Adjaye Associates reveals vision for Edo Museum of West African Art in Nigeria

Edo Museum of West African Art in Nigeria by Adjaye Associates

Architecture studio Adjaye Associates has revealed its concept for a museum dedicated to west African art, which will be built in Benin City, Nigeria.

Named the Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA), the museum is planned for a site in the centre of Benin City next to Oba’s Palace – the home of Kingdom of Benin royals.

Edo Museum of West African Art by Adjaye Associates
Adjaye Associates has designed the Edo Museum of West African Art

The project forms part of an initiative being led by The Legacy Restoration Trust and the British Museum to showcase the history and archaeology of the former Kingdom of Benin.

Adjaye Associates‘ building will house historic art and artefacts as well as incorporate galleries dedicated to contemporary arts.

It is also planned to feature archaeological remains found during construction and may include reconstructions of the structures that formerly occupied the site.

Gallery at Edo Museum of West African Art
The first floor will contain seven galleries with raised ceilings

“I am humbled and deeply inspired to design the new EMOWAA, a project that will establish a new museum paradigm for Africa,” said Adjaye Associates founder David Adjaye.

“From an initial glance at the preliminary design concept, one might believe this is a traditional museum but, really, what we are proposing is an undoing of the objectification that has happened in the West through full reconstruction.”

Reconstructed building in Edo Museum of West African Art
Galleries may contain reconstructed buildings that were previously on the site

The concept building consists of a two-storey block with seven gallery spaces on the upper floor and service spaces, offices and auditoriums on the ground floor.

Each gallery will each have high ceilings that extend from the main building to appear like a series of pavilions from the building’s exterior. The museum will also contain a taller tower that will be a viewpoint.

According to Adjaye, the building’s arrangement is derived from the ruins of the historic city that the current Benin City stands above.

Contemporary art gallery
The museum will also contain galleries dedicated to contemporary art

“Applying our research into Benin’s extraordinary ruins, the city’s orthogonal walls and its courtyard networks, the museum design reconstructs the inhabitation of these forms as pavilions that enable the recontextualisation of artefacts,” said Adjaye.

“Decoupling from the Western museum model, the EMOWAA will perform as a reteaching tool –  a place for recalling lost collective memories of the past to instil an understanding of the magnitude and importance of these civilizations and cultures.”

Teaching room in Adjaye Associates gallery
Teaching spaces will be located on the ground floor

Construction of the museum is planned to happen after a five-year archaeology project takes place on the site and its immediate surroundings to investigate the former capital of the Kingdom of Benin.

The kingdom was one of the most significant pre-colonial states in west Africa before it was conquered by the British in 1897 when large areas of Benin City were destroyed. The city was known for castings in brass and bronze called Benin Bronzes, many of which are now in the British Museum.

All finds from the archaeological excavations will become part of the EMOWAA museum collection and will remain in Nigeria.

Adjaye Associates was established by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye in 2000. To celebrate Adjaye being awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal we rounded up ten of the studios most significant projects.

The studio recently revealed its design for Le Mémorial des Martyrs, which is set to be built in Niamey, Niger.

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