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Uncovering the city: Abuja

Wide avenues, extensive green areas and government buildings on a monumental axis. A typical scene of cities like Brasilia, Washington D.C. or Canberra, which were built from scratch to serve as new government headquarters. Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, also shares a similar story, but with a very different socioeconomic context.

The construction of Abuja began in the early 1970s and officially became the capital of Nigeria in December 1991, replacing the congested and overpopulated city of Lagos. Abuja was built for reasons similar to those of Brasilia, as both sought to move political power away from their original capitals. Additionally, Abuja has a strategic location in the centre of Nigeria and also houses the main centres of worship of the two main religions of the country: Christianity and Islam.





27 years after the establishment as a national capital, Abuja has become the second largest metropolis in Nigeria, with a population close to three million inhabitants. A number that…

Cities from the scratch then and now: Premodern capitals

Many cities around the world have been planned and built from scratch. Although this is not something invented by modern urbanism, since the mid-nineteenth century the rise of industrialization and the emergence of new states and countries have led to the creation of new settlements with different purposes, ranging from their function as national capital or state, to simply serve as a dormitory for workers and families.
Cities designed from scratch have also served as real-scale experimentation laboratories for some of the most widespread theories of urbanism in the last two centuries. From the garden cities and even the modern movement, these settlements have allowed us to learn from the successes and mistakes about many aspects of urban design and planning.

A good way to reflect on this experience is to make a comparison between the original master plans and the current state of those cities. There are, of course, many political, economic and social factors that have influenced whe…