Arieh Sharon, University of Ife at Ife, Nigeria


Arieh Sharon, University of Ife at Ife, Nigeria

The University of Ife was constructed by the Israeli architect Arieh Sharon between the years 1962 and 1972 with the assistance of architects Eldar Sharon and Harold Rubin.  The university is considered one of the premier academic institutions in Nigeria and has produced major award-winning scholars and researchers.  The architectural design sets an African sensibility within a European context and effectively underscores the mission of the university.  As Sharon stated, "form follows function."[1]  The language developed on the Nigerian campus thus integrated local artistic and other motifs in Modernist buildings.[2]


Arieh Sharon (אריה שרון): Born on May 28, 1900 in Jaroslaw, Poland, Arieh Sharon immigrated to Palestine as a teenager, and studied architecture in Germany at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1926 [1]. Upon his return to Palestine five years later, he introduced the “famous school's concepts of functional buildings with simplicity of design," and following Hitler's rise to power, he was joined by refugee architects from Germany [2]. These German-trained architects made the Bauhaus concept the prevailing trend for decades, greatly influencing the design of Israeli city Tel Aviv. Sharon taught at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, teaching and working with some of Israel’s leading architects. He began his agricultural career planning housing projects in cities and kibbutzim. In later years, he designed major public structures. He won the Israel Prize for the Soroka Hospital in Be’ersheba. Other hospitals he planned included Wolfson in Jaffa, Ichilov in Tel Aviv, Beilinson in Petah Tikvah, and Rambam in Haifa. He also planned dormitories and the physics building at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the medical school at Tel Aviv University and the Churchill Auditorium and Library at the Institute of Technology in Haifa. Other structures include the Ohel Theater and the Chen cinema in Tel Aviv, the Kinnerot rest home in Tiberias and the Bank of Israel in Jerusalem. Outside of Israel, he worked on the planning for the University of Ife in Nigeria. After Israel's independence in 1948, Mr. Sharon was appointed director and chief architect of the National Planning Authority, holding the post for five years, working directly under David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister (1948–63). He was a member of the executive committee of the International Union of Architects from 1963 to 1969. He was also an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects. His Israeli colleagues elected him president of the Association of Architects and Engineers between 1965 and 1971. In a partnership with Benjamin Idelson, Sharon designed a master-plan for the University of Ife, Nigeria in 1963, which was implemented in the following years. In 1964, Sharon entered a partnership with his son Eldar Sharon with whom he designed a further series of institutional projects in Israel, largely within the mainstream of the International Style. These include: the Senate, Library and Auditorium buildings for Technion, Haifa, the Israeli pavilion at Expo ’67, Montreal, and the headquarters of the Bank of Israel (1969–74), Jerusalem. They also developed residential quarters and neighborhoods in Jerusalem and in the new town districts of Nazareth and Ashdod. In 1967–9, with David Anatol Brutzkus, they prepared the ‘Masterplan for the Reconstruction and for the Civic Design of the Old City in Jerusalem,’ which included proposals for the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus and the eastern hills, seeking to produce an organic relation between the old and new parts of the city. His published works include: “Physical Planning in Israel” (1951), “Hospitals in Israel and the Developing Countries” (1968), “Planning Jerusalem: The Old City and its Environs” (1973), “Kibbutz + Bauhaus: an architect’s way in a new land” (1976), “University of Ife Master Plan” (1981). On July 24, 1984, Arieh Sharon died in Paris [3].

The University of Ife: The University of Ife, today known as the Obafemi Awolowo University, was established in 1962 in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria. This public university is now considered one of the best universities in Africa, and is home to Nobel Laureate and National Merit Award winning staff members, United Nations publications, and the buildings of Israeli architect Arieh Sharon [4]. Structurally, the University of Ife includes a central campus (with academic, administrative, and service areas), student residential area (with 10 undergraduate hostels and a postgraduate residence hall), staff quarters, and a Teaching and Research Farm. During the construction of the University of Ife, Arieh Sharon was the primary architect for the campus. Sharon and his firm were ultimately responsible for constructing the university’s Main Core, Humanities building, Residence Halls, Library, Institute of Education, Secretariat, Assembly Hall, and Amphitheatre [5]. Arieh Sharon and his firm selected the town of Ife to host the new university based on its central location in the Western Region of Nigeria, amenities, good weather, and history as the birthplace of Yoruba culture as well as home to Nigeria’s famous bronze heads [6]. The University of Ife is located in the high forest area of Nigeria’s Western Region, near farm area, forest, and the open bushland [7]. When Sharon began to design the University of Ife, he concluded that the buildings of the central campus would be tightly constructed near one another while the residential halls and staff housing would be located further away [8]. Sharon’s work on the University of Ife campus included designing many of the academic buildings, administrative centers, and residential areas. At the center of the University’s campus, Sharon constructed the main core, a piazza surrounded by the secretariat, library assembly hall, and humanities, social sciences, and education buildings. In this central campus, Sharon also designed the three humanities buildings, which appear as reversed pyramids—commonly used in other buildings to protect against rain and inclement weather—connected by two lecture halls and pergolas [9]. Additionally, Sharon built the Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library, which is four-story and two-winged building filled with reading rooms, a collection of 645,553 volumes (in November 2004), exhibition halls, and a ramp which connects the building to the University’s facsimile of the Ife stone staff [10]. Arieh Sharon also constructed the building for the Institute of Education, home to a display center, language laboratory, offices, classrooms, and laboratories [11]. Also in the main core, the Secretariat—administrative and social center of the university—consists of banks, a bookshop, a post office, and exhibition spaces [12]. The Assembly Hall is also located in the main core of the University and contains an air-conditioned multipurpose hall shaped as a covered seating area with a thrust-stage. The Amphitheatre is connected to this Assembly Hall and contains a semicircular stage and large seating area [13]. Lastly, Sharon designed the Residence Halls at the University of Ife, which each house around 250 students [14].

Israeli Architects in North Africa: Arieh Sharon was among many other Israeli architects who worked in North African between the 1950s and 1970s. A special cooperation program between Israel and many African states brought Israeli architects to design buildings in newly independent African states after colonial powers left. Sharon was therefore selected to work on the University of Ife based on his reputation as a well-known Israeli architect and also based on his knowledge of building in tropical climates. In fact, Sharon had attended a UN regional planning and housing seminar hosted in New Delhi in 1954 and a boat-trip symposium in the Greek Islands in 1963, as well as travelled throughout Burma and Japan. As such, Sharon was uniquely suited to design the University of Ife according to the local requirements of Western Nigeria's tropical climate [15]. Additionally, Sharon's background as a Bauhaus architect matched the mission statement of the University of Ife. While the Bauhaus worked to unify all arts, they adopted a slogan of "Art as Industry" which reflected their desires to mass produce art and designs [16]. This philosophy reflects the mission statement of the University of Ife which is: "To create capacity in modern trends in management and practices in university administration via a dedicated and motivated workforce and engender commitment to the efficient and judicious utilization of allocated resources for the purpose of advancing frontiers of knowledge that are relevant to national and global development" [17]. In this way, Sharon's Bauhaus training in mass production and unified design allowed his architecture to parallel the University of Ife's desire to modernize and enter into global networks.


[1] Noam Dvi, "In-and out of-Africa," Haaretz, September 24, 2010 accessed July 25, 2014,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Uriel M. Adiv, "Sharon, Arieh," Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press, accessed July 8, 2014, 

[4] Special to The New York Times, "Arieh Sharon, Architect and Planner in Israel," New York Times (1923-Current File), Aug 13, 1984, accessed July 8, 2014,

[5] Adiv, "Sharon, Arieh."

[6] “About OAU.” Obafemi Awolowo University. N.d. Accessed July 8, 2014,

[7] “Ife – Main Core,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255896956&k=tbmvxxD.

[8] “Universtiy of Ife in Nigeria,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255885477&k=Qz2xsSt.

[9] “Ife – General Survey,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255888319&k=GMf5MTF.

[10] “Ife – Master Plan 1962-1972,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255899474&k=KGn6Pn2.

[11] “Ife – Faculty of Humanities 1962,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255905751&k=jp4L76h.

[12] “Ife – The Library 1966,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255927650&k=SgrXQXn.

[13] “Ife – The Institute of Education 1970,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255948775&k=RjH2J5q.

[14] “Ife – The Secretariat – 1968,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255971640&k=PHFwH9B.

[15] “Ife – The Assembly Hall 1970,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255982092&k=F34FKSS.

[16] “Ife – Halls of Residence 1964,”, N.d., accessed July 7, 2014,!i=1255921276&k=6w9c457.

[17] Ayala Levin, "Exporting Architectural National Expertise: Arieh Sharon's Ife University Campus in West-Nigeria (1962-1976)," Eds: Raymond Quek, Darren Deane, and Sarah Butler, Nationalism and Architecture (Farnham, Englad: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2012), accessed July 9, 2014,

[18] Alexandra Griffith Winton, "The Bauhaus, 1919–1933," In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–, August 2007, accessed July 11, 2014,

[19] "Vision and Mission," Obafemi Awolowo University, N.d., accessed July 11, 2014,


"Approach road and main entrance to campus." The Campus. 1962-1972. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248630501&k=cQj2nZF.

Assembly Hall - 1970. 1970. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248835013&k=W8pxv6K. Note: Assembly Hall Exterior View.

Assembly Hall - 1970. 1970. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248835685&k=F7MJ6xR. Note: Assembly Hall Overhead View.

Assembly Hall - 1970. 1970. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248840081&k=K7wXVRD. Note: Amphitheatre Exterior View.

Assembly Hall - 1970. 1970. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248856146&k=p2C7ZZH. Note: Assembly Hall Interior View.

Faculty of Humanities - 1962. 1962. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248645152&k=9zf4x3S. Note: Exterior View.

Faculty of Humanities - 1962. 1962. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248649833&k=H8KngmJ. Note: Overhead View.

Halls of Residence - 1964. 1964. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248666655&k=QSVDWCB. Note: Exterior View.

Halls of Residence - 1964. 1964. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248666860&k=pWFHmqm. Note: Coverings View.

Halls of Residence - 1964. 1964. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248669858&k=v45r2HF. Note: Windows View.

Institute of Education - 1970. 1970. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248656354&k=LmGrTb7. Note: Institute of Education Exterior.

Institute of Education - 1970. 1970. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248659081&k=h3rXRtN. Note: Institute of Education with Palm Trees.

"Library entrance as seen through Entrance Gate." The Campus. 1962-1972. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248633560&k=bfbvgzf.

"Library on the left; Humanities (Arts) on the right; Education in central background." The Campus. 1962-1972. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248633489&k=dB456Hx.

"Library on the left with replica of Ife Staff and Secretariat (Senate) Building on the right." The Campus. 1962-1972. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248636475&k=SP62NQf.

"Replica of Ife Staff in concrete." The Library - 1966. 1966. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248800995&k=NSSMhHh.

"Retro Photo: University of Ife, 1979." Ore Fakorede. 1979. Accessed July 9, 2014,

Sharon, Eldar. "Dining Room Terrace." The Vice Chancellor's Lodge - 1968. 1970. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248673130&k=NZ4rnw4.

The Library - 1966. 1966. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248802226&k=Q7QMNr4. Note: Exterior View with Trees.

The Library - 1966. 1966. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248804711&k=sr5vvWh. Note: Overhead View.

The Library - 1966. 1966. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248805829&k=tgL2k7K. Note: Entrance View.

The Secretariat - 1968. 1968. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248823127&k=mxDWXWR. Note: Exterior View Close-up. 

The Secretariat - 1968. 1968. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248824460&k=RJjVMPm. Note: Wide Exterior View.

The Secretariat - 1968. 1968. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248826272&k=3dRjxGj. Note: Entrance View.

"View of the campus core: Secretariat (Senate building) on the left, Oduduwa Hall in center." The Campus. 1962-1972. Accessed July 10, 2014,!i=1248631279&k=h6vDdwZ.

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