Lecture 4. Segregationist Architecture of African Urban Housing in Colonial Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya was the location of urban housing for Africans that demonstrated the racist segregationist colonial strategies meant to ingrain inferiority of the native populations. The lecture espouses the spatial strategies manifested in the architecture and strategies of urban housing estates that defined the architecture of Eastlands, a city-reserve for the race, in the era of British suzerain rule of early to mid-20th Century. Framed in Foucauldian theorem of panoptical control and behavioral canalization of the populace, the strategies manifest in selected case estates, illustrate segregationist perceptions of marginalization through spatial instruments like house typologies, district zoning, site layouts, and utilities’ design and provision. The lecture, based on theoretical positions, is reliant on archival spatial data as well as case-study material sourced directly from the field and through studio-based programmes with architecture students. The site of Eastlands was the ‘African Location’ of the racially-segregated colonial Nairobi and became the laboratory of various quasi-experiments on African residential spatiality. Three case-study schemes represent key housing delivery strategies of: (a) employer-built (Muthurwa) (b) self-building (Majengo) and (c) public rental (Bahati) estates as realized during British colonialism. The initial reluctance to accommodate the race in the city was thus succeeded by these strategies albeit heavily-laden with racism and segregation. The reality today of dire and unseemly environments is self-evidencing not atypical of un-convivial neighbourhoods of the African city of the post-colony. The contemporary African city remains unrepentantly informed by the racist segregationist architecture of its origination, albeit now substituted by an economic parlance of poverty. What is discerned is that to create a more equitable urbanity one shall invoke more social engagement and participation of the dwellers in the housing process. Sadly, this opportunity was never appropriated by the postcolony, and this constitutes the core virus that afflicts African urbanity and residential space.

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