The Black Arts Festival Town
On January 15, 1977, the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture opened in Lagos, Nigeria. Dubbed by The Guardian (Feb.14) as “The greatest cultural show on earth” FESTAC’ 77 was “an extraordinary demonstration of the richness, diversity, and vitality of black art- both contemporary and traditional- throughout the world.”
Following a series of development projects, the Federal Republic of Nigeria assigned Doxiadis Associates (DA) the preparation of the master plan of the Black Arts Festival Town, a new town conceived to provide accommodation for the visitors during the major cultural venue and become “a model residential community with all the necessary functions and facilities to serve a permanent population” after its end.
The new urban scheme was situated in vicinity to Lagos, on the axis connecting Lagos with Dahomey and West Africa and was developed in several phases in order to cope with the tight time limits stipulated by the festival’s organization. DA was in charge both of supervising the construction of the infrastructure installations and of coordinating the development operations and activities of the numerous agencies involved. After its completion, the new town would comprise “24,000 dwelling units for a population of 120,000 distributed in seven communities over an area of 1,770 ha”, providing a substantial alternative to the housing pressures of the Lagos Metropolitan Area.
The Black Arts Festival Town master plan represents the planning principles of Doxiadis’ ekistic theory, organizing seven residential communities around a commercial and administrative center. Each community was planned for 15-20,000 people, containing its own shopping center, schools, recreation areas and other facilities. The communities were “characterized by the complete separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic” while no home was “located more than ten minutes’ walking distance from the local center.” Moreover, continuous strips of recreational areas between the residential communities sought to interconnect their centers and “link the master plan area with larder recreation sites in the Lagos Metropolitan Area.” The planning scheme was complemented with an area of light industry, located on the northern edge of the town, and a sewage treatment plant, 2km south of the town.
The Black Arts Festival, or Festac, Town, is probably Doxiadis’ last planning intervention in Africa, completed posthumously.
(DA Review, October 1974 / DA Review, April 1977)
FESTAC town is commented in the exhibition AFROPOLIS, staged from 5.11.2010 to 13.03.2011 at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne, Germany [module Doing Lagos: Self-organization and urban theory].