Kibera Public Space

Kibera Public Space

Kounkuey Design Initiative

Anthony Opil
Nairobi, Kenya
Project Year
Social Housing

Kibera Public Space

Kounkuey Design Initiative as Architects


Kibera is the largest informal settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa. Home to more than a million residents, it occupies a space just outside of downtown Nairobi that is two-thirds the size of New York City's Central Park and consists of thirteen villages. Despite the roughly $25 million spent by more than 200 NGOs each year, Kibera has no formal trash collections system or dumping site and only one toilet per 250 people. Most families live on $1 a day and unemployment is over 50%. Land tenure is particularly precarious in Kibera. The government owns the land, while homes are constructed and owned by middle-income Kenyans who live outside of Kibera and then occupied and rented by low-income Kenyans. Housing density is incredibly high, with densities reaching 2,300 people per hectare, leaving little traditional open space. When space is available it is often used as a dumping site for residents, and becomes unusable due to periodic flooding.


KPSP 02, the second KDI project site in Kibera, sits along the river that runs through the settlement and is a fifteen-minute walk upstream from KPSP 01. Dense residential units border the available land. The site has been un-buildable because of flooding and erosion and has primarily been used for waste disposal. It is along a major circulation route and had four makeshift toilets that drained directly into the river.

Project Activities

KPSP 02 commenced in the summer of 2010, beginning with a series of community meetings concerning the use of the site as a dumping ground. The first action at the KPSP 02 site was a cleanup involving eighty community members, including fifteen members representing the three organizing community groups. In order to combat flooding, a gabion system was designed and constructed along the riverbanks. The system was designed to also serve as a leisure and recreation area for the space.

Based on the community's prioritized needs, KPSP 02 was designed with more complex buildings including a public sanitation center, a set of kiosks and a playground. The sanitation center and kiosks will provide revenue for ongoing site maintenance. The Riverside Usafi Group – RUG was formed from participating community members to provide site maitenance.

The sanitation center consists of six toilets and four showers, a water tap, connections to Nairobi water and sewer lines and a 10,000-liter water tank. The sanitation center was constructed from soil-stabilized bricks that the community was trained to make and sell to the project. Three kiosks line the main artery road next to the sanitation center. Kiosks will be rented out to local vendors. Finally, a playground was built out of bamboo and locally sourced wood and includes a slide, tire swing and monkey bars.

Economic Development

Two main small businesses were introduced at the site. The brick cooperative making soil-stabilized bricks will continue to make bricks for wholesale. The bricks will also be used to construct additional elements at the site. A women's baking cooperative was also initiated, and their goods will be sold at the new kiosks. Operating funds for maintenance will come from a percentage of the income generated by the sanitation center fees and kiosk rents.

Construction of KPSP 02 was completed in August 2011.

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Project Credits
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