Preserving the Legacy: The Architectural Heritage of Obafemi Awolowo University, Africa’s most beautiful campus


Preserving the Legacy: The Architectural Heritage of Obafemi Awolowo University, Africa’s most beautiful campus

The University of Ife in Western Nigeria, now known as the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria (OAU), was established just before independence in 1960. Designed by Israeli architect Arieh Sharon, the campus features a cohesive composition of buildings constructed between 1963 and 1980. These structures, along with newer additions, form an independent campus town. Recognized as part of the Bauhaus international heritage, the campus core has gained significance in modern architecture. It is recognised as the most iconic examples of modernist campus architecture in Africa.

However, due to neglect and changing needs, there is a pressing need for conservation efforts to preserve its historical integrity. As part of the Conservation Management Plan initiated during the Bauhaus anniversary in 2019, six buildings in the campus core are being considered for national monument status, with the ultimate goal of UNESCO world heritage recognition. Funding for the conservation efforts has been provided by Getty and the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Led by an interdisciplinary team, including Brenne Architekten, professors from the Department of Architecture, OAU, other international collaborators and Stagray Associates, the project aims to safeguard the architectural heritage of OAU for future generations.

The event on May 10 marks the commencement of an exhibition highlighting the ongoing efforts of stakeholders to preserve the modern architecture of the campus and its significance in global architectural discourse. A panel discussion will feature Professors Bayo Amole and Babatunde Jaiyeoba from Obafemi Awolowo University, along with Ms. Nkechi Adedeji from the National Council for Museums, Monuments and Sites, and Dr. Oluwatoyin Zainab Sogbesan, President of ICOMOS-Nigeria. They will discuss the OAU Ile-Ife Conservation Management Plan Project, funded by Getty Keeping-It-Modern 2020 and supported by Gerda Henkel Stiftung, focusing on conservation and heritage management in Nigeria. This exhibition, funded by the Goethe-Institut and partners, will run from May 10 to July 28, 2024.

 During the exhibition, additional programs will include online presentations by the international team of experts working to maintain and enhance the campus’s global acclaim to present and future stakeholders as well as a campus tour for visitors.