March 20, 2015

The Domain of the Great Bear:Architect and Urbanist Kunlé Adeyemi, “Water and the City”

Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm

Kunlé Adeyemi. Photo: Reze Bonna.

Kunlé Adeyemi aims to critically examine the most significant challenges of our time: rapid urbanization and climate change, in the continent with some of the world’s greatest opportunities, Africa. The impact of rapid urbanization and economic growth of African cities is now common knowledge, yet it cannot be over emphasized. At the same time the impact of climate change through water has now become day-to-day reality, with sea level rise, increasing rainfall and frequent flooding. The relationships of water and the city on the African continent have therefore become critical points of intersection for understanding the future of development in Africa.

It is an established fact that about 70% of the world is covered by water. A less established finding is that nearly 70% of the world capital cities are also situated by water. And more specifically, again nearly 70% of African capital cities are also by water. According to U.N. estimates, the population of Africa will double by 2050, growing at a rate that will quickly surpass the population of China and rival Asia as the world’s most populous continent by 2100. With this explosive growth, African communities and cities are expanding rapidly and aggressively into unchartered territories. Africa’s population surge coupled with the impacts of climate change—sea level rise, heavy rainfall, and flooding—frames one of the most significant and urgent contemporary global challenges.

In a twist of fate, it is said that although Africa is said to be the least responsible for climate change, it is the most likely impacted by it. With a large number of these rapidly urbanizing cities and communities by the water within the high to the extreme high-risk zones. This clear and present danger calls for an immediate response through adaptation and resiliency measures in development on the continent.


About the speaker
Kunlé Adeyemi is the founder of the office of architecture NLÉ based in Amsterdam and Lagos addressing urbanization and forces of globalization on megacities. An architect, designer and urbanist, Adeyemi’s recent work includes Makoko Floating School, a prototype structure located on the lagoon heart of Lagos as part of an extensive research project—African Water Cities.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Adeyemi studied architecture at the University of Lagos, where he began his early practice, before joining Office for Metropolitan Architecture in 2002. At OMA, working closely with Rem Koolhaas, he led the design and  development of numerous projects in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Kunlé Adeyemi is the 2014 Baird Distinguished Visiting Critic of Cornell University in teaching and researching Water & The City, and was the 2011 Callison Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of the University of Washington, teaching and researching “The Modern City in the Age of Globalization” in Chandigarh—India’s first planned modern city. Adeyemi’s main area of academic interest is in developing cities of the global south with a post-professional degree from Princeton University where with Peter Eisenman he investigated rapid urbanization and the role of market economies in developing cities of the global South, focusing on Lagos. His “Urban Crawl” published in the Log journal, is a critical exposé on architecture and urbanism in emerging megacities of the global south, which also unravels the complex urban conditions and operative mechanisms of such cities.


About the Royal Institute of Art Stockholm
The Domain of the Great Bear is the research platform of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm—a series of public lectures, workshops and events focusing on art and production and the changing nature of conditions for that production to address the challenges and aspirations for anyone claiming the category of artist.

The Royal Institute of Art is a leading art institution of higher education located in Stockholm that offers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Fine Arts and Architecture. For information regarding applications, please contact Anneli Hovberger, Director of Academic Administration, at [email protected].

Royal Institute of Art/Kungl. Konsthögskolan
Flaggmansvägen 1
111 49 Stockholm



Royal Institute of Art Stockholm hosts Kunlé Adeyemi

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