The emergence of planning in Nairobi can be traced back to the arrival of the train in the plains of the River Nrobi. This place was chosen by the railway builders as an ideal resting spot while awaiting the ascent of the steep Limuru escarpments. Kenya’s first proposal was to establish a railroad town along the rails, a colonialist’s first infrastructure built to link the hinterland to the coastal region.
Nairobi was a good option because it provided a convenient stopover between Mombasa and Kisumu, as well as sufficient water supply from the nearby Nairobi and Mbagathi rivers. The terrain was relatively flat, making factories, industrial areas, and a depot possible.
Following the establishment of the railway depot, certain spatial trends emerged, including the railway station, a shopping center, housing quarters, and the Indian bazaar. This layout was based on the 1898 Railway Town Plan and the 1899 Railway Staff Quarters Plan.
Nairobi’s transformation from a railway town to an administrative and commercial center under the British protectorate was aided by the move of provincial offices from Machakos to Nairobi first, and then the protectorate headquarters from Mombasa to Nairobi.
In 1900, the city became Nairobi’s first township. This was the beginning of the town’s municipal government. By this time, the city had grown into a large and prosperous town, with settlements primarily consisting of KUR structures, separate residential neighborhoods for Europeans and Indians, and a small African settlement in Eastland. By 1909, a large part of Nairobi’s internal structure was already built, particularly in the Central Business District (CBD). In the year 1919 Nairobi was named as a municipal council with corporate rights
Nairobi was 25Km2 in 1920, 90km2 in 1927, and 684 square kilometers in 1995. Nairobi’s business and regulatory status extended related to its populace. Key business roads like Delamere Street- now Kenyatta Avenue and Government Road-now Moi Avenue, became significant shopping zones as zones like Bazaar Street now-Biashara Street emerged. Hence, a lot of the old buildings in the town are also located on these streets
With the commissioning of the 1948 Master plan by the Nairobi Municipal Council and the Railway Authority, the settler capital was further elevated to a colonial capital. The plan’s main goal was to make Nairobi more appealing as a capital for Kenya and the East African region. The plan, like other proposals for colonial capitals, aimed to improve relations between the colonizing nation and the colonial territory.
However, the plan was specific, focusing on European and Asian traders, with the raised grounds toward the west saved for private use. Since the land seemed, by all accounts, to be abandoned (pastoralism practice by the Masais), it provided opportunities for land appropriation.
In the early stages of the growth of Nairobi, racial character in various places portrays the racial segregation created by spatial organizations. Europeans lived on the railways in the north and west;in areas where they had easy access to ports and roads for the transportation of goods, the colonisers developed centers of life represented by administrative, cultural, economic, and recreational activities.. Africans and Indians were restricted to the eastern and southern regions.
As a result, the spatial structures of Nairobi, became overly dependent on a limited number of economic geographic areas.With a few exceptions, these land-uses have remained unchanged in modern-day Nairobi.
Teckla, Muhoro, et al. “Reflections on Architectural Morphology in Nairobi, Kenya: Implications for Conservation of the Built Heritage.” Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage in Kenya: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach, edited by Mugwima Njuguna and Anne-Marie Deisser, 1st ed., UCL Press, London, 2016, pp. 75–92. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1gxxpc6.12. Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.
Owuor S, Mbatia T. POST INDEPENDENCE DEVELOPMENT OF NAIROBI CITY, KENYA Pre-colonial patterns of urbanity and rurality and the European colonial legacy 3. Urban Geology of Nairobi. 2008;1(1):22-23. http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/11295/38925/2008_dakar_workshop.pdf?sequence=1