Sunday 26 January 2014

In Lagos, Post-Oil City images raise energy, urbanisation alerts

By Tajudeen Sowole

The challenge of tomorrow’s big cities, which is the focus of an ongoing exhibition titled Post-Oil City: The History of the City’s Future, at Goethe Institut, Lagos Island, alerts city designers about widening urban and shrinking traditional sources of energy.

Presented in photography, drawing, digital imaging and video, the event, which the organisers describe as a tour exhibition, coincidentally, is making its Nigerian stopover in Lagos where the government is confronting the complexity of replacing antiquated infrastructures for the prospects of a megacity.

         Solar-powered umbrellas for Masdar City Abu Dhabi, UAE PIC: Courtesy of LAVA.

The exhibition, according to Goethe Institut, is organised by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa), Stuttgart, in co-operation with ARCH+, Zeitschrift für Architektur und Städtebau, Berlin.

  From buildings that factor climate change into design concepts, to public transportation facilities that conserve energy, the exhibition samples tomorrow’s projects being carried out in cities such as Abu Dhabi, New York, Curitiba, Dubai, Berlin, Mumbai, among others.
  Speaking at the opening, Mareike Borgdstedt of Goethe Institut said the exhibition presents innovative projects in Asia, Africa, and the Americas that address urgent questions of post-fossil fuel in urban cities.

 Some of the issues addressed by the exhibits include challenge of growing urban where too many people are concentrated on shrinking spaces, particularly in a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Pertinently, the organisers ask: “How will the use of renewable energies affect urban metabolism and the politics of sustainability and mobility?”

 However, the much-projected green environment compliant buildings appeared to have taken a queue from past designs of the mid-twentieth century, so reveals the contents of a stand at the immediate entrance of the Lagos City Hall venue of the show.  Tagged Adaptation to the Climate, it’s a 1964 architectural umbrella or adjustable canopy, which most of the modern and 21st century climate change compliant designs have adapted.
 A step further into the exhibits comes an example of how to apply native contents in creating architectural masterpiece, yet proffering solution to climate change challenge. Placed under Vernacular Principals, the works show an Egyptian example in architect, Hassan Fathy’s (1900-1988) concept of Arabic architecture blended with modern concept.

  Quite interesting, some of the designs across the Arab world till today have the Fathy-style contents. In fact a text attached to the work notes that Fathy tries  “to make traditional solutions workable for the present.” Basically, the works from the stand explain how the Arabs - modern and contemporary designers - create ventilation for dry and arid regions.

  Other sections of the exhibition that show innovations in cities like Berlin, New York and few European cities, perhaps, should not come as a surprise given the antecedence of the developed world in futuristic facilities. But from Curitiba, Brazil comes an example of mass transit, the likes of which Lagos State Government is gradually introducing into the complex environment in Nigeria.

 For Curitiba’s BRT- innovated in 1975 with 25, 000 passengers per day, it’s now a success story as 75 per cent of the population, according to the exhibition, commutes in the bus transit to and from work, culminating in “2.3 million passengers, daily.”

During the opening of the exhibition.

The challenges of the Curitiba transportation authority is not exactly highlighted in the exhibition, but it could have provided a window to appraise the Lagos Lagbus and Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) BRT schemes. The twin mass transits were established since the period of former Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and currently spreading to some axis in the state under the current government of Babatunde Raji Fashola. Burdened by the state-federal- controlled highways, as well as the informal transportation and improperly organized, but powerful, commercial bus associations, the Lagbus and LAMATA BRT is still facing a herculean task in spreading across the state.

 In other climes where regional or state-federal dichotomy work for the common good of the people, Lagos, a city of population explosion, would need the Curitiba example more, particularly to reduce vehicular traffic congestions and air pollution from automobiles. Currently said to be moving an ‘estimated 300, 000 passengers daily” just on the Ikorodu Road-CMS-axis, the LAMATA BRT appears not doing badly since 2007 when it was formally launched by Fashola.  
 On fossil fuel pollution-free environment, Post-Oil City features an irony: one of the richest oil producing countries, UAE is designing a model city of 100 per cent renewable energy.    

  Described as one of the most ambitious future city projects of the 21st century, Masdar City, in Abu Dhabi, is designed to be powered by renewable and pollution free energy. The city, which started in 2008, is also fashioned after what the promoters described as “traditional Arabian city.” It’s an automated city where fossil-fuel automobiles, for example, are not allowed. Major source of transportation is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), something like the executive version of BRT, but automated or driverless.
  Quite thoughtful of the Arabs, the post-fossil oil would not obliterate a region that has supplied energy to the rest of the world for more than half a century. The ongoing Masdar City project is aimed at also suppling the world non-fossil fuel energy.

  "The models of the Masdar Plaza and Xeritown give an idea of how sustainable urban planning in Arab cities nowadays can look like,” part of the exhibition statement reads.
 Noting that more than half of the world’s population live in cities, the organisers argued that the effects of climate change on urban life can no longer be ignored.

 For the gathering of the show's contents, "11 current projects in the field of sustainable urban planning with 9 from the past," forms the body of works that stress a link between modern and contemporary designs.
  Other experiments shown include  Xeriton, Dubai, and the NEST project in Ethiopia as well as "renaturalizing New York’s High Line, and building a network of electric cars with battery switch stations in Israel."

  Also of note is a current project said to be doing "several interactive projects giving communities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait the chance to directly experience new measures in urban design and energy production."

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