Kibera Public Space
Project 01 (KPSP 01)
Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, if not Africa, and is infamous for its scale, location, history, and degraded conditions. Kibera is just four kilometers from downtown Nairobi and occupies a space two-thirds the size of New York City's Central Park. Kibera has no formal trash collection system and limited sanitation facilities. Many residents live on less than USD$1 a day and unemployment and crime rates are high. Land tenure is precarious and housing density leaves little traditional open space for children to play or communities to gather. KDI recognizes that poverty in Kibera involves a complex set of interconnected problems — financial, environmental, physical, political, and social — but also acknowledges Kibera's assets: community activism, informal economies and entrepreneurship.
KPSP 01 began in 2006 as KDI's first project, initiated by the founders during their time at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. The site lies at the border of the villages of Soweto East and Silanga at the Southeast edge of Kibera. It is adjacent to the Nairobi Dam and the river that runs through Kibera. Due to flooding during the rainy seasons, the site was swampy and impassable on foot. It was deemed un-buildable by residents and therefore used as a dumping ground. When flooded, the area cut out a desirable circulation route, resulting in an isolated, crime-ridden space that posed a large safety concern for residents.
The first act of the project was a general cleanup of the site, where community members, both adult and children, removed trash. In 2007, KDI and engineering partner Buro Happold designed the simple, stone and wire-mesh gabion system—with input and costing advice from Eco-Build Africa and the residents in Kibera—to create flood control for a viable recreation and economic space. With the help of Buro Happold, the community designed a simple wood and concrete bridge to withstand a 100-year flood. The bridge opened a very important circulation route between the two villages of Soweto East and Shilanga.
With the cleaning of the site and flood control in place, KDI and participating residents constructed a shade pavilion to serve as a flexible space for the community. The pavilion can accommodate more than 200 residents. Operable tin panels open and close to regulate air and light, and are used as a drying rack for harvested water hyacinth. The roof of the pavilion funnels rainwater into two 10,000-liter tanks. The water is then sold by the community group that operates the site. Since its construction, both a school and a church have requested the use of the pavilion for their activities and now rent the space from the community group. The shade pavilion was originally designed to be open on three sides, but as demand for the site increased it became clear that an addition was necessary to enclose the structure during certain activities. The community group approached KDI for technical assistance and a financial loan to undergo this construction.
Adjacent to the shade pavilion is a small office and a park with benches, chess tables and a play structure made entirely from recycled materials. The play structure is the first of its kind in Kibera and is used by children from around the settlement. The small office structure was constructed from locally sourced materials to house the community organization's operations. Next to the office is a small urban farm.
Income-generating activities were introduced at the site in order to pay for maintenance and operation. Each enterprise contributes a percentage of their profits to a site maintenance fund. The small urban farm is used for group members to grow and wholesale vegetables to local kiosk operators. In this same space a business called "Grow Kenya" produces compost from collected vegetable waste from kiosks around Kibera that is in turn packaged and sold to residents. A third group, "Kiki Weavers," is a women's weaving cooperative that harvests water hyacinth, an invasive weed choking the nearby Nairobi dam, to create, sell and export eco-friendly baskets and crafts.
Construction of KPSP 01 was completed in March 2010.
For more information on KPSP 01 you can download the Project's Brochure here.