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A Model of Culturally Relevant and Sustainable African Design

The Igbo town of Idumuje-Ugboko in southeast Nigeria, is the place where artist and architect Demas Nwoko calls his home. At 84, Nwoko owns the African Designs Development Centre, the sole industrial venture in town and is under the direction of Nwoko’s son, 54-year-old Ashim, an architect and building contractor. Nwoko began building his own house in Ibadan with the methods that have remained his hallmarks. He created the bricks with laterite soil extracted on-site during the excavation process. Left unpainted, the slight colour variations, ranging from ochre to rust, reflect the strata of the earth from which they came. The structure was designed to become more beautiful with time and wear, the use of local materials offering resilience to the specific environmental conditions of the site – Nwoko’s Ibadan home has never needed renovation or significant repair since completion in 1964. The family hopes to eventually employ workers from the area to manufacture furniture and building components from locally sourced materials to be sold across the country. For now, the workshop is used to build custom parts to supply Demas Nwoko’s building commissions. Today, Nwoko’s attention is focused on a recent government commission to design the new National Gallery, 415km (258 miles) away in Abuja.