There’s a Big Black Box in the Middle of Maryland
Is it a top secret government facility? Err, that wouldn’t make sense as it’s so conspicuous. Maybe it’s some experimental building form? Some kind of factory? Secret society headquarters? Again, too conspicuous… It could always be a new church. Nope. I rode past this building twice before it finally clicked that it’s Maryland Mall.
So, yes, another mall is coming to Lagos. Right in the heart of Maryland, just a few metres from the Independence Tunnel, and directly on Ikorodu Road, lies another addition to a long list of capital intensive development projects in Lagos, The developers are Purple Capital Partners Limited, and it was designed by cmD+A (cmDesign Atelier) headed by the more than capable Tosin Oshinowo.
Initially, I was indifferent. I thought, ‘Cool, another place to go buy stuff.’ And this was going to be a cute post about the box and what it was going to be. But after reading the brochure, I can’t say I’m eager. Guess the major achievement of this new development: ‘the mall is set to hoist the largest digital LED screen in West Africa. Illuminating both sides of the voluminous Ikorodu Road traffic, this screen is guaranteed to be a must see major landmark on the mainland’ (direct quote from brochure). Why don’t we just call it one massive billboard? Forgive my lack of enthusiasm, but the expression on my face can be summed up in one symbol – ?. Must see major landmark? A supersized LED screen? Can that statement really be an insinuation that a huge LED billboard is an urban ‘attraction’? …?
Another thing I can’t come to grips with is the actual design of the mall. I tend to be wary of criticising other people’s creative work, because a lot of times a truckload of effort has been invested, no matter the medium or the output. And having trained in architecture myself, I can imagine the number of months of sweat and sleepless nights it would have taken to complete the design process, And now that the project is under construction, I can only imagine the amount of manpower, time, and resources being poured into it. But still in light of all this, sadly I have to say it’s not very awe-inspiring. It’s just so… bleh. Perhaps the interior will be fabulous… And it’s really surprising because I would say I’m a huge supporter of what little I’ve seen of cmD+A work, but this one I can’t swallow for some reason. Maybe it’s the overly purpleness of it, or that it seems so heavy and rigid. It’s just not working for me.Lagos is being sold off, plot by plot, to the highest bidders. It seems like everything is being privatised (see examples here, and here). And to be fair, it’s not likely the LASG will meet up with the city’s needs without serious support from the private sector. But the trouble with this is that, it runs the risk of becoming a money game – where big billboards become an achievement and communities are slowly eroded. It feels like we’re struggling to catch up on years of underdevelopment. Which is fine. Yes, let’s make up for lost time. What I do not understand or appreciate however, is this rush to ‘do’, to build’, to ‘host’, completely disregarding the precedents that other developed cities have set. Lagos’ relative ‘underdevelopment’ is an opportunity to avoid obvious mistakes, capitalise on unspoiled avenues, and build a sustainable future for the city. But recent urban trends – an example of which is the mallification of the city (I plan on doing a follow up piece on this), seem to show that we are either oblivious to, or deliberately ignoring lessons that can be leaned from developed cities.
Which way Lagos?Èkó ò ní bàjé!