There are some efforts now at preserving that heritage, with a few buildings on Lagos Island recently restored, as well as an 1898 building at the nearby Nigerian Railway Corp. compound. While the old Broad Street Prison was torn down, Lagos state recently opened Freedom Park there, with neatly manicured grass, performance space and exhibits noting the site's history.
For John Godwin, an architect who arrived in Nigeria in 1954 from Britain and later became a citizen, Lagos Island is both his home and a bittersweet sight. Godwin spent his career designing some of the country's most iconic buildings with his wife, later serving as a professor at the University of Lagos. He restored the old railway compound house and works on preservation issues with Legacy.
"You have to say that in many areas of Lagos, those building bylaws have been totally ignored," Godwin told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "I think it is making it very difficult for people to live here, I really do. And I think as much as they know that, Lagos is like a drug."
Godwin paused at one moment to collect himself while thinking about his 58 years in the country.
"You get emotional about it," he said, tearing up. "It's a mess. But under that mess, there are a whole lot of very good people."
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.
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