Nairobi Placemaking Week: For our public spaces
When urban planners think of Nairobi, images of congested and crowded streets often pop up in their heads. But things start to change: Nairobi’s Placemaking Week took place from 28th Nov to 4th Dec 2016.
During that week, Nairobi celebrated its public spaces and community-led activities - which peaked in a revolutionary experience of public spaces and the city at large in a different way. The event was truly participatory and leveraged on the expertise, experience and interest of various groups ranging from government agencies over NGO’s and the civic and business community to resident associations. The week was initiated by the Nairobi City Council (NCC) with technical support from UN-Habitat among other partners.
Placemaking is a process
Placemaking is not a new concept, which began with the first human settlements. Today we have parks, monuments, murals, sculptures and more - all in their way providing for the enhancement of our living spaces and elucidating our stories of place. Placemaking begins with citizens working together to improve their local environment thus strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. As a collaborative process it is not just promoting better urban design but facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.
Rationale for the placemaking week
High quality and pleasant public spaces are central to the realization of a world class working, living and business environment. They provide a high quality of life for urban residents and visitors alike, attracting investments and highly skilled personnel. By all standards, they are an excellent entry point to improve the standards of urban life for all citizens. The liveliness and continuous use of public space as a public good leads to urban environment that is well-maintained and safe, making the city an attractive place to live, work and play.
- Public space enhances safety.
- Public space improves public health.
- Public space increases transportation efficiency and road safety
- Public space improves the environment.
- Public space supports economic development (especially for small and informal economy).
Creating safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces for all through public action, participation and partnerships is a key lever for transforming our cities and ensuring universal access to streets and public space!
Objectives of the Nairobi Placemaking Week
- Activate public spaces through a variety of low cost high impact interventions including coordinated pop-up activities.
- Celebrate Nairobi's public spaces, raise their profile & create awareness about their importance.
- Promote cross-sector dialogues about quality of life in the city, and foster partnerships and collaborations for our public spaces.
- Advocate for a healthier, safer, more inclusive & vibrant city through safe, walkable and pedestrian-oriented streets particularly in downtown Nairobi.
With events happening every day, Nairobi’s placemaking week was packed with activities and civil engagement. Some selected activities related to urban mobility were:
A) Open Streets (30th Nov 2016 – 1st Dec 2016)
One important element of the Placemkaing week was the Pedestrianisation of the adjoining streets around Jeevanjee Garden. This initiative was supported by the council’s traffic engineers and the traffic police. UN-Habitat staff has organized street painting activities to create awareness on non-motorised transport and road safety. A zebra crossing was painted to link Jeevanjee Garden with Muindi Mbingu Street. In addition, the participants reclaimed space for cyclists by painting a bicycle lane.
B) Bus Rapid Transit Photo Exhibition (1st – 4th Dec 2016)
As part of the SUSTRAN Project (“Promoting Sustainable Transport Solutions for East African Cities”), UN-Habitat in collaboration with ITDP has organized a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Exhibition at Jeevanjee Garden. UN-Habitat staff allocated its expertise to sensitize the public on plans of the Ministry of Transport to roll out a city-wide Bus Rapid Transit system in the coming years. The response from the public was very positive.
C) Urban Dialogue at Alchemist Bar (2nd Dec 2016)
Andre Dzikus, Coordinator Urban Basic Service Branch, UN-Habitat, as well as other UB-Habitat officials, presented at the Urban Dialogue event which emphasized on the role of public spaces for enhancing the livability of a city as well as the concept of understanding the streets as a public space.
D) Critical Mass Event on Bicycles (4th Dec 2016)
The placemaking week provided a great opportunity for facilitating links between the county government and the urban cyclist community. UN-Habitat therefore coordinated a Critical Mass Event on bicycles to create awareness of the challenges faced by cyclists in Nairobi CBD and guided a discussion on possible solutions that can be undertaken by the city council. Around 60 cyclists participated in the event.
Adaption of the original articel written by Nairobi City Council and UN-Habitat.
Photo: Courtesy of Photo by Moses Kamwere, Humphrey Otieno and UN Habitat (© All Rights Reserved)