The Use of Physical Space in Architecture

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Physical space

The term environment is onerous to deal with when attempting to definite it concisely. However as Caldwell (1980) assert “everyone understands the term but nobody is able to define it”. One needs to be assiduous, both in identify and restricting it scope because it circumscribe anything from the biosphere to the smallest creature (Ladan, 2009). The environment on an international scale is given by the broad ranges of issue being addressed globally. It includes sustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity, and outstanding natural heritage, protection of the ozone layer, atmosphere, climate, and quality of life, safeguarding of human health and thus making environmental structure and spaces accessibility to all. With a broader perspective, the environment encompasses the physical, economic, cultural, aesthetic and social spaces. For this thesis work, emphasis shall be on the physical space, which is an integral part of the environment. The physical space here refers to the built environment.

The perspective of architects and city designers are such that the physical environment, to a large extent is referred to as the built environment. Ahianaba, Dimuna and Okungun (2008) stated that, built environment is the buildings and spaces between them. There is a relationship and interaction between the buildings and the spaces. The built environment in many developing countries is becoming progressively worse. Peculiarly Nigeria built environment is in a state of despair. According to World Bank (2005), a lot of factors are thus accountable to the deteriorating status of Nigerian built environment. Unplanned city design approaches, rural-urban migration, rapid urbanization, regular economic downturns, disregard of urban housekeeping, putrefaction of urban infrastructures, to name but a few of them. Another significant deterring factor of the Nigerian urban built environment is non-compliance with building bye-laws and regulations. This heedlessness consequences continually brings traffic injury, dehumanization and overturns the civic pride (Ahianaba et al., 2008).

Ahianaba et al., (2008) further argues that in the formation of any environment, the physical environment is considered as the most important integral. The physical environment avails organisms, individuals and at large, the populace a direct contact and interaction. This interaction and relationship are mostly obvious and real. The relationship between human health and the physical space can’t be over-emphasised. An improved housing system with accessibility for all features, good sanitation, recreational facilities, and environmental hygiene could set a pace for an enabling built environment. The issues of overcrowding, slums development and squatter settlement, all have negative influences on our built environment.

One of the focus of this research work is to comprehend how a single predicament i.e. an architectural design in the built environment is holding the citizenry from very personal to economic sphere of life. In an attempt to unravel this single design impediment, we need to holistically look at the Nigeria built environment. It is not a far fetch truth that developed nations are seeking and advocating remodelling of old buildings and increasing accessibility features in new buildings to carter for the growing disabled and aged populace. (ADA 2010; Equality Act 2010; ILO 2002; UNCRPD 2006). In Nigeria context as enunciated by Ahianba (2008), Nigeria built environment is fast decaying. A putrefy built environment can therefore not focus on accessibility feature, her priority will be how to get out the present state of despair.

The Nigeria built environment, deteriorating as a result of rural built environment lacking provision of basic amenities. Where this amenities are provided, they are inadequate and do not function effectively due to laxity of relevant Nigeria authorities. This has led to high rate of rural-urban migration. The urban space, therefore has to contend with overcrowding, substandard housing system. As a result of this migration shift from rural space to urban space, pressures are on architects and city designers to carter for the teeming migrating populace. Nigeria characterised of an unplanned physical space, has two issues to face with. Accommodating the new urban dweller and how effectively they will participate in the degenerating “unplanned” urban space. Ahianba et al., (2008), posit that “to improve our built environment, there should be provision of basic infrastructural amenities, standard housing, reduction of overcrowding, good sanitation and compliance with building bye-laws and regulation”

Nigeria urban space is overcrowded as a result of increase in her population and insufficient housing. Lagos, Ibadan, kano, Enugu, Benin city etc., are Nigeria high density urban cities. The ratio of occupancy per room in urban spaces is as high as 1:6 or 1:10 (Federal Offices of Statics, 2001). Overcrowding of Nigeria public space causes environmental pollution, deteriorate professional and social services, destroys the beaches, recreational facilities and parks, etc. (Dubos, 1967). The overcrowding issues of our urban space constraint the government into looking at the how the public spaces could be accessible and functional for her senior citizen as they age. Government scope is being limited to how to resolve the overcrowding. Disability and accessibility as a social issue (Gleeson 1993; Oliver 1996) is a problem that has a social and health effects (Asbell 1975; Chombant 1979).The United Nation (1975) believes that African lives in dwelling and interact in a public space that is perilous and a cause of human indignity. This is mostly reflected in Nigeria housing system, which sometimes lacks conventional and natural ventilation, lighting and sunlight shading devices, buffers to reduce noise pollution and pedestrians for walk-way path of her citizenry. These issues can’t be over-emphasised, they are indispensable facet of comfortable living.

The urban spaces are not planned, it is a product of “grown” development. It sprang and developed from villages and trade post. However, they still retain their obsolete semi-permanent buildings. These are reasons for Nigeria buildings, springing up haphazardly, roads are narrow, settlement are squatters, increase rate of slum development, squalid environment, insufficient traffic signs, etc. The poor ventilation in Nigerian building designs causes her citizens to sleep outside during dry season. Their house are either not well cross-ventilated or being block by another house or fence. World Health Organisation core function includes promotion of good housing, enabling public spaces which must be environmentally hygienic (WHO, 1946). Borrowing from Osuide (2004), one of the fundamental dignity, physical and mental health, is having a safe place to dwell. Odomudu (1987) and Sarinen (1966) argues that a good dwelling and a functional public space intensify the wellbeing and aspiration of the citizenry because the dwelling place and public spaces are where domestic and personal function of each individuals takes places. The physical and mental health of a person depends greatly on his or her environment. An individual and his or her home are centrepiece of society (Aihana et al., 2008).

According to Ahianba et al., (2008), to achieve a functional and healthier built environment, on a Nigeria context, based on her present built environment predicament. Creation of aesthetics values, beautify the urban environment, good landscaping and visual satisfying open spaces should be integrated into the design scheme of architects and city designers. Advocating of an equal urban and rural settlement, which should be conceptualised in an orderly fashion way of a good professionals planning. Government policies should be re-evaluated with a possibility for amendment and new laws or acts emanating and strict compliance with existing building law. Non-compliance with Nigeria building bye-laws and regulations is one of the essential factor responsible for Nigeria decaying built environment (Ahianba et al., 2008). In the sub section of this chapter, it holistically looks at Nigeria building bye-laws and regulations with the view that if the law is being strictly adhere to, maybe, it will further improve the quality of Nigeria built environment and perhaps, accessible to all her citizenry. The town planning rules and laws are being violated, which resulted to improper planning of the environment.

In the creation of a built environment, the issue of housing is not an exceptional. Salama (2006) argues that housing is the platform for the creation of living environment for man and his cater for his psychological and social development. The issue of accessibility in a man's house can't be overemphasized because housing transcend the physical dimension of shelter provision for man but it encompasses the general environment within the building, which avail social services and infrastructural services for optimum satisfaction of the using populace. Housing as a total environment in which man lives and grow, should have accessibility feature included at the scratch of the architectural design and not improvised at construction or usage stage. The accessibility issue thus correlate between the quality of life and the quality of the physical environment in which ones lives.

Housing forms in Nigeria have over the years wear a tremendous changes in content, form, structure and spatial planning as a result of our fragile planet, change is the only constant thing. This changes according to sa'ad and ogunsusi (1996) have indelible consequences on the lifestyles of Nigerians and it thus affects their orientation of the physical space. Housing as a reflection of cultural, social and economic values of any society as to be given proper consideration of planning and governmental policy should be geared toward attaining a humane and responsive environment.

Housing which is a form of shelter and a larger part of any nations built environment, is one of the basic necessity of man’s existence. Olotuah (1997a, 2002a) argues that the inadequacy of housing threatens the very basis of his existences. It enhances the welfare, social participation and productivity of man. The United Nation (1971) adopted that every citizens deserve an access to adequate housing without any hindrance whatsoever. The UN (1971) and by its endorsement in 1976 by 131 other countries, was bore out of the circumstances of the need to improve the housing standard and inadequacy of the nation’s poor majority. Her central aim is the provision of appropriate housing within the economic reach of the majority of the populace. Nigeria is a party to this treaty but yet Nigeria government still finds it hard to provide an enabling environment for housing provision, let alone an accessible housing for her citizenry. (Olotuah, 2002a).

The Nigerian government housing programmes have not been able to match the rising populace. It been left to the hands of the private sectors. In Nigeria today, the private sector provide the bulk of the housing stock which do not have accessibility feature because their designs are not socially oriented but profit oriented (Olotuah, 2009). For this reason vast of the populace will not look out for accessibility features in the building, rather will consider how the housing stock could be increased to meet the high demand. It is the opinion of the researcher that as much as there is a decline in the Nigeria housing stock. Introduction of accessible feature in new designs and an attempt to remodel existing structures, will not incur an extra cost of construction but it will help promote the United Nations (1979) adoption. Furthermore, making the Nigeria built environment friendlier and less discriminative to the people of different capabilities, which do have their own socio-economic values to the economy of the country.

The Nigerian architects have a great role to play in face-lifting of our built environment. The quality of human habitat is a central architectural issue in attaining a humane and responsive environment (Olotuah, 2009). The architectural design must be in such a way that it improves the quality of the human environment through an orderly development of the human environment.