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Open Call: Making Cities Together Nairobi

Open Call: Making Cities Together Nairobi

IFHP together with INTI and Placemakers is pleased to announce an Open Call for participation in a public-space making research lab in Nairobi, Kenya. The “Making Cities Together – planners becoming placemakers” project is looking for dynamic international urbanists- – ranging from urban designers, planners and social scientists to architects and other creatives with experience in co-designing public spaces to join the lab from the 4th to the 8th of May 2015 in Nairobi.

Making Cities Together is a think and action-tank initiative by Placemakers, INTI and IFHP.  Each partner brings specialized knowledge and different insights to the table with a shared commitment to more integrated and just public space in Nairobi.

Placemaking in Nairobi
In Nairobi, public spaces suffer from degradation, overcrowding, and insecurity, thereby denying city residents access to much-needed community, recreation and leisure facilities.

Last year, Placemakers and the Technical University of Kenya conducted a citywide inventory of socio-spatial participatory planning initiatives in Nairobi. The outcome indicated that Nairobi’s citizens are leaders in participatory urban development and using the Placemaking approach to solve this public space crisis. The initiatives explored during this inventory phase are building truly inspiring public places. However, these efforts face multiple challenges and often lack access to local expertise.

How can we improve these spaces? And how can we empower communities and organizations to improve the quality of their environments? For the project ‘Making Cities Together’ we invite you to co-create inclusive spaces in Nairobi. The ultimate goal of the research lab is to create a framework for practical Placemaking strategies at the city scale. These strategies will then be actualized on one site to act as a case for benchmarking.


For the lab, we will select at least six international experts in order to form three interdisciplinary, diverse teams, each consisting of a representative of a local placemaking initiative, two international experts and two local experts based in Nairobi. Each team will research one of three selected dynamic and upcoming Placemaking locations in Nairobi – ‘the streets of Korogocho – an informal settlement’, ‘The Sunken Car Park in Nairobi’s city centre’ or ‘ The courtyards of Dandora – a residential neighbourhood’.

During the intensive, hands-on lab the teams will gather local knowledge from presentations of the local initiatives, field visits and local research data accompanied with in-depth lectures. With brainstorm sessions in round table discussions we will formulate alternative strategies to move forward. Followed by on-site research by design, each group will come up with Placemaking strategies in the form of design and or programs in public spaces. Outputs like maps, sketches, schemes and timelines will be collected in a replicable framework. The results will be shown in a public presentation and judged by an international jury. In close collaboration with the local community, the winning strategy will then be initiated or built on the associated site.

The results will also be presented and discussed at the Biennale of Public Space in Rome, on the 21st-24th of May. In this occasion the outputs of the Lab will be displayed also in form of a public exhibition entitled “Yes we can –reinvent public spaces” that will collect and compare different experiences of reactivating neglected urban neighbourhoods through the engagement of local stakeholders (resident citizens, international professionals, policy makers etc.) in the process of shaping interventions in their cities.

Intervention places

“Making Cities Together” will focus on 3 different spaces selected from the Placemaking Inventory:

  • Different areas zoned into the informal settlements, the city centre and the established residential neighborhoods (to foster geographical and social inclusion)
  • Diverse types of public spaces like streets, parks and squares (to foster spatial representation)
  • Diverse Placemaking themes (temporary use of space, linkages between public spaces

1.    The Sunken Car Park in the city centre

During the weekdays, downtown Nairobi is characterized by traffic jams and overcrowded parking lots. On Saturdays and Sundays, however, the Sunken Car Park transforms into a successful public skating park. Several skating organizations give skating lessons and organize (international) tournaments. Rental skates facilitate spontaneous skating from passers-by. However, new plans for a seven-storey parking facility threaten the continuity of this inclusive public space. For the sunken car park, the big question remains, “how can we come up with Placemaking strategies for a sustainable and accessible skating park that also functions as a public square in downtown Nairobi?”

2.    The streets of Korogocho – an informal settlement

Although it began as a band, Hope Raisers Youth Initiative now organizes events in the streets of Korogocho to create inspiring and safe places for the inhabitants of this informal settlement. Today, they work together with the Swedish organization Architects Without Borders to create democratic and safe public spaces through arts and cultural events. According to Hope Raisers’ Daniel Onyango, this has fostered behavior change and the external perception of this informal settlement. Here, the big question is, how can these initiatives be upscaled?

3.    The courtyards of Dandora – a residential neighborhood

In Dandora, the community-based Mustard Seed Organization sets up competitions for youth groups and schools to transform their living environments into beautiful and functional public spaces. Dandora is infamous for its dump site and high crime rates. In the first season of the Mustard Seed-led ‘changing faces initiative’, Courtyards were cleaned and transformed with plants, and sports facilities and multi-use spaces were constructed with local economic benefits. Still, the quality of these spaces remains low. This could partly be attributed to inadequate training, unexplored creative ideas, limited resources and the lack of a long-term vision. However, there are lots of opportunities for improvement. How can similar neighborhood spaces be transformed into successful interactive meeting places that inhabitants can be proud of? What are the possibilities for linkages among these public spaces that could—collectively—transform the reputations of some less popular neighborhoods?

How to participate

In order to participate, please submit a proposal including the following information:

  1. Description of the applying designer/architect/planner (individual or firm)
  2. A rationale for why the applicant would like to take part in the project in the context of the brief provided above
  3. 2 relevant portfolio projects

The proposal must be submitted in A4 PDF format with a maximum of 4 pages and a maximum file size of 5MB and be sent to IFHP Project Manager, Giulia Maci:

Proposals will be reviewed by a selection committee made up of representatives from Placemakers, INTI and IFHP and external advisors.

Please note that travel grants are available to help partially cover the travel expenses of selected international participants.

>> Deadline: March 30th

Successful applicants will be informed by April 5th 2015.

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