The Cultural Centre and the Millennium Tower of Nigeria, together with the National Square, the new manifesto of Abuja are an eloquent witness to the quality of the development of the city , an ambitious proposal of modern times in contrast but not in opposition to the traditional architecture linked with the colonial idioms. Typically Nigerian to be building a Millennium Tower 11 years after the dawn of the millennium. Even though it raised a few doubts and questions regarding the necessity of allocating public funds to such an ambitious project instead of using it to address social issues, the Millennium Tower stands out as a symbolic hug with which all Nigerian ethnic groups will identify. In terms of social contribution, the whole complex, (Cultural Center, Millennium Tower & National square) which we simply call the Abuja Millennium tower, will surely create employment and be a fountain of cultural enrichment. Abuja especially is Nigeria’s window|contribution to modern urbanism and architecture. An answer to the generally rooted mistrust in the Nigeria’s capacity to Target and Achieve, obviously due to past failures. In a more and more globalized world, where geographical boundaries have been demolished especially by the web, modern cities assume the likeness of open air museums where signature masterpieces by renowned artists are exposed. As the ‘maestro’ Manfredi put it, “Today, our intellectual multimediatic concrete or virtual environment has a global dimension overpowering the notion of a specific limited physical site or place”. In most cases the open air museums masterpieces achieve the best symbiosis between aesthetics, functionality, culture and last of all uniqueness or originality linked to the philosophy of the artist. It is in this context that we collocate yet another signature exhibit, by yet another master of architecture, with world wide recognition, whose creations are inspired by nature without having to copy it. The project is a good balance of both symbolism, iconism and function. The audacity of the new metropolis designed by Kenzo Tange is a good balance of the basic principles of architecture where the form follows the function unlike the hegemony of impressive symbolisms that has invested contemporary arts as well as architecture lately around the globe. The Overwhelming and impressive works of international Archistars like Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava, and Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer, just to name a few, have put minor cities like Bilbao (Spain) with the Guggenheim Museum on the map turning them into must-see architectural sanctuaries to which architects keep paying homage . Now Abuja is honored by this masterpiece which is not just part of the transformation of the capital city, but a source of inspiration and stimulation for illuminated Nigerian architects.
The site, which is a complex unit of architectural happenings still under construction by Salini Nigeria, alongside the Great Mosque, the CBN, the NNPC, the Cathedral and the upcoming Abuja Gate are going to make up the new skyline of the capital city. The architectural symbolism, and urban iconography harbored in the ‘Millennium Tower’convey the direct relationship between political, social, cultural and economic realities typical of our times. This urban context fully represent the aspects and needs of a modern society construct multi functional buildings as a response to the call of a modern and growing dynamic city.
The multi purpose scope that inevitably inspired the millennium Tower project, and generated its iconic characters respond to the needs, not only to bring immediate fame or draw the attention of the general public, but it reflects institutional architecture, commercial development, service economy and recreational needs of a growing economy like Nigeria that aspires to count in the worlds economic geography in the near future.
The use of new materials and eco friendly technologies, in line with the cosmic awareness and call for stronger ties between nature and arts in the save-our-planet fact march, give the complex more of the vibrant welcoming feel of a traditional organic cityI would like to embrace the core philosophy of dReview by not engaging in the role of a pseudo critique not being in possession of the necessary academic background to do so and limit my contribution to sharing the emotional and inspiring impact emanated by ‘maestro’ Manfredi Nicoletti and Luca Nicoletti’s Millenium Tower and projects in general with our readers.
Daniel Daiebi Agiddi
THE NIGERIA CULTURAL CENTER AND MILLENNIUM TOWER ABUJA
The Projected Complex
The Cultural Center and the Millennium Tower of Nigeria, which together with the National Square, make up a single unit, are an eloquent witness to the quality of the great development of the City of Abuja, which from 1991 has been the new capital of Nigeria. The projected complex extends over two adjoining lots in the cultural, religious and administrative heart of the city. It is set in a dominant urban site, at the intersection of the central axis of the new metropolis, designed by Kenzo Tange, and the cult axis that unites the Catholic Cathedral and the Great Mosque.
The site alongside the Great Mosque takes in the Cultural Center and a Botanical Garden where, among other things, the Museum of Nigerian Art and the scientific discovery of Nature are blent harmoniously. It will be the venue of the cultural identity of Nigeria designed to foster meetings, studies and relaxation.
On the lot adjacent to the Great Mosque we find the Millenium Tower, a ‘lighthouse tower’ of 170 metres high which dominates ‘National Square’ rising above an underground parking lot with places for 1100 cars. The Millenium Tower grows from the ground, like a flower surrounded by transparent wings on which is stamped the luminous symbol of the Nation that is visible also by day and is crowned with white and green laser rays. National Square is bound of its East side by the Cultural Center and it is expected to be completed on the South side by the Municipal Building that will house the administration of the Capital City.
An underground Commercial Arcade for shops, bars and services links the Cultural Center and the Millenium Tower which are separated by a road carrying heavy city traffic.
The Nigerian tradition inspires the design
Inspiration for the Nigerian Tradition: the Monumental Shrines in the forest and the Afin Enclave in Old Towns.
The projected Complex draws its inspiration from the important elements in the Nigerian cultural tradition and especially from the Yoruba Tradition: the Shrines and the Monumental Artworks which dotted the Nigerian forests like those in the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove; the “Afin” Enclave that was the political and holy Center within the traditional towns of Nigeria.
In the Osun Sacred Forest, regarded as the abode of the goddess of fertility Osun, the volumetric organisation of the Monumental Shrines consists of a large horizontal base of low elements surmounted by a very tall sculpture, the very symbolic Center of the whole.
Similar is the organization of the Building Complex: the horizontality of the Cultural Center is dominated by the verticality of the Millenium Tower, symbol of Nigeria.
The “Afin” Enclave was a small city within the City. It consisted in a space, protected by walls, where the residence of the King, of his guests, of his wives and of the sacred and economic venues and the other most important organism of the community were located.
Similar is the concept of the Cultural Center. A very large triangular space, housing a small city protected by high lateral walls and a transparent roof. The inner buildings of the Cultural Center hold a variety of different functions: the Museum of Nigerian Art, the Auditorium for concerts and lectures, the Guest rooms of an Hotel and many Shops, Restaurants as well as a Fitness Center. A modern “Afin” for culture and leisure.
The millennium Tower
The Tower is to be the symbol of the Nigerian Nation.
The Tower is like a great flower rising from the forest like the great sacred sculptures of the Forest of Osogobo.
Three large transparent ‘leaves’ envelope the monumental ‘stones’, thus completing the symbolic image of the sacred flower of the forest.
The ‘leaves’ are made of a fabric of steel objects, with very wide mesh, of about 5 m. side and they rise to about 100 m high almost as if to touch the Observatory area.
Visitors will be greeted at National Square level and at level -4.50, by a large external panoramic elevator held up by the three ‘stones’.
On the ‘leaves’ by means of high tech ‘leds’ will be embossed the illuminated Symbol of Coat of Arms of Nigeria that will be visible also during the day, while at the top special beacons will shine out the white and green colours of Nigeria’s national flag.
Three cylindrical “steles” in reinforced concrete of 4.8 m. in diameter, rise from the ground, aimed at the points of an equilateral triangle of 10 m. sides. The three ‘stones’ are structurally linked and rise to a height of 170 m. above the level of National Square. At a height of about 110 m. from the ground the three ‘stele’ prop up an ‘Observatory’, a space of pointed section containing a belvedere and a panoramic restaurant of about 1030 sq.m. as well as attached services.
The tower continues to 8.50 m under the level of National Square to accommodate all the public services such as entry to the tower, various restaurants and souvenir shops and is connected to the Great Commercial Arcade in turn connected to the Cultural Center and the large two level parking area roofed over by the pavement of National Square.
The Cultural Center
Nigeria can boast of having a millenial cultural heritage consisting of objects of various nature: scultures in wood, terracotta and bronze made using the difficult technique of “lost-wax process” and also in other elements of organic material like cloth and decorated wooden panels. One of the main museum’s items will be “the Dafuna Canoe”, the oldest boat ever to be found (6000 bc), housed in a special spherical building.
The Cultural Center consists of an external shell of geometric pyramid shape which isolates acoustically, termically and from atmospheric agents an internal space of about 16.500 sqm where are the buildings and the square that connects them, this within the Capital City a small city closed by a protective envelope is created a kind of modern version of the ancient Nigerian “Afin”.
It contains important cultural and leisure functions which make up a complex of flexible use which mix, in this special environment, walks and squares on various levels, recreating an exceptional city effect.
The outside envelope of the Cultural Center consists of:
1. A triangular roof with about a 10° inclination, having at its Center a semitransparent dome, clad by glazed and opaque panels of about 19.500 sqm.
2. A front glass façade with about a 49° inclination facing NE and about 50 m. from the ground floor looking toward the Aso Rock.
3. Two vertical triangular side façades covered by highly resistant material and facing NW and SE. For the monumental decoration of those facades, two different solutions are proposed. One, based on regular modular geometry underlines the silhouette of the building. The other one is dominated by a gigantic design inspired to Nigerian Afin Tradition.
4. A back glazed façade facing SW where the access of visitors and services are located.
The central axis of the Cultural Center has about a 5° inclination Northwards vis-à-vis the site to get an orientation towards the mountain “Rock Aso”, a sacred symbol for the Abuja.
The interior which has as its floor the triangular base of the pyramid, is a collection of buildings of different shapes and functions that vary from linear to curved.
The Cultural Center is made up of two large buildings which form the side walls of the triangular space. Most of the space will be dedicated to Nigerian Art. It will thus contain: four distinct museums, an Auditorium for 1200 places, a Hall with 360 places for meetings and cinema projection, a Hotel, various offices, shops, restaurants, a Sports Center and a Botanical Garden.
The large roof of the Cultural Center of 19.500 sq.m covers an area of about 16.500 sq.m. It is made up of two distinct functional parts: a reinforcing strip placed at the edges made up of surface level of steel mesh but inkling at about 10° and varying in depth from 10 to 30 m. It is only partially transparent both because of structural requirements and because of the nearness to areas frequented by the public. The central part of the roof consists of a light steel and glass structure having a slight high tension cupola curvature. In that area the building material seems almost to disappear given the play off between the tight and compressed frames. The area is geometrically modelled by the meeting of the three Flat Saddle domes with edge truss similar to shaped arcs.
This form enables to eliminate any pillars from the central internal area of the Cultural Center.
It also makes it possible to use as sheathing material for the roof flat materials and not warped materials, something that gives enormous advantages with glass panels. These latter will eliminate the great part of infrared sun rays and so greatly prevent ‘greenhouse effect’ to the benefit of the micro-climate inside.
• Project title: Abuja National Complex
• Project location: (Town/ city and country) Abuja, Nigeria
• Client: Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ministry of Culture and Tourism – Salini Nigeria Ltd
• Architectural design by: Studio Nicoletti Associati
• Principal Designers: Manfredi Nicoletti and Luca Nicoletti
• Design Team: A. Della Morgia and F. Pagliano Tajani
• Interior design by: Studio Nicoletti Associati
• Landscape design by: Studio Nicoletti Associati
• Structural design by: M. Salabè, A. Rossi – Ingegneri Associati, Roma
• HVAC design by P. Blaude – S.E.I.T.P. Tractebel, Bruxelles, Ingegneri Associati, Rome
• Lighting design by:
• (Also please list any specialist designers and their official roles)
• Main Contractor:
• Landscape contractor:
• Interiors Contractor:
• (Also please list any specialist contractors and their official roles)
• Project QS Salini Nigeria Ltd.
MORE IMAGES OF THE PROJECT