BRITISH STANDARD / LAGOS EXCEPTION
BRITISH STANDARDS in
A legacy of this possibility of Sovereign seizure continues within the Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Regulations, and has been decisive in the planning and urban design of contemporary Lagos. LSPD Regulation 15 defines the minimum permissible setbacks for developments in Lagos State – the minimum distance that any development must step back from its legal boundary. This ranges from 3 to 9 metres in depth, and as such is decisive in terms of defining the maximum developable area on any given site. Furthermore, it defines the urban character of Lagos, outlawing the possibility of either the indigenous courtyard compound, or of the generic European perimeter block, and making Lagos a city of fences and detached buildings. Though the rule developed from the first By Law, which established the distance that gunpowder sparks might spread and set light to thatched roof, its function today is not one of fire protection. The rule is used as a means to define an easement that the State can use for road an infrastructure expansion. The State is at liberty to summarily demolish or re-locate any existing buildings within its depth.
However, while no physical development is legal within this Zone, the Setback – the street frontage of every building in the city – is in fact the most developed, productive and dynamic part of the city. Within this zone is built the ubiquitous fences that define property boundaries, but also the ditches, the only drainage infrastructure in the city, which every property is required to provide. Immediately behind the fence, the space is used for adjunct buildings; security posts, guards houses, generators, storage and utility buildings, and anything else less high than a fence. On the street side, the space is used for ad-hoc and temporary purposes - street-kiosks, garden centres, mechanics and religious spaces – and is the principal space for social and economic exchange in the city. Nothing is legally sanctioned within this zone, but as such, anything might happen. Spontaneous and informal development is ignored within this zone, precisely because it occurs ‘at-risk’. That is, the setback provides a legally defined zone of extra-legal possibility, a regulated zone in which it is nonetheless possible to assume personal responsibility.
Design Research Project: Exhibition at British Pavilion