Competition - International Design Collaboration For Kenya


February 01, 2016

Opportunity Cover Image - Competition - International Design Collaboration For Kenya

UN-Habitat in collaboration with Ministry of Land, Housing & Urban Development: Urban Development Department, Kenya, is looking for creative planning and design ideas for sustainable urban development in Kenya. Students from around the world are below invited to participate in a student design competition for Kenya’s towns.

Invitation and background

Kenya’s urban areas are undergoing dramatic population growth. UN Population Division projects that by 2050, the country’s urban population will increase from the current 12 million to approximated 43 million, close to 50% of the country’s total population. A significant share of this growth will be recorded in secondary and intermediate cities. This transition presents an equal share of challenges and opportunities to urban planning and development in Kenya.


During 2012-2015, UN-Habitat has provided “Support to Sustainable Urban Development in Kenya” through various projects; key among them is support to the Kenya Municipal Program (KMP) which entails the formulation of Integrated Strategic Urban Development Plans (ISUDPs) and Digital Topographical Mapping for select urban centers in Kenya. KMP is financed by the World Bank and executed by the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) through the Urban Development Department (UDD).

During the last quarter of 2015, the formulation of nine draft ISUDPs will be completed for Mombasa, Nakuru, Naivasha, Nyeri, Machakos, Thika, Embu, Kitui and Malindi towns. The main outputs of each ISUDP will be: a structure plan; land-use plan; sectoral plans (e.g. infrastructure such as water and sanitation, transportation, etc. and environment management plans); select detailed action area plans; and capital investment plans. The Digital Topographical Mapping will result in a set of topographical maps for town, thematic maps; Geographic Information System (GIS) database, including cadaster.

So far, UN-Habitat’s support to KMP has mainly focused on capacity development and technical advisory services in the Planning Departments of the county governments where the above planning processes are taking place. The support was expanded to include Kenya’s planning schools by advancing their training.
It is upon this extended support to the planning schools that UN-Habitat, in collaboration with the Urban Development Department (UDD) invites students from all over the world to an urban planning and design competition to complement the completion of the planning processes of the nine towns. Detailed planning and design will be a major component of implementing these urban plans. This implies that the county governments, upon approval of the ISUDPs, will embark on undertaking detailed planning for specifc sites.
The design competition is expected to run between January 2016 and May 2016. UN-Habitat and UDD will consider exhibiting a select number of the design proposals in Nairobi, Kenya in April, 2016, and during the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador from 17 – 20, October 2016.

Habitat III is the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development . The Habitat III focus is to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization, to focus on the implementation of a New Urban Agenda, and building on the 1996 Habitat II Agenda. The New Urban Agenda will be approved during Habitat III in Quito, which aligns with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in October, 2015. Sustainable Development Goal No.11 recognizes the critical role – socially, economically and environmentally – that cities play in Sustainable Urban Development. Thus it states that by 2030, we should seek to “make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, at all levels and across the continuum of human settlements.

Overview of Kenya's urban challenges

Kenya has a relatively low urban population (projected at 25.6% by the UN Population Division in 2014), although this is set to increase significantly in the next four decades, when almost half of the country’s population is projected to be urban, translating into significant increase in the actual numbers. Despite the relatively low urbanization level, the existing urban centers are faced with numerous challenges that have undermined their role in driving structural transformation. Inadequate planning, poor urban governance and management, and under-investment in infrastructure and affordable low-cost housing have resulted in dysfunctional urban development in the country.

In 2006, the government of Kenya launched Kenya Vision 2030, whose agenda is to transform Kenya into a middle-income economy country. This vision acknowledges that urbanization will play a vital role in transforming Kenya’s social, political and economic landscapes. However, if current and future urban centers are not well planned and designed, effectively governed and managed, investments in infrastructure up-scaled and or matched to the desired levels, they will be incapable of driving this transformation. Whereas Kenya Vision 2030 has set the roadmap at the national level, only a few individual urban centers in the country have formulated development plans to guide the realization of Vision 2030. However, with a devolved government system that tasks governments with mandatory urban and regional planning, it is expected that urban centers will increasingly prepare development plans.

A combination of factors has resulted in the numerous challenges faced by Kenya’s secondary cities and intermediate towns. These include:

  • Spontaneous growth, resulting in urban sprawl, informal developments, environmental degradation, ineffective urban form with inadequate public spaces, unequal distribution of social and commercial services, and overall unsustainable urban growth;
  • Inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water and sanitation, solid waste management, electricity, recreation facilities, parking spaces etc.;
  • Inadequate housing (especially affordable low-cost housing) and public amenities (e.g. public space, recreational parks, health and education facilities, social halls etc.);
  • Ineffective land administration and land-use planning, characterized by illegal/informal land subdivisions that have contributed to a fragmented urban form, poor street network & connectivity, poor plotting pattern, and unplanned conversion of prime agricultural land to urban real estate;
  • Inability or lack of integration of informal economic activities and increasing competition over urban space between “formal” and “informal activities”;
  • Proliferation of informal settlements and their deteriorating conditions of living, often characterized by socio-economic deprivation;
  • High unemployment rates, urban safety challenges and related social issues;
  • Ineffective planning and governance institutions, characterized by inadequate capacity to plan and implement urban plans.

To address the above challenges the KMP undertook to formulate ISUDPs for selected towns in various counties in Kenya. This process is scheduled for completion in the last quarter of 2015. The competition aims to contribute to these ISUDPs by demonstrating the value of urban design in tapping the inherent potential of the towns and in addressing various challenges, including that of ineffective implementation of previous plans.

Aims and objectives

The Competition aims to create a momentum for greater urban design uptake by demonstrating the value of urban design in implementing ISUDPs in Kenya.

The specific objectives are:

  • To enhance the urban design component of the ISUDPs;
  • To present planning students with an opportunity to contribute to the process of the ISUD planning;
  • To advance the applied learning skills of the participants;
  • To illustrate the opportunities and limitations of the ISUDPs;
  • To promote international inter-university collaborations as a platform for knowledge exchange and co-production of livable urban spaces.
Conditions of the competition
  • The application is open to students of Urban Planning, Urban Design, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Economics and any other relevant discipline globally.
  • Applicants from a specific school may apply as individuals or as a group. An applicant must be enrolled in a certified program during the 2015/2016 academic year at Bachelors (preferably those past their midlevel of their program), Masters, or Ph.D. levels.
  • By applying, an applicant consents to being teamedup by the Competition Secretariat during formation of the International Competition Teams. Each International Competition Team MUST comprise of participants from both a Kenyan-based school and non-Kenyan based school.
  • The official language for the competition is English.
  • Participation in this competition is anonymous. Each team will be issued with a unique registration number which will serve as the only means of identification during the entire adjudication process.
  • Communication between a team (or an individual participant) and any member of the Jury is strictly prohibited.
  • Teams and/or individuals participating must not have a relation (personal) with any of the Jury members.
  • A finalist from each town/site shall be selected to exhibit their work during an exhibition to be held at the UN-Habitat headquarter offices in Nairobi.
  • Each International Competition Team will appoint a team leader who will be the focal point for the team. The team leader will submit the proposal on behalf of the team.
Competition format and schedule

The Competition shall be open to participation from a wide range of urban planning and design schools globally. The competition shall take place from January to May 2016. The Schedule shall be as follows:

  • Competition announcement – 11th January 2016
  • Questions to Secretariat and Answers – 11th to 23rd January 2016. Answers will be provided on the website on 25th January 2016 and thereafter on a continuous basis until the competition ends.
  • Registration 11th – 1st February 2016. Registration deadline – 12:00pm/24.00 hrs. on 1st February 2016 (Nairobi time)
  • Notification of acceptance & teaming – 8th February 2016
  • Commencement of actual design work – 12th February 2016
  • Submission deadline – 12:00pm/24.00 hrs. of 10th April 2016 (Nairobi time)
  • Competition results and shortlist of best proposal for each town/site – 2nd May 2016
  • Announcement of overall winner, exhibition and presentation of awards – 6th May 2016 (to be confirmed)
Right of participation/Eligibility
  • Students enrolled in a certified program during the 2015/2016 academic year at Bachelors (preferably those past the mid-level of their program), Masters, or Ph.D. levels are invited to participate in the design competition. Multidisciplinary groups are strongly encouraged.
  • Applicants whose choose to apply as a group can do so. Group sizes are open and an entire studio class from a specific university can register as a group, but this group, just like individual applicants will have to be paired with students from another university (based in Kenya or based outside Kenya, accordingly), to form an International Competition Team. All Teams must comprise students from both Kenyan-based universities and students from a university outside Kenya.
  • Applicants who choose to apply as a pre-constituted International Competition Team can do so. Team sizes are open, and universities can partner to make a team. But, this pre-constituted team must comprise of students from both a Kenyan-based and nonKenyan based university.
  • Only one single proposal can be submitted by any one International Competition Team.
  • Individuals cannot participate in more than one International Competition Team.
  • Individuals or a group representative MUST register online via the online registration form by midnight of 1st February 2016 (Nairobi time) indicating the three towns/sites – in order of preference – that they would like to develop proposals for.
  • All applicants must submit proof of student status. This should be in the form of scanned Student ID or any other form of verification. This is to be uploaded when filling out the registration form.
  • Upon successful registration, acceptance and pairing, the participants will be communicated with to their registered e-mail address by the Competition Secretariat. Each participant and resultant International Competition Team will be issued with a unique registration number that will henceforth be used throughout the competition. This is to ensure that all proposals submitted to the jurors are received in anonymous format.
  • There are no registration fees. Participation in the competition is free.

The jury will select the best proposal from each of the 9 towns/sites. Out of these 9, the jury will select the overall best design proposal. The team with the overall best proposal will be the Competition Winning Team. The other 8 proposals will be runners-up.

The Competition Winning Team will be awarded $10,000 US. The Organizer will partly fund nominated member(s) of the team to participate in the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador from 17-20 October 2016.

Further, the Organizer will exhibit the 9 best proposals at the Habitat III Conference in Quito.

All of the 9 best proposals will feature in an exhibition at the UN-Habitat global head offices at Gigiri, Nairobi in May 2016. The students from the Kenya-based Universities will get their travel to the UN Headquarters in Nairobi covered, to enable them to present their teams’ work to the Jury and the Exhibition participants.

Each team member from the 9 best proposals will receive a certificate from the Organizer.


As mentioned above under ‘Right of Participation/Eligibility’ and ‘Creating the International Competition teams’, you can apply as either an individual, a local group of students (from either a Kenyan based university or a university from outside Kenya), or as an already formed International Competition Team (consisting of students from both a Kenyan university and from a university outside Kenya).

In either case, each student need to register themselves via the online registration form, where they will be asked which option they wish to apply under. Please be prepared with:

  1. A proof of your student status
  2. The name of your fellow applicants (only if you apply as a local group or as an international competition team)
  3. The name and email of your selected group or team leader (only if you apply as a local group or as an international competition team)
  4. An agreed common name for your group or team (only if you apply as a local group or as an international competition team)


This opportunity has expired. It was originally published here:

Eligible Countries
Publish Date
January 26, 2016