More than half a million people migrate to Lagos every year to start their lives from scratch, inspired by the promise of success the city is believed to hold for those who dare to dream big. Filling up fast with these migrant dreams, the city is predicted to become the world’s most populated by the end of the century. That comes with certain problems.
While the big-city hustle and bustle is often romanticized as a sign of commercial vibrancy, Lagos’ deficit of 2.5 million housing units has been described as a case of uncontrolled urbanization. The government has since attempted a solution, establishing initiatives such as the Lagos State Affordable Public Housing Scheme. But the problem persists.
Some private companies have joined the race towards finding innovative ways to bring affordable housing to Lagosians. One of those companies is Seventh Space, an Africa-focused architectural design studio, which, in late 2020, created the Hommie, a minimalist housing project that makes prefabricated homes out of moveable shipping containers.
For Seventh Space CEO Kayinsade Ademuson, it is personal: after school in Ghana, he returned to his parent’s house in Lagos and decided to live on his own, but then realized there was nowhere he could afford. That led him to seek alternative housing options for people with limited funds.
In 2014, he founded Seventh Space as a way to solve the real estate problem in Nigeria. Believing that a major problem in the country is that buildings are not rising fast enough to cater for the rising population, he turned to the architectural option that provided ultimate speed: moving from “brick and mortar houses to factory-assembled type houses.”
“I have a very deep understanding of space,” Ademuson, tells filmmaker Tayo Aina during an interview. “By understanding space, we are able to maximize the simple areas that a container provides. The 2.4-meter-by-12-meter space was broken into a living room, a kitchen, and a bedroom.”
Asked further about how the apartment manages to look spacious despite the fact that it is in a container, he explains, “One of the major tricks that we use it that we allowed a lot of light to come into this place with big windows. We are also specific about the dimension of furniture pieces that we choose, providing enough room for people to walk around without interfering with the space.”
During the interview, Ademuson gave Aina a tour of one of the “container pads.” Like a regular house, the one-bedroom apartment he displayed has a POP ceiling, glass windows, functional plumbing, air conditioning, electricity, multiple storage spaces, as well as a bedroom, a living room, a bathroom, a kitchen with a two-burner cooker, an automated extractor hood, and a temperature-proof glass top.
“We are trying to make people know that there are multiple materials you can use in building and we are trying to drive the cost down,” he said. “That is a problem we are trying to solve.”
Ademuson’s mission is not unprecedented. The tiny-house movement is a growing architectural culture that prioritizes living in small, affordable housing. Initially appearing after the 2008 global financial crisis which left many homeless, its popularity is now growing at a faster rate in the middle of an economically devastating pandemic.
In 2020, demand for tiny houses in Turkey “increased 20 fold” from the previous year, as the economy’s core sector, tourism, was set to shrink by 70 percent. In January, it was revealed that $1 million had been raised by private companies in Seattle, USA, for the construction of affordable tiny houses that would cut down the city’s homeless population. In Nigeria, companies like Tempohousing are also invested in the creation of sustainable tiny house living options.
With prices starting at N7 million, Ademuson explains that Seventh Space makes “these units available to people who need them and who want to live off-grid or want to tighten their expenses with smaller accommodation.”
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is a journalist, social critic and literary enthusiast. He is the recepient of the 2017 Fisayo Soyombo National Essay Prize, the 2020 Speculative Literary Foundation’s Diverse Writers Grant and the 2020 K&L Prize for African Literature. He is the founder of SprinNG, a platform dedicated to the development of young African writers.