Dominican Chapel and Multi-Purpose Hall
Ibadan, Nigeria

The Dominican Chapel was commissioned in 1970, 10 years after Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom. The planning process for the chapel began in 1966 with another architect who was ejected from the project as a result of a difference in opinion due to their plans being too "rigid". The client was the Ibadan branch of the Dominican Order, formally known as Order of Preachers, one of the largest Roman Catholic orders in the world. Ibadan is a sacred Yoruba town in Nigeria, with Ancient African cultural attributes and architecture. The Dominican Order wanted the architecture of the chapel to speak towards African heritage and tradition as a way to highlight the African presence of the Dominican Order in Nigeria. The Nigerian architect & artist Demas Nwoko took control of the project years later. For the architecture of the chapel, Nwoko skilfully connects Christian architectural attributes with an African context through his use of traditional materiality and craftsmanship.

In his thesis on art in religion, Nwoko mentions designing the chapel similar to an open stage auditorium of a theatre in order to bring priests and worshippers in physical proximity. This is shown in the organisation of the plan. The round spatial planning is consistent, and the repetition of encirclement is prominent. The choir radiates around the altar, the congregation around the choir, the sacristy around the congregation, and lastly the whole chapel is encircled by ornamental pools with the main access point through the middle of the building for the churchgoers. The stained-glass walls illuminate the interior with colour, while other carvings along the walls let in unfiltered light. The cross in the centre of the wall represents the crucifixion of Christ and the different coloured crosses represent the crucifixion of different martyrs. The spatial organisation of the chapel was intentional to prevent the expansion of the chapel and avoid overcrowding.

The tower is the chapel's most prominent element. It has been suggested that the tower evokes the crown of thorns. Its paired-point forms are similar to elements of traditional Hausa architecture, specifically the Gobarau Minaret in Katsina, Northern Nigeria. Being the highest point of the building, the tower overlooks the compound while being a distinctive landmark on the Ibandan-Oyo highway. The tower is made of various materials including brick, stone, reinforced cast-concrete, corrugated aluminium, coloured glass and wood. As Nwoko does not believe in importing materials, he sourced raw materials from Ibadan. Throughout his architectural works, Nwoko found innovative ways for his structures to manifest his code of using local materials by crafting his own building material called Latcrete. Latcrete is a combination of cement and earth from Ibadan, Nigeria, Nwoko's hometown. Latcrete facilitated Nwoko’s infusion of meaning and Nigerian identity within the materiality of his building practice, pioneering a material that resembles vernacular methods of crafting. Traditional craftsmanship is also prominent in the timber columns and metalwork, which were designed by Nwoko and individually handcrafted. The bespoke columns support the structure of the tower and allows a bright stream of natural light on the altar, illuminating the timber crucifixion on the wall.

The site of the chapel includes other buildings arranged according to a courtyard system, which has cultural significance in Nigeria. In traditional Yoruba architecture, the buildings forming the courtyard act as protection for the king’s residence, also known as the afin. By applying this arrangement to the Dominican Institute's compound, the chapel acts as the afin of the site. Nwoko combined pre-colonial methods of building with a post-colonial context, while still retaining Ibadan’s traditional Yoruba identity. The chapel remains intentionally unfinished to represent the ever-growing nature of Christianity; there is always change as time goes on.

1 J. Godwin & G. Hopwood, ‘The Architecture of Demas Nwoko’, p.10, 50 - 53

2 F.Zeiji, ‘My life in a building: A chapel from the soil’, [02 Sep 2015] 

3 I.S.Okoye, Architecture, History and the Debate on Identity in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria & South Africa , p382 

4. E. Okafor, ‘Demas Nwoko’s Dominican Chapel’,

Grace Izinyon, November 11, 2020

Edited by Jola Idowu

Ibadan, Nigeria
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The Dominican Chapel, Ibadan
Dominican Institute Chapel
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