The Quality of Urban open Spaces in the C.B.D of Nairobi.

Urban open spaces are an important feature of any urban settlement. Their significance is not only physical as a matter of city planning and urban design, but
more so for the social, health, environmental and economic benefits that they afford a city and its inhabitants.
The Central Business District is the core of the city of Nairobi acting as its administrative and commercial capital. This part of the city has several public urban
open spaces that are set aside for recreation. However, the existing urban open spaces lack the quality needed to support a social public life due to poor recreational
infrastructure. In addition, their number is inadequate vis-a-vis the population they are meant to serve. This is a major concern in light of the current
rapid urbanization especially in Cities of the South with the United Nations estimating that by 2030, 75% of the world‟s population will be living in cities. This
huge population will require quality open places to gather for their urban social activities.
Previous studies on urban open spaces focused on their artistic design as part of the urban fabric. Recent studies by architects and urban designers, most significantly
Jan Gehl have however shown that even these artistically designed open spaces may fail to attract a social public life. This has caused the focus in the
field to shift from merely designing good, artistic urban open spaces to also providing infrastructure that would improve the quality of these public spaces enabling
them to support a social public life through a process known as placemaking. These qualitative aspects of urban open space in the context of Nairobi
have not been studied, even in the recent past, as the theories of placemaking are relatively new. There is therefore a need to re-examine these spaces of Nairobi
in light of these emerging trends. This sets the precedent for undertaking this research.
As an everyday user of the city, the author has found himself frustrated on several occasions by the lack of an appropriate, comfortable public place to rest,
relax or even meet a friend. Being a student of Architecture and having access to relevant academic material on the issue, the author set out to research the
reasons for this inadequacy and see what possible remedies could be applied for the Nairobi situation.
This research was therefore carried out to first of all establish what urban open spaces are and why we need them in our urban settings. Secondly, it was important
to determine what design qualities support a social public life in these urban open spaces. Thirdly, to investigate the case for the urban open spaces in
the C.B.D of Nairobi based on the synthesis of guidelines developed from Literature review.
A review of critical literature in urban design relating to the design, historical development and quality of urban open spaces was carried out to come up with
guidelines. These guideline were synthesized and used to analyze the case for the C.B.D of Nairobi. Purposive sampling research method was used to select 5
cases in the Nairobi C.B.D that would be investigated for the research. The cases selected were Jeevanjee Gardens, Tom Mboya Square, Hilton Park, Aga Khan
Walk and the Sunken Car Park all of which were located within the C.B.D and had unrestricted public access. The research on these cases was conducted
through use of primary and secondary data as well as observations, interviews and field sketches. The findings were then analysed against the synthesis of established
guidelines from literature review.
The research findings indicated that Nairobi‟s CBD lacks not only an adequate number of public urban open spaces, but that the existing ones are poorly designed
and lack the quality that would enable them to support a public social life. In light of these findings, the research proposes what can be done to remedy
the current situation and possible future situations for Nairobi's C.B.D. Since the Nairobi C.B.D is the largest, most important urban area in the country, it is assumed
that the recommendations made here could easily be applied to other urban areas in the country with a few contextual adjustments.
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