The Changing Faces Of The Concrete Balustrade In Nigerian Vernacular Architecture
Free (open access)
395 - 409
C. O. Osasona & F. O. Ewemade
A balustrade is an architectural contrivance used to delimit space, as an aesthetic complement, to provide protection, or for a combination of these functions. It is associated mainly with bridges, balconies and staircases. In the context of balconies and verandas, it is more a feature of tropical and the Mediterranean, rather than temperate climates. In Nigeria, the balustrade dates back to colonial and colonially-facilitated architecture. It has been observed that, with the entrenchment of vernacular practices, rather than dim in prominence (with the fading away of the ornate Brazilian style) it is progressively being re-crafted and re-contextualized – demonstrating its wide acceptance and versatility. While materials such as glass and wrought-iron feature prominently in modern expressions, in the light of the ongoing romance with re-visiting pseudo- Classical orders in contemporary architecture in the country, the concrete balustrade appears to have come into its own again. Contemporary practice favours the baluster-type balustrade. Traditional motifs included stylized floral, geometric or abstract, and even featured customizing calligraphy. Traditional production methods and implements were basic, and the output somewhat crude. Contemporary-type balustrades could be factory-produced (hence, standardized and exhibiting greater finesse) or also casually produced. This paper focuses on the transformations that have taken place in formal expressions of the concrete balustrade in Nigeria, using the southwest as a case-study. It traces the origins of the concrete balustrade in Nigeria (observing the motifs and crafting techniques) and in the light of various predisposing factors (such as wide social acceptability and economic sustainability) and identifies the current revival of the craft as a possible defining phenomenon underpinning architecture-based tourism in the country.
baluster, balustrade, Nigerian vernacular architecture, Afro-Brazilian, Brazilian architecture, wooden dummy, quarry dust, mould, plaster-of-Paris, stylistic revival