Now Reading


Prestige Magazine by

Freshforte graced the Admiralty Road, Lekki, in a remarkable flair. The cargotecture design was a shift in the hospitality sphere and it bodes well for the future of retail in Lagos. In a chat with the brainchild of Freshforte, Stefanie Adisa, the founder of Studio Elementals, we discussed how the process of setting up a unique structure like Freshforte went. 

Prestige Magazine by

Tell Us About Yourself and Studio Elementals

Let me start by talking about Studio Elementals. We are an architectural practice that engages in building design. We are trying to find a niche within the architectural landscape in Nigeria and the world. An important approach we utilize is  to take a building’s general location into account and then design something suitable for that location, program, and client—a unique and innovative solution for each building. 

I am from Vienna, Austria, where I lived before coming to Nigeria. Also, I studied Architecture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. I had amazing professors like Wolf D. Prix and Hani Rashid. There was also Zaha Hadid and Greg Lynn. I can’t deny their influence on me, and they would have influenced any of their other students as well. 

The way I was brought up architecturally is that we shouldn’t be constrained to what architecture is or what buildings are. We should be able to have designs that can fly, move, and be inspired by any topic, even the neuroplasticity of the brain or food. We were trained to think outside the box and to be generally creative. So with this background, I made my way to Nigeria in 2015 where I briefly worked for NLÉ Works before founding Studio Elementals in Lagos. We have a small team at the moment and we are aspiring for more, trying to make architecture that hasn’t been seen before. 

I am a sporty person, and I try to do a lot of exercises; I run and walk. I do yoga, and I used to be very musical as well. I played the piano, cello, and drums. That is something I’m trying to get back to. In the last decade, architecture has really taken over my life. And then of course, meeting friends and family is key.

Prestige Magazine by

We Look at Freshforte as an Outstanding and Innovative Cargotecture Design. What were the Ideas and Thoughts Behind It?

I have to say that our client, Freshforte, was very open-minded, and the goal was to produce a landmark. Something that would stand out in the urban context and something that is a unique structure and offers a special experience. A structure that people would be naturally attracted to, want to look out for in a curious way, and want to understand what it is. 

With that in mind, we had to think outside the box and look at how we can create this kind of attraction around an area that is quite buzzing. Admiralty Way is an important axis and has a lot of buildings on it already. The task was to really come up with something beautiful that stands out from the environment and that has all the building’s needs. 

Secondly, the building was meant to be a temporary structure initially, due to land constraints. With the task of building something temporary, we only had two options: a tent structure or a container structure in terms of Nigerian law. 

We liked the idea of the container structure, and really wanted to see how we can produce something a bit more extraordinary using containers. You have to understand that containers are quite limiting in terms of space because they have a particular shape already. To work with containers and produce a shape that’s not just a box is quite a challenge. The goal was to find a way to produce spaces by cutting open containers and arranging them in different ways to come up with what we have now. 

Prestige Magazine by

Containers are Made of Steel and are Subject to Change Due to Environmental and Climatic Factors. What is the Plan to Maintain Freshforte?

I think this is a very valid question. The first thing that needs to be said is that we live in a harsh environment here. The proximity to the ocean and tropical climate are not easy to work with compared to other environments, and buildings generally age quicker. So taking this into account, regular maintenance such as repainting, and making sure everything is kept in perfect order will be necessary.

In terms of the container material which heats up quickly if it gets too much solar radiation, we have made sure that a large part of the building is shaded. That was one of the arguments for the triangular mesh façade, because it creates shading for the building. It also made sure that the interior spaces are a bit more protected from the environment- sun, wind, and rain. 

In terms of expansion, the whole building is basically made from metal, and from light construction materials such as drywalls. 

Prestige Magazine by

What are the Challenges You Experienced When You were Putting Up the Project?

One definite challenge was the typical Lagos soil. Any property close to the water usually has some difficulty because the soil is very soft and probably also salty. That is something that always needs to be considered when planning foundations. Another challenge was the shape of the building and the use of many non-standard details and building techniques. While the building was under construction, training for welders had to be conducted and made sure that the construction was well supervised so that the designed geometry was followed as much as possible. As you can imagine, constructing the triangulated facade wasn’t easy. To put up a complex geometry naturally comes with challenges. If you would build the same structure in another country, there would be different CNC fabrication techniques available. Freshforte on the other hand was all built by hand . 

I also have to commend all the people involved in building the structure, especially Adisa Design Studio, the general contractor because they made sure that the shapes were built correctly.

Prestige Magazine by

From the Design Stage to What it is Now, How Many Months Did it Take You to Deliver on This Project?

The main construction itself took about four months, but to fine-tune the interior fit-out, machinery and equipment, altogether, took about a year. The planning started a few months ahead of time. So, all in all, it took one and a half years to complete the building.

Nigeria is Facing a Huge Housing Deficit. Do You Think Nigeria can Adopt Cargotecture to Solve the Shortfall?

At the moment, I don’t see the benefit of using containers on a large scale for housing in Nigeria. And I don’t think it is the answer to the density and low-cost housing problem in Nigeria. 

There are many aspects to be considered.  The Freshforte building has sparked an interest in cargotecture. There is a common thought that building with containers is cheaper, but that’s often not the case, it depends on the needs of the structure. 

Using an old shipping container and turning it into something useful is good. But the spatial constraint of the shape and the low ceiling height is making it hard to work with. 

By the time the containers are being cut open, the structural strength is lost. After reinforcements are added, interior fit-out is done, and insulation applied, the cost saving benefits can be gone. 

Prestige Magazine by

What Next Big Project Should We Look Out For From Studio Elementals?

We have some projects planned in Lagos and Benin City—different kinds of projects. An office building, residential and housing estates. There is also a beach development coming up in Lagos. Things are moving, so in a few months, there should be some news.


What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Disclaimer: The publishers have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of information for this publication. They will not be held liable for any errors therein.

COPYRIGHT 2021 Prestige Magazine and ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Scroll To Top