Pascal Mukanga
Bernard Heng
John Gendall
Jia Cong Ang
Shirley Chebet
Kezia Ojal
Jack Campbell Clause
Joe Mulligan


Public spaces are key to inclusion and sustainability in urban Africa. Too often, public space is seen as an add-on, to be included at the end when funding or space allows. In this paper, written by two collaborating organisations working on public space in Kenya (and beyond), we argue that public space should be seen less as an optional outcome of sustainable development and more as a necessary and active agent in catalysing such development. We illustrate this with two case studies of public space initiatives in very different settlements. The first case study - in Kibera, Nairobi - demonstrates how a series of co-designed public spaces can address local, site-specific objectives within an informal settlement context, while responding to regional-scale challenges, including the development of stormwater management and infrastructure that improves access to public health, economic opportunities, education, transport, social equity and emergency services. The second case - in the Kalobeyei settlement in Kakuma - represents a paradigm shift in refugee settlement design, demonstrating the critical role of participatory public space design within an integrated planning strategy to promote the socio-economic integration of host and refugee communities. Other benefits include improving the safety of women and children, providing shelter and respite from inclement weather exacerbated by climate change, and improving access to economic opportunities, basic infrastructure and services.
A common feature of the projects is the way in which communities have been substantially involved in all stages of planning, design and construction. By analysing the process, we draw lessons for replication in other neighbourhoods facing the challenges posed by the intersection of climate change, social inequality and rapid urbanisation. Overall, we hope to demonstrate the potential of public spaces developed through localised and participatory design approaches as an accelerator of sustainable development in African cities.


How to Cite
Mukanga, P., Heng, B., Gendall, J., Cong Ang, J., Chebet, S., Ojal, K., Campbell Clause, J. and Mulligan, J. (2022) “From Kibera to Kalobeyei: Public Space as a Catalyst for Transformation and Integrated Planning”, The Journal of Public Space, 7(1), pp. 311–322. doi: 10.32891/jps.v7i1.1580.
Non Academic / Case study
Author Biographies

Pascal Mukanga, Kounkuey Design Initiative

Pascal Mukanga is an urban and regional planning and development practitioner from Kenya. He is passionate about evidence-based, data driven, and participatory planning and urban policy processes that promote equity, improve the quality of life in cities and urban areas and contribute to economic growth and development of African cities, apart from strengthening their capacity to cope with climate change impacts. Pascal believes that public spaces are central to achievement of sustainable development in cities and urban areas. In the KDI Kenya office, Pascal Mukanga provides project leadership and technical programme support, including through research, spatial planning and data analysis, policy advocacy and designing and coordinating participatory and co-development strategies for urban resilience, and integrated and inclusive planning and design projects related to public spaces, urban rivers, climate change and natural hazards. Pascal holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Nairobi, and is an author in various other publications including “Linking the UN SDGs and African Agenda 2063: Global goals and local priorities for Africa”, and “What does sustainable infrastructure mean for slum-upgrading and urban development in Kenya? Reflections on the development of a “Framework for Inclusive and Integrated Infrastructure””.

Bernard Heng, UN-Habitat

Bernard Heng works to strengthen urban planning and spatial design in humanitarian contexts, such as Kakuma-Kalobeyei Refugee Settlements, through meaningful participatory processes and social inclusion. This includes developing participatory design workshops to co-design public spaces; pioneering new inclusive methodologies for persons with disabilities and elderly in planning; strengthening participatory methodologies to support participants to understand and provide feedback to urban concepts in in-person and virtual (e.g. Miro) engagements.

John Gendall, Independent writer

John Gendall is a New York-based writer specializing in architecture, landscape architecture, and cities.
As a strategic advisor, he partners with architects, landscape architects, and urban planners in editorial initiatives and communications.
John has taught at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Pratt Institute, and Parsons The New School for Design. He studied architectural history at Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he earned a Masters in Design Studies with Distinction.

Jia Cong Ang, UN-Habitat

Jia Cong Ang is a UN Secretariat UN-Habitat Human Settlements Officer working on sustainable development, urban planning and design. She has worked closely with various partner organizations and institutions including academia, as well as private and public institutions, in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, with a focus on utilizing and promoting community-led approaches and solutions.

Shirley Chebet, Kounkuey Design Initiative

Shirley is a design associate at Kounkuey Design Initiative. She is a dynamic and Passionate Landscape Architect with experience in development of people centric, efficient and safe public spaces and transport system in Nairobi. She has over 5 years professional working experience spanning through projects in urban safety and resilience planning, transport planning, design and implementation of public parks, river and informal settlement regeneration in civil society, government and the private sector. Shirley supports the co- development of design strategies , solutions and advancing equity for KDI’s build projects in Kibera and turkana.She is keen and passionate about inclusive community led processes and inclusion of minority voices in safeguarding and regeneration of public spaces in the city.A graduate of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural and Technology, she is also a graduate member of the Architectural Association of Kenya. When she is not busy providing solutions to complex Spatial matters in KDI, she spends time dancing and volunteering at Nipe sauti africa, a CBO that gives a voice to the voiceless.

Kezia Ojal, Kounkuey Design Initiative

Keziah joined Kounkuey Design Initiative in 2018 as a Community and Economic development intern before being absorbed as full time staff with the title “Community Coordinator”. Keziah holds a bachelor's degree in Social Work from Moi University, Kenya and is currently pursuing a postgraduate Diploma in Project planning and Management at The University of Nairobi. Now working as a Community Associate at Kounkuey Design Initiative, She is experienced in community engagement and community organization development with knowledge in monitoring group projects as well as educating communities on project sustainability. Keziah has successfully led community engagement in implementation of more than 10 projects with residents of informal settlements in Kenya including one with Refugee and Host community in Kalobeyei Integrated settlement in Turkana, Kenya, in all the projects she engages with the community in all stages of the project cycle. Her focus on self help approaches enables her work together with residents to come up with practical solutions to managing daily challenges. She values social change and is gratified when she helps people improve their lives. Keziah has a strong interest in Building safe and secure societies, this is from the smallest social unit, the family all the way to the community to create inclusivity of the less fortunate in the society.

Jack Campbell Clause, Kounkuey Design Initiative

Jack Campbell Clause, Senior Design Principal and Kenyan citizen, leads the design and construction work for Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) in Kenya, and co-leads the KDI Nairobi Office. He holds a Masters in landscape architecture and became a chartered landscape architect (UK) in 2015. He first started working with KDI in 2012 as an intern before re-joining KDI in 2018 after 7 years of working as a landscape architect in the UK and on projects across Europe and Asia. During the past 4 years with KDI, Jack has led projects in participatory public space design and masterplanning, community-responsive adaptation to flooding, nature based solutions for water management, and sustainable infrastructure for unplanned urban areas.

Joe Mulligan, Kounkuey Design Initiative

Joe is a Founding Principal of KDI, and currently serves as Executive Director. A chartered civil engineer, he is passionate about the joint application of science and local knowledge to develop responsive and sustainable projects. Joe co-directs the global organization and oversees all of KDI Kenya’s projects and operations. He has twenty years of professional experience in sustainable infrastructure master planning; design and delivery of water, wastewater, and drainage systems; and participatory design and engineering projects in both rural and urban settings. Joe has worked on engineering design projects in India, China, Nigeria, Haiti, Ghana, Malaysia, El Salvador, Kenya, Russia, Bulgaria, UAE, the UK, and the US. Joe holds a Master of Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge and a Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering from Imperial College London and École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées. He also holds a PhD in Planning and Decision Analysis from KTH Royal Institute of Technology where he is a faculty member in the Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering (SEED).


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