Architect Tosin Oshinowo and the United Nations Development Programme Unveil a Community for Displaced Peoples in Nigeria


Responsible for both the master plan and the design, Oshinowo held several meetings with future residents, toured regional buildings and IDP camps, and convened with government stakeholders, as well as curatorial leadership from the Borno State Museum. Those conversations informed her radial site plan, which includes more than 500 homes plus a health clinic, a community center, a shaded market- place, and a police outpost. (Phase two will add 140 more houses.)

Another look at the community.

Landscape: UNDP/Tolulope Sanusi.

Built of sandcrete brick and topped by aluminum roofs, the houses evoke traditional earthen structures, with outdoor kitchens, willow–reed ceilings, Kanuri cultural reception rooms, and land on each plot for auxiliary structures. Yellow, green, and royal blue seen in Bama cap patterns add pops of color to shared facilities. Cross ventilation, solar-powered streetlights, and rainwater harvesting keep the community energy efficient, while local materials minimize the embodied carbon footprint. Security, too, has been incorporated: The town is surrounded by a trench and 10-foot- tall berm, with military towers at the edges and checkpoints on access roads.

A view inside a home.

Landscape: UNDP/Tolulope Sanusi.

The new Ngarannam village is the first architect-designed UNDP project and offers a case study for others that the humanitarian agency is building across Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria. “Recruitment to violent extremist groups happens in areas where you have a high level of deprivation,” explains Mohamed Yahya, UNDP Nigeria’s resident representative. Providing comfort-driven, culturally sensitive, and aesthetically pleasing living spaces, he says, causes “real changes in people’s lives.”

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