Changing urban housing form and organization in Nigeria: lessons for community planning
There has been very little research interest in historically changing patterns of urban housing form and organization and the quality of life experienced by ordinary people in designed settings. This is despite the arguments of humanistic geographers and contemporary environmental psychologists that the behavioural and socio-cultural aspects of built form imbue environments with meanings and help to create a sense of place. This paper focuses on the development of housing forms in Nigerian cities, including the cultural motifs and the economic circumstances that have shaped their evolution over time. The analysis of pre-colonial traditional housing forms at the core of cities is presented first followed by an appraisal of newer developments at the suburbs that were stimulated by colonial and post-colonial market-driven economies. Drawing on the divergent examples of the transition from traditional to modern urban housing forms, the paper reveals that social changes, particularly the shift from traditional communal family values to more Western ways of life, have had variegated impacts on building forms and residential layouts. One of these is inhabitants' alienation from the urban environment and the seeming identification with home places of origin outside the city. The paper argues that while this situation poses a major challenge to urban planning in post-colonial Nigeria, professional planning practice seems to have demonstrated little interest in what people think or feel about places. Ways in which new housing forms may be organized and incorporated into future programmes of urban development to promote communal belonging to Nigerian cities are articulated.
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