SAOTA recently designed Kingsway Tower, a new 15 story high rise building in Lagos, Nigeria. The building has a basement, a two-level retail podium, a parking podium and 12 office floor levels.
Not only does the design of Kingsway Tower introduce new architectural ideas to Lagos - the economic center of Nigeria and one of the fastest-growing cities in the world - but it is also uncompromisingly world-class in its quality and execution, reflecting the importance of this emerging market in a global context.
Located in Ikoyi, a prestigious residential neighborhood, Alfred Rewane Road and its surroundings have been rezoned to create a mixed-use corridor, resulting in a boom in office and hotel developments. Much of the development in Lagos, however, has a fairly anonymous character, generally following a standard commercial model with concrete slab and curtain wall facades. "We wanted to design a building that made direct references to the fact that it was in Lagos, with a façade that responded to the local climatic conditions," explained SAOTA Director Greg Truen, lead architect on the project.
The distinctively swollen, billowing form of the tower subtly references the square sails of the traditional boats on Lagos Lagoon while conveying the effect of the gentle breeze that characterizes the climatic conditions of the city. The tower rises above a wavy canopy with a 'woven' pattern on its underside, reminiscent of fabric caught in the breeze. The canopy sweeps around a two-level retail podium, providing shelter at street level and lifting invitingly towards the entrance at the most prominent corner.
The folded, perforated aluminum screens on the tower's outer façade are primarily responsible for the building's iconic identity. SAOTA was, however, careful to avoid direct or literal metaphorical equivalencies. They preferred to abstract the inspiration for its patterning - tropical vegetation, especially palm trees, along the tropical lagoons in and around the city - so that they seem simply "of their place", appropriate to the climate and economy in their aesthetics, practicalities and performance rather than asserting overt cultural references.
The screens on the outer façade are arranged in multiple layers, creating a porous, permeable façade with depth & sculptural quality, that, as Truen puts it, casts "interesting shadows internally as the layers shift against each other."
Unlike typical European and American towers in the modernist tradition, the façade treatment is configured more like a shopfront than a curtain wall. The aluminum screen is positioned at the end of the slab, which not only improves the passive performance of the building by reducing the solar load, but it also allows access around the perimeter for easy cleaning and maintenance.
"The other climatic response was to position the building with the short facades facing east-west, and the long facades north and south," added Truen. "The sun gets into the sky very quickly in Lagos, so you're dealing with a heat load that is coming from a fairly vertical angle. The combination of the overhangs, the shading devices and the north-south elevations is very effective."
The street-level facade below the curved canopy is populated with publicly accessible spaces, tying it meaningfully to its context and presenting a highly open visual connection to the street and sidewalk, particularly on the prominent corner of Glover and Alfred Rewane Roads. At night, LED lighting enhances the impression of openness and accessibility, not to mention its visual impact.
The interior architecture and design of the lobby pick up on the diagonal grid-like element of the canopy, expressed in the paneling as faceted timber triangular elements folded around a diagonal axis. This sculptural approach and simple patterning, along with the use of readily available materials, allowed for all of the joineries to be sourced and built locally.
The bold cone-shaped canopy over the reception desk has an impact from beyond the building, creating interest from the street outside. Like the façade, the interior lobby treatment renders more detail and interest as you approach it.
Photography: Adam Letch