rise over the next one hundred years indicates that much of the territory of the coastal slums will be over taken by water. 


The crises of waste management has become an opportunity and given rise to innovation within Lagos. Entire communities have developed around the disposal and organization of trash. Armies of sorters wait alongside dump trucks searching for valuable materials that can be sold and reused. Along the coastal edges garbage is used as fill. The trash is dumped into the water, covered in sawdust and sand and slums settlements are built on top of the newly acquired land. As a result, much of the water surrounding the slums has become contaminated. 


The social and ecological extremes of the West-African center, however, have not thrown the city into an imbalance or disorder that the traditional model of urban planning would have predicted. These problems have been managed by an unconsciously collective effort from the citizenry. They are seen as opportunities for their inherent processes; a way to survive for the individual. Speaking of Lagos, Koolhaas said, “[the] shortcomings have generated ingenious, critical alternative systems, which demand a redefinition of ideas such as carrying capacity, stability, and even order”[1]. This condition of adaptability and resourcefulness presents an interesting environment for an intervention that can better exploit innate aspects of the existing systems.


The radical conditions of Lagos promote new solutions for the city. Within each of these problems reside inherent processes and qualities that can become interdependent and beneficial to each other. Garbage provides the mass for coastal expansion, and defense from sea-rise. Expansion of the coastline provides new territories for the growth of slums. Geometry can maximize efficiency and minimize contamination. 


P.L.A.T.F.O.R.M. seeks to make use of the processes associated with Lagos waste management and the expansion of the slums, while mitigating the harmful effects of contamination and providing a defensive barrier against sea-level rise.

PLATFORM was awarded the Thesis Prize at Rice University, and was recently published in MONU Magazine's issue on NEXT URBANISM

[1] Rem Koolhaas Mutations, Project On The City: Lagos p. 652 





EcologyEconomicsResourcesStudent Work

Add new comment



December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

September 2009

August 2009

July 2009

June 2009

May 2009

April 2009

March 2009

February 2009

January 2009