Home to between six hundred thousand and one million residents, Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa, occupying a space two-third the size of New York’s Central Park at seven kilometers from downtown Nairobi. The high housing density has forced the poorest to build along banks of the Ngong river, exposing them to threats of flooding. With the lack of formal trash collection system and limited sanitation facilities, the river itself is highly polluted by solid waste, which multiplies impacts of flooding, flushing lives and homes away, yet bringing malaria to the vulnerable. Recreation spaces also very limited due to the lack of secure land and precarious land tenure.
Although living conditions are tough in Kibera, the community has the greatest asset – community activism. In June 2014, residents of Lindi village (KUFCON), has partnered with Kounkuey Design Initiative in creating a public square along the Ngong River. The site would be within Lindi village, next to the river bank at a lower topography, acting as a protection for numerous households, based on technical measurements of the level of flooding done by Kounkuey Design Initiative.
A design proposal was made after numerous meetings with the community groups, neighboring projects owners and the government (due to nearby construction project of a new sewer line) by KDI, an innovative international design group which specialize in architecture, engineering, and planning. The design group has already carried out 6 other projects in Kibera, aiming at creating low-cost, high-impact public spaces through participatory design and empowering communities, creating a network of flood resilient social spaces within the informal settlement.
The reclaimed land from Ngong river in the site would provide sanitation and laundry washing facilities, infrastructure for public performance, gathering and playing, as well as income-generating activities. The design is also highly significant in flood mitigation, with a stone filled gabion (which could be used as benches) and a sloped gabion mat used to protect the site from seasonal flooding, and accommodate the over flooding every 10 years. The flexible design of the place allows a diverse spectrum of activities across different age groups and families to collaboratively shape the space as a vibrant community hub.
Image: Kounkuey Design Initiative, Photo taken by Pascal Kipemboi (permission pending)