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Things Fall Apart (atavist.com)
58 points by conanxin 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

That building looks ridiculous for its intended purpose, even at first glance. I guess people just love a good tale, told by a charismatic speaker.

TL;DR: A charismatic Nigerian architect conned Western journalists and philanthropists into thinking he had built an innovative new school structure for serving a slum. He accepted their accolades, press, and prize money even though the school never once actually held classes, and it collapsed in a storm shortly thereafter.

This is, like, a metaphor for something.

ETA: For contrast, here's a credulous article about the floating school from before it fell apart: https://urbannext.net/makoko-floating-school/.

It's also worth noting that the "con" has resulted in the architect having a position as a "Design Critic" at Harvard and he's been a visiting lecturer at quite a few other universities.

yea, that sounds about right

There is a lot of mixed interests colliding here. Is strange how few we know about a country that has 206 millions of citizens. Much bigger than Mexico, Russia, UK or Japan.

I don't see any problem with the architect receiving fame for the project. The only people that will never fail are those that never tried anything. It seems like a good idea poorly executed. The first airplanes were also ridiculously fragile structures if we think about it.

The government basically blocked the project until their momentum was lost. If the problem was that the structure was unsafe, nothing prevented them to use a few petrodollars to fix it or build a better one with a more experienced team of architects. They could do a lot of things, but choose to sit and watch the structure rooting or being dismantled one piece at a time by locals.

It seems also that the locals didn't wanted to support the school. To allocate resources was not a priority for them, and they expected instead for other people overseas paying for the education of his children. A low interest in education and high rate of dropouts is seem often in places taken by narcos or corruption, where illegal activities are much more profitable and appealing to youngsters

As the people was emotionally detached from the project It was useless as source of popularity for the politicians in power. It was obvious also that the project was nurturing some new community leaders. Ambitious people calling themselves "the boss", that were earning some social support and could easily jump to politics later competing for the power. I bet that politicians in power hated that.

Eventually everybody started quitting the project and the only people remaining onboard tried to keep the scam alive for as many time as they could, faking that the school was now just a facade to keep milking donors.

This reminds me to other projects that seemed great in paper but are robbed in the process, or disappear without a trace, like those big balls of bamboo moved by wind that were claimed to be the future of war mine cleaning in poor countries.


Could you please stop posting ideological battle comments to HN? It's not what this site is for, regardless of which flavor you favor.


Fair enough

a "floating building" is a BOAT, and an unmaintained boat is a WRECK, both of which are items having known failure modes and known short lifetimes.

How much money went down that hole? Would it have had a more positive impact if you'd taken it and spread it around the area's kids in cash?

This comment highlighted a gap in my understanding of things a bit: what makes a yacht a yacht vs just a boat?

A Yacht is a large pleasure boat. There's no exact definition, but you wouldn't call a 15 ft motor boat a yacht or a 40 ft work boat. Any well maintained 30 ft plus boat that's not used for commercial purposes could reasonably be called a yacht.

Edited to add: The structure in the article is in my opinion, not a boat: Boats have a means of propulsion, (sails, oars, motor) this floating school is a barge.

"Barge" is a much better word; thank you.

As far as I know (which isnt that far), it's pretty well known that "things people build" + water leads to impermanence. Anything on the water continues to exist because of constant maintenance. This thing didn't look painted.

I wish Isi Etomi well.

Love the title, very apt. It's also the name of a famous Nigerian novel.

Which is presumably taken from Yeats' "Second Coming" (Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world".


Based on the n=1 study that is myself, I would call it "the favourite poem of people who don't like poetry", which is either high praise or the opposite.

Those lines also speak to our times.

I love poetry but strongly dislike most poems, and I've always really liked The Second Coming. So, maybe you do like poetry but just haven't found many poems that work for you.

Back in like 2005, I got a collection of Yeats' poems. It's a big collection and smells like the previous owner read it while smoking inside. It's been a while since I picked it up, and while there are some other poems I like, very few approach the quality of The Second Coming.

I raise you: Fern Hill. Dylan Thomas.


And album by The Roots

Now that you say it, of course! Actually went to a Roots concert once, must have been about 15 years ago :-) "Roots" "Roots" "Roots"

An all time classic. That album is still pure fire.

And a Pema Chodron book.

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