A Tale of Two Cities
Nairobi, like a bachelor love-struck not by one woman but two, He is courting modernity while on the side he is still flirting with the past. His heart torn between the two. He knows what he wants, which is a better future with modernity but due to some reasons he just can’t let go of the past. Like Charles Dickens’ A tale of two cities ,today Nairobi is just that unlike Dickens’ who meant London and Paris here I am looking at solely Nairobi, an important city in Africa the heart it seems ,the commercial hub of Eastern Africa and the capital of Kenya.
Nairobi like most African cities after independence did what was totally wrong in the planning theory and books, its plan discarded somewhere in the 1970’s when the newly minted Elites backed by poor planning standards and laws started the journey of eviscerating the blue print that would help create a Nairobi worth of today(based on expectation and not the reality) in the end what we have inherited today is a monster of a city sprawling out of control and taking urban sprawl as its partner in crime. The sprawl doesn’t seem to relent especially with land speculation leading to exorbitant land prices in its centre.
Over the years Nairobi has had a little share of plans and interventions that was aimed at righting the spatial planning disaster we had on our hands, I am skeptical about the vision 2030, Nairobi metropolitan plan which it seems the shouting has turned into a whisper the city on some areas planning gone to the dogs. In up market places we have everything going right development control being done to the letter but move to other areas you will see how wrong it is to develop a city some estates a reminiscent of the New York Jane Jacobs fought against ,apartment blocks that robbed the city of its humanity turning people into robots that moved around to and from places of work and school the knowledge of your neighbor remote maybe by chance is when you find someone knowing their neighbor .Children are being raised in this piles of high-rises called houses whose design is against everything in the books of architecture the issue of natural lighting not a concern at all, high-rises up to seven stories high and the congestion of humanity on the roads reminds one of London of the industrial age crowded ,filthy and inhumane.
In Some areas everything is going on well especially those areas whose inhabitants are the leading elites in business, politics among other sectors. The city’s central business district is expanding spilling out of the old CBD towards upper hill which the skyline is being redefined this is an example a good of Nairobi, hopefully the number of people frequenting the current CBD will be channeled to upper hill among other areas in the years to come.
Nairobi needs to make up its mind on whether it wants to go with modernity or stick with the past of non-planning, poor implementation of planning standards among other misgivings of spatial organization. We need to create a city that is not built on class or resources allocated based on what position you hold in the society we need to do pro poor planning to facilitate infrastructure development in Eastland’s among other underdeveloped localities in the city.