In Reflections



Upon entering the pavilion, the visitor finds himself in an ellipse, a time-space map. Consists of three sequences:

1 BLANK MAP – tabula rasa

2 ARCHIVE – the former present; archive of intentions that gradually infill the blank map

3 THE TRIP TO LAGOS – the actual present; the film taken on the trip to Lagos

By transforming the space of pavilion into an ellipsoid spatial-temporal map which brings together archive of intention with current situation of the fair the visitors are invited to reflect and situate themselves in the potentiality of the new types of built environment. 

The former present

After the traumatic age of colonial rule, the non-alignment policy in the 1960s and 1970s profoundly influenced the societies of the independent states of the African continent. These changes were also reflected in the process of transformation of African cities, in which Yugoslav architects played a prominent role.

The Non-Aligned Movement, as a specific international organization, promoted a policy that embodied anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, independence, emancipation and coexistence between countries. As one of the movement’s leaders, Yugoslavia established an active cooperation among member states, the realization of which included many construction projects related to modernization – industrialization and urbanization of the young multinational countries in Africa.

The first summit of the Non-Aligned Movement was held in Belgrade in 1961 and its purpose was to represent Yugoslavia, which was also undergoing modernization. The presence of Yugoslav companies on the African continent dates back to that period. Among those operating in the countries of the Global South, the Belgrade-based company Energoprojekt had the most construction projects. A number of architects from this company designed buildings in Africa, Asia and Latin America, some of which, conceived as reflections of the future, have become symbols of the modernization and independence of their respective countries. Many of the structures built by Energoprojekt were intended for the role of international cooperation, such as congress centres, hotels, airports and international fairs. These developments put African cities on the global map after the age of colonization. Yugoslav architects worked in a spirit of non-alignment and international cooperation, and their projects were accompanied by analyses of local culture, surveys among local populations and implementation of the knowledge acquired in the field. On the other hand, Yugoslav architects employed their engineering skills based on the principles of efficiency and optimality.

The central feature of the exhibition of the Serbian Pavilion is the International Trade Fair in Lagos, a project designed and led by the architect Zoran Bojović. The Lagos Fair project, which was selected in an international competition and implemented between 1974 and 1976, involved urbanizing 350 hectares of wetlands. Efficiency and speed dictated the construction logic, so the modelling of more than 120,000 m2 of exhibition halls was reduced to multiplying one module – an equilateral triangle with sides of 7.2 m. The structure itself was a symbol of the newly founded multinational state. The design of the complex represents a reflection of an independent future, leaving the colonial past behind. 

The actual present

The fact that archives are scarce and inaccessible says a lot about our community, which has chosen to neglect this knowledge. The past discussed here has little to do with the social and political circumstances in which authors live and work, and it does not even belong to them generationally. Thus the architects, in search of the architecture, travelled to Lagos, to the challenging present of a dynamic megalopolis, with the intent to establish their own relationship with this architecture in a direct experience.

Once an opening and a destination for the world to gather, the Lagos International Fair today is a place under a pressure of the weight and density of a growing metropolis. Due to the economic crisis that affected Africa, the activities of the Trade Fair Complex were discontinued in the 1980s, the halls were abandoned to the end of the 90s. The practice of founding hypermarkets for wholesale trade with West Africa began in the 2000s. Surrounded by barracks and storages built in the last twenty years, architecture of the fair halls needs to be re-read, not in the context of its fidelity to the past and original intentions, but in relation to the future, still open. This is the position that drawn the authors to the fair in February. Through research, they strive to establish spatial and temporal reflections and, as a result, present an potentials of this architecture. 

Thus, we see the International Trade Fair in Lagos as a project of the city, an architectural project and a project of man, whose present is always current.

The trip to Lagos and encounters with the Fair aim to reassess and activate architectural connections associated with these spaces today. In the context of the future challenges, the fair is revisited to reaffirm the urgency and potential of the present moment and importance of identifying such structures as resources.

@ 2023 In Reflections / CONTACT