Projecting Modernity. Infrastructural Projects and Global Urbanisation in Lagos (1880-2008)

  • Jeremy Lecomte

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores how modern urbanisation has been fathomed and projected in Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria. Focusing on three particular infrastructural projects, it excavates, behind the explosive and informal dynamics characterising Lagos’ expansion today, the ambivalent trajectory of modernisation that, since the late nineteenth century, has informed its historical development. The first project this thesis examines is the railway built by the British colonial regime between 1880 and 1901. The second one is the large-scale housing project designed by the Greek office Doxiadis Associates between 1972 and 1980. The third one is the master plan sketched out by the Dutch Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in 2008, as part of the research project that Rem Koolhaas, its principal architect, has conducted there since 1996. Based on the original plans, correspondence and reports through which these projects were designed, and on extensive research done on Nigerian newspapers published in Lagos during these different periods, this research describes complex design trajectories, understood as different systems of relations between the means each project mobilised, the context in which they deployed, and the aims they pursued. Bound to Lagos’ history, this analysis also provides entry points in the logic that historically informed modern planning. Analysed in relation to the programme that informed the construction of the Crystal Palace, in London, the same year as Lagos was conquered by the British Empire, in 1851, the three projects this thesis explores are ultimately understood as dynamic devices whose logic can be identified, through the successive although interrelated figures of the plough, the platform, and the plot, according to the progressive deepening of the way in which they interiorised contingency. By understanding Lagos as the mirror image of the Crystal Palace, it ultimately presents this city as a paradigmatic site providing resources to rethink what the disciplines of spatial design such as architecture, design, and planning can do in relation to urban dynamics that are today increasingly considered beyond their reach.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlbena Yaneva (Supervisor) & Lukasz Stanek (Supervisor)


  • Plot
  • Platform
  • Plough
  • Interiorisation
  • Global urbanisation
  • Infrastructural Projects
  • Modern urbanisation
  • Lagos
  • Crystal Palace

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