When architects across the world in collaboration with the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) held the 8th International Federation of Landscape Architects (ILFA) African convention at the Safari Park Hotel, it was clear that multi-sectoral approach is important on the question of long term or short term sustainability of cities
Themed “emerging interaction,” the congress was founded on the need for architects to look beyond their professional and cultural boxes, and learn how to develop holistic solutions to the current challenges facing cities such as design complexities, landscape, and sustainability.
Speaking at the convention, representative of the CS of State Department for Public Works Chief Architect Lawrence Mochama emphasized on the government’s commitment in making the cities sustainable in line with the African Climate Summit discussions.
“The theme recognizes the undeniable truth that collaboration is required in order to work together to save our biodiversity,” said Mochama.
He added that the government is committed not just to make urban cities “centers of economic development” but also a place where people can live in dignity. This has been made possible as a result of strategic planning. If a project is not well planned, or supported by government, or by policy, it is bound to fail.
Swedish Ambassador to Kenya, Caroline Vicini on the efforts made by the “built environment professionals” in Kenya and Sweden says that it is better to learn from each other and discuss climate change in relation to property development.
“It is important to build smart, healthy and efficient cities where people can integrate, communicate and move freely. Landscape architecture plays an important role in shaping sustainable development,” said Vicini.
President of AAK, Florence Nyole stressed on the significance of cooperation within the built Environment – encompassing buildings, distribution systems that provide water and electricity, and the roads, bridges, and transportation systems –, as it tips professionals to reach “shared environmental” goals that rest on a foundation of social sustainability.
“This world congress will be an opportunity to promote learning and collaboration among built environment professions to find solutions to the major global challenges. The city of Nairobi relates very closely to the congress theme, with rapid urbanization, dealing with climate change, and adequate housing as priority issues,” said Nyole.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, by 2015, most of Africa’s population living in urban areas rose from 27% in 1950 to 40% in 2015. The population is projected to rise by 60% in 2050. Consequently, this worsens the climate change crisis.
Owing to COVID-19 and the stay-at-home phenomenon, it became apparent that many homes in Kenya and especially those in informal settlements were not well suited for prolonged stay.
That explains why the architectural association embarked on a study through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity International, and carried out a study and developed a “Healthy Homes Guidelines and Checklist” that aims at ensuring that buildings are healthy.
“Simple items such as daylighting, cross ventilation and thermal comfort are key among the checklist items,” said Nyole.
She noted that recent studies by the National Construction Authority have shown that only 20% of the construction work in Kenya have built environment professionals engaged leaving 80% to the mercy of non-professionals, a very dangerous situation that has led to several building collapses and many more non-conforming to the building code.
There are more than one million (landscape) architects across the world, with IFLA representing more than 78 members. However, contrary to the big number, there is need to create awareness and recognition of the profession.
For the past 6 years, Nyole explained, the architectural association has advocated for the use of professionals and continues to push for recognition of emerging professionals such as landscape, architects in order to ensure that there is order in the industry.
“In this regard, he says, we run two campaigns – Je, Una Mjengo? (do you have a building, engage professionals) and Mulika Mjengo! (See something, say something. We have also unveiled several programmes such as the Grow-A-Classroom Programme which aims at increasing the tree cover for Kenya within the existing large parcels of land occupied by public schools,” he says.
For a balance to exist between the “natural and the man-made” urban settlement a critical effort must be put in place to merge the range of design to ensure that natural environment is healthier than ever.
“These trees will be sustainably harvested and used to build classrooms for the growing population in our country,” Nyole said