Re-Imagining Nairobi

Re-Imagining Nairobi/Urban Futures

This was an Architectural exhibition showcasing new ideas on how to solve the architectural and planning problems facing the City of Nairobi. The event took place at The Goethe Institute exhibition hall on the ground floor of Maendeleo House on February 1, 2013. The exhibition ran from 25 January to 15 February 2013 at the same venue and was open to all. In attendance were fellow professionals, architecture and design students, and guests from The Goethe Institute as well as members of the public.

dreams of nairobi/ urban futures

Re-Imagining Nairobi

The presenters were part of a Think Tank known as African Urban Futures. It is made up of graduate architects on a common platform to shape the future of the City by thinking in a fresh and new way that is problem-solution oriented. Each of the team members presented their proposals which were then followed by a Question and Answer session. This back- and-forth forum provided the grounds for engagement of the day to day problems faced by residents of the City, which the exhibitors believed could be solved through architectural interventions.

The first presentation was on a proposal to rejuvenate the Nairobi Dam, presented by Mike Onyoyo. The idea of the project emanated from the need to provide affordable sanitation facilities for the residents of Kibera. The intervention came in the form of a waste-water recycling system. The system would use a bio-digester which would through an anaerobic process convert the waste water into clean, usable water that would be supplied into the dam. Clean, renewable wind energy would be used to power the whole process. The water in the dam and its immediate surroundings would be used for recreational activities.

Re-Imagining Nairobi

Re-Imagining Nairobi

Re-Imagining Nairobi

Re-Imagining Nairobi

The proposal would not only solve the sanitation problem associated with the area, but would also create a life of its own that would encourage social interactions through the water-based recreational activities. Various shortcomings were cited such as the reliability of wind energy and the level of cleanliness of the recycled water as well as the limitations of the activities such water could be used for.

The second presentation was on a proposal to put up a Community Centre in the Lavington/Kawangware area. The presenter, Tuesday Nyakang’o identified a ‘No-man’s Land’ area sandwiched between these two neighborhoods as a suitable site for setting up the center.

The center is necessitated by the stratification of the two communities, both socially and economically as Kawangware is a low-income zone which contrasts with the high-income Lavington area. The project is thus an effort to bridge these differences and create a middle-ground where members from both communities would come together through a series of interactions.

Re-Imagining Nairobi

Re-Imagining Nairobi

The form of the center was inspired by the traditional African architecture, more specifically the way traditional Kenyan homesteads were designed around a courtyard making it an all-inclusive neighborhood. The center would feature a sports ground with football and athletics being the main sports. There would also be a Community center with various facilities. Contributions were invited from those in attendance. Among the issues raised was how such a project would be funded. Questions were also raised on the viability of the project as well as what social benefits such a project would bring to the residents.

Re-Imagining Nairobi

Re-Imagining Nairobi

Fred Nyandiko took the floor to make the final presentation for the day. His was a competition entry on a proposed Mashujaa monument to be located in Uhuru gardens. The competition was for the National Museums of Kenya. The proposed monument was to be a celebration of the achievements of our national heroes dating back to pre-independence period. Rightfully so, the form of the monument borrowed from the traditional Luo headgear, that was a reserve for only the greatest heroes of the community.

The Architect was able to abstract the idea of the headgear supplemented with the weaves of the traditional basket to create a majestic monument that represented the values which it set out to. During the Q&A session, most members of the audience agreed that indeed the monument was suitable for the purpose which it set out to achieve although there was a bit of dis-content with the treatment of the monuments that currently exist on the grounds.

At the end of it all, the curator of the exhibition, Dan Aceda emphasized the need for such forums to be held regularly so as to encourage engagement between the professionals and members of the public on architectural issues.

He added that his team would host a series of such exhibitions and called for the participation of other stakeholders such as the government and private sector members as well as professionals in the field.

With such sentiments being expressed, it appears that this exhibition is bound to grow bigger and better and might soon spill out of the walls of the exhibition hall at the Goethe Institute. See you at the next one.

[Josiah Mugo is a fifth year student of architecture at the University of Nairobi and an architectural journalism enthusiast]
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