Environment and Adaptation in Architecture Planning and Building Designs; Lesson from the Forest Region of West Africa


In many regions of the world, the natural environment is sometimes severe. Consequently, many methods of adapting architecture to the natural environment are usually provided by man. Traditional architecture is one of these methods. Various types of these traditional architectural designs are found in West Africa. There are, for example, one-room designs with common toilets, common source of water, sanitation and other facilities. There are also group houses and compounds the characteristics of which reflect the traditions of the various tribes and their family life. Many of the architectural design of these houses reflect the significance of the environment and indicate the need to take advantage of the traditional architecture in modern architecture. In spite of the significance of traditional architecture, particularly for adapting to the environment, not much has been done to examine the characteristics and the need to take the advantage of traditional architecture in modern architecture. This is for example the case in West Africa where, even in rural areas, the present day architecture have done a lot to alienate traditional cultures in designs, and eliminate local skills, making the local artisans obsolete. Also, most available studies and books discuss mainly modern architecture to the neglect of traditional architecture. Thus, “environmental decay” has been increasing at an alarming rate, and the “abuse of the environment” has become responsible for a lot of major ecological imbalances. With modern architecture, and the orientation of development towards the Western model, as well as the neglect of the concept of traditional architecture which, in many cases, is in harmony with nature, and with little emphasis on indigenous resources makes the concept of housing for all a mirage. Thus, the need to create ‘model’ architecture with improved housing facilities using local resources and involving community participation with strong motivation cannot be over-emphasized. In doing this, the first step of a good knowledge of the ‘concept’ and characteristics of traditional architecture is essential. Thus, there is an urgent need to have information on the characteristics and usefulness of traditional architecture. This need is of interest to this book, the purpose of which is to document the characteristics of traditional architecture. The study illustrates these characteristics by using major tribes in West Africa.

Keywords: Adaptation, Architecture, Building Design, Environment, West Africa

Unique Article ID: IJPHG-122

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