Lagos Wide and Close: Rem Koolhaas Speaks on Africa’s Most Populous City

In April 2014, Bregtje van der Haak, a film director from the Netherlands interviews Rem Koolhaas about his research on urbanisation in the fast growing metropolis of Lagos, in Nigeria. Bregtje van der Haak also collaborated with Koolhaas on the interactive documentary “Lagos Wide & Close”, which was released on DVD in 2004. The acclaimed interactive documentary is now available online here.

You can also read this article by the guardian in which Rem Koolhaas and Kunle Adeyemi discuss their 1997 ‘study-tour’ of Lagos as well as the past, present and future of the city.

From the press release:

10 Years after its release, Submarine Channel’s timeless interactive documentary with Rem Koolhaas et al. is ported from DVD to the web. With improved features of course. Explore the sprawling African megalopolis of Lagos. Choose at any moment between a bird’s eye view or a close up view of Lagos, and choose between three different audio tracks.

The web version of “Lagos Wide and Close” was adapted from the groundbreaking 2004 interactive DVD. As one of the first interactive documentaries ever made, the film offers a rare documentation of Lagos at a volatile moment in its evolution.

The Lagos research project by Rem Koolhaas and The Harvard Project on the City, on which this interactive film is based, has not been published yet. With this online adaptation, we hope to provide a permanent and accessible resource for those interested in understanding Lagos and its rapid urban growth.


Every hour, an estimated 52 people start new lives in Lagos. As the largest port and commercial center of Nigeria, it is home to approximately 16 million people whose very survival depends on improvisation, networking, and risk-taking.

In 2001, architect Rem Koolhaas and filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak went to Lagos to document one of fastest growing cities in Africa. Based on research by Koolhaas’ Harvard Project on the City, this interactive film presents an intense and chaotic engagement with a then hardly documented city, capturing multiple perspectives of a volatile moment in its evolution.

The information has been organised according to distance. Loosely based on the trajectory of bus driver Olawole Busayo, it presents intimate encounters with the city and its people on the one hand (CLOSE), and a more removed perspective of Lagos on the other, (WIDE).

In the one hour interactive film, viewers are invited to join Busayo for his daily journey in the yellow minivan. Switch between a wide and a close view of Lagos and choose between three audio tracks:  city sounds, interviews with lagos citizens, or comments by Rem Koolhaas.

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