Place Making: A Study of 'Oja-Oba' Open Space Design in Yoruba Urbanism

Adejumo, T.O (2011-12)

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos


Values inherent in city spaces may be biophysical, social, cultural, religious, economic and political. These values give meaning and determine the level of user’s attachment. When urban space generates meanings to city people, the bond is stronger and ‘space’ at that point transforms to ‘place’. While some city open spaces succeed others failed to meet designed goals. This research investigated the inherent ‘place making’ attributes of Oja - Oba open space (King’s market) in Yoruba urbanism. The study is underpinned by overlapping theories of sense of place, geosophic planning, mimesis and architectural interpretation. The research is influenced by interpretive principles and a philosophical orientation in social constructionism. Research works on ‘place making’ is phenomenological and qualitative. Attempts to unravel the concepts behind open space design in Yoruba urbanism demanded the comprehension of the value system that established them. Grounded theory methodology was used. Data collection through seven scoped reviewed literature on Yoruba urbanism; semi structured interviews from seven Ifa sages on Yoruba urbanism and Oja - Oba; semi structured interviews of ten Oyo sages on Akesan market; and personal observation of Akesan market were undertaken. Concepts generated from the grounded analytical procedure were used to theorize Yoruba urbanism and Oja Oba as premier public space. Akesan open space at Oyo town was studied to verify derived hypothetical propositions. The research revealed that Yoruba urbanism and its open space design is influenced by her Cosmological World View. The cosmological world view is manifested in 16 sided polygonal cosmogram with 4 prominent radiating streets along the cardinal points. The research observed that there is a relationship between Yoruba cosmological world view and institutional framework that sustain Oja-Oba place making. Further revelation shows that Oja-Oba ‘place making’ theoretical propositions were influenced by cosmological world view especially congregation of people for various activities. These activities were identified as ‘eight place’ themes that carry Oja Oba open space design values. They collectively define Oja - Oba open space as Yoruba city symbol. The effectiveness of these themes is enhanced by Yoruba geosophical knowledge in site xiv planning. The study evolved a ‘place making’ conceptual framework that grafted the ‘place themes’ on cardinal orientation influenced by the four Yoruba principal gods. Design works that create Yoruba atmosphere must reflect the influence of the cosmogram on the ‘place themes’ to enhance congregation at public places. This mimetic design and biomorphic planning philosophy is relevant for the spatial branding of Yoruba built environment in this season of cultural globalization threat on nations outside western hemisphere. Based on the findings and conclusion the study recommended the use of ‘architectural numerology’ in open space ‘sense of place’ determination; establishment of dynamic people driven institutional framework for the planning, development and management of public open spaces; redefinition of public spaces policies based on value driven activities for the sum totaldevelopment of 21st century Yoruba city people; incorporation of identified eight ‘place themes’ in open space policies with the goal of creating Yoruba atmosphere in the design, construction and management of city spaces; and conceptualisation of public spaces as part of urban symbolic economic development. These recommendations are to be seen as ‘meaning’ generating policies that will enhance architecture of public ‘place’ in Yoruba urbanism.