WIT Press

Heritage architecture as domestic space: A tale of three buildings in Ile-Ife, Nigeria


Free (open access)


Volume 10 (2015), Issue 1



Page Range

42 - 65

Paper DOI



WIT Press




Ile-Ife, the ancient city symbolizing the very essence of Yoruba ethnicity is, expectedly, culturally significant. Much has been written about its naturalistic bronze and terracotta statues, as well as its festivals and other ritualistic engagements. However, the city’s architectural heritage – encompassing traditional, colonial and colonially facilitated archetypes – is yet to be significantly documented. The paper seeks to showcase some of Ile-Ife’s building heritage, focusing on three houses, built in the Brazilian style, which typify the essentials of the style. Apart from the characteristic architectural features depicted, they also typify the unfortunate trend of benign neglect – increasingly the fate of such buildings in Nigeria. Additionally, the case studies presented have the phenomenon of being currently occupied in common – despite their dilapidated condition. The paper discusses the issues generating the paradox of heritage architecture being left to decay, yet constituting treasured domestic space. It is submitted that the relatively undeveloped state of architectural conservation in Nigeria is responsible for the sharp dichotomy between heritage architecture being either icon or home; elsewhere in the world, it has been possible to combine both – to the optimum advantage of the building.


Heritage architecture, architectural conservation, Ile-Ife, traditional Nigerian architecture, British colonial architecture, Brazilian architecture, domestic space, perception of space, tourism potential of heritage architecture, architectural icon