Egedege N’okaro
Benin City, Nigeria

Egedege N’okaro is the first residential two-storey building in Benin City and serves as a living artefact of traditional Benin residential homes. The house was built in the year 1905 by High Chief Osawe Iyamu and designed by colonial British officer, Mr. Crawe Reade. The structure is located at No. 30 Erie street, off Sakponba road in the ancient city of Benin. The two-storey building is still standing today due to continual maintenance. There are few changes to the building, including the railings on the first floor, the painting, and the addition of more buildings by the sides of the house.

The architecture for this building is a combination of the traditional and colonial styles of the period. It is a modified traditional courtyard house, a common residential typology from 1897 -1950. The house is a 15 m by 10 m rectangle with a courtyard that serves as a place for family gatherings and dining. The courtyard also serves as a water catchment area and provides sufficient ventilation to the interior spaces.

The primary entrance has a porch for rest and leisure. Six large cylindrical columns support the slab of the first floor with an array of columns about 500 mm wide with a height of about 3 m. The shaft of the column is painted bright red while the capital is painted white. Slender red columns about 250 mm wide support the roof of the building. The primary entrance is a wooden, arched door with panelling and accentuated with arched moulding. The moulding is black with red and white details; it depicts a flower in a vase on each side — the flowers grow to meet in the middle where there is a carving of a bigger vase sprouting the same flower upwards. The second door opposite the main entrance has a balcony and leads to the courtyard where there is an opposite bungalow. The bungalow houses the kitchen for the various wives, bedrooms, separate toilets, a menstruation room, and a shrine for deities. The second balcony houses the stairs leading to the first floor.  

On the ground floor is the parlour with four rooms, two on each side; this space arrangement is similar on the first floor. Timber columns support the wooden slab above and most of the timber on the railings. The timber on the windows and doors are still intact and undisturbed by termites. The fence which surrounds the building is about 1.5 m in height with white railings. It has horizontal fluting with a narrow fillet between the flutes painted red and white. This pattern of horizontal fluting is made from snail shells and reserved for royalty.  The building has a rough texture because of the bricks. The walls are coated with creamy white paint and the opposite bungalow is coated in red paint.  

The building materials for construction include; brick of red earth, which was fired for three months and cooled for two weeks in the valley of the present-day Ikpoba slope in Benin City. Wooden slab were made from the stem of cooked palm trees after processing. Though most of the building materials used for construction were local, the use of imported building materials played an important role with corrugated roofing sheets replacing the traditional use of thatch. The sheets protect the whole structure from inclement changing weather.  

Enwonwu Chiagozie Mitchelle, April 5, 2021

Edited by Jola Idowu


  1. Benin Domestic Architecture “A Tabula Rasa” for Transition; from pre-independence to contemporary architecture by Ekhaese Eghosa Noel (Ph.D.) and Prof. Bayo Amole. 
  2. Prefiguring houses in a traditional city: a case for Benin house types and characteristics by Eghosa Noel Ekhaese, Bayo Amole & Oladunni Izobo-Martins. 



30 Erie Street, Benin City, Nigeria
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Construction 1905
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