Finally, a graduate urbanist! So, what’s next?

I don’t mean to make my first blog post of 2023 about me, but, guys, this girl here has a degree in urban design and development. I’ve been super syked since I was given the power to read and write on December 21, 2022—such an irony. Never been this prouder, I think that’s the hardest thing I have ever tried to earn so far in my entire life. Check my personal Instagram post for the photo highlights.

2022 came with a lot of uncertainty, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out what I could do with all this urban knowledge. I came to terms with the fact that no professional body recognizes urban designers, so I won’t be sitting for any professional exams. On the positive side, I get to decide my title, and no one will serve me a notice for using the urban design or urbanist title just after graduation—such a privilege! 😂

So, what next?

I messaged a lot of professionals in the field, and most of them were kind enough to give me insightful knowledge and some even opportunities, which I will forever be grateful for. The little experience I’ve had working has taught me how political urban design and planning are. I even got involved in a Twitter dialogue on who is to blame for the state of Nairobi. One thing was evident: very few built environment professionals venture into advocacy, and that has never cemented the idea of me going full-blown into advocacy design.

Procrastination is often due to a lack of clarity. When we have inspiration for what we want to see happen, we can start rolling up our sleeves. I am eager to apply my new knowledge and skills to positively impact cities and towns. I look forward to using my degree to help shape the built environment and create more liveable and sustainable communities.

I hope this year’s posts instil the idea that we can still have hope for towns and cities in our country and this blog to serve as a collection of inspirations for what Nairobi can become. If you are reading this now and you have any advocacy project under Sustainable Development Goal 11) or anything you’d love us to collaborate on, don’t hesitate to DM me on any of my socials; I reply to DMs real quick. Happy 2023!

Sustainability is now a need!

I love documentaries; those life-altering documentaries are my favorite to watch. On this particular day, I decided to watch this one, The True Cost, which covers the damage humans have done to the planet. The True Cost highlights the fashion industry’s horrific exploitation of the planet and its people.

It didn’t take long for it to sink in that I actually care about these things. Coincidentally, my sufficient writing skills and the fact that I was pursuing a degree in Urban Design proved to be a good combination for me to begin blogging. Blogging about the issues I care about, hoping those around me get to see my perspective.

I wish that for everyone, the awakening part, the realization that you care about where you live, your neighborhood, or the city in which you live. I hope this blog provides you with that opportunity. I hope you are, or you eventually get tired of living in mediocre spaces like me, spaces that lack necessities like a tree, and muster the courage to take actionable steps.

I remain adamant that urban planning and design are not the sole purviews of our architects, urban designers, or planners, nor are they a one-person or one-professional job. The famous quote by Robert Cowan Says

A city’s environment is shaped not only by the people who have an important influence but by everyone who lives and works there.

I’ve written several pieces advocating for better urban spaces, one of my favorites being   Do we really need to own cars in cities? Tag along if such kinds of posts and articles interest you.

We need to Humanise Cities.

My introductions have always started with life insights or me recommending a nice book or a Tv show, (I assume you’ve noticed that by now), but today’s different. I remember commenting somewhere that I didn’t want this to be a rant blog, but our city’s situation is wanting!

I’m writing this with lots of emotions coz of the heartbreaking accident of a cyclist that happened on Thika Road, Nairobi. (may his soul rest in peace) I was so touched by the numbers that came out on the cyclist lives matter protest that happened on Saturday. That clearly showed how unsafe our roads are for the non-motorists in the Nairobi

I often imagine cycling (as an alternative to beat the traffic) but only the thought of it, is scary, from my safety, the routes to take, and where to park my bicycle. The city itself is discouraging the few that are reasonable enough to take responsibility on their own hands to reduce air pollution and at least decongest the city. I agree we all are responsible for how our cities turn out to be. But how can we even afford to take responsibility if the city itself isn’t built for us? Today’s post is a call for creating more human spaces in cities and towns.

Being a non-motorist in Kenya is clearly a death sentence. That’s the main reason why the majority of the population insists on driving themselves around the city. This continues to increase the number of cars on roads thus congestion and air pollution.

A program was recently done by Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) which involved the conversion of spaces into pedestrian walkways and cycling lanes, to make it easy for residents to walk and cycle from home to work in the CBD. Instead, motorists are already parking along the walkways, inconveniencing pedestrians as well as cyclists. This article highlights the shocking numbers of pedestrians and cyclists that die in road accidents in Kenya.

The term humanising the city means humans become the dominant priority in the organisation of the cities’ spaces. (cities serving the people who live in them). This is important since the citizens are the city, if the citizens are not feeling comfortable then, the city certainly is not human-centered. There needs to be a shift in the way cities are developed, cities should be developed with the intent to create better places for humans to inhabit. Urban designers and planners should consider the following strategies to Humanise space in cities and towns;-

  • Have visions and goals towards human-centered cities.
  • Have approaches that recognize problems that city dwellers face yet it also providers economic incentives.
  • Have engagement platforms to get to know what the citizens want.

Human-centered design will have a huge impact on the sense and vibrancy of the city, its advantages include:

  • Create a better place for humans to live.
  • Will make cities and human settlements more inclusive, resilient, safer, and more sustainable.
  • It will empower citizens to make more informed decisions.
  • Attracts density of people to use the NMT.

We’d love to see less car-centric streets and more pedestrians oriented.

Get in touch!

How cities affects our mental health.

I love self- development books, the how-tos and the secret to kind of books, or scientifically proven ways on how to accomplish a certain task books. Just like the one I mentioned in my previous post.

Don’t get me wrong I also love me some good stories, first the logic-oriented books or the ones that introduce you to so many new concepts that make you change the way you think about certain things. I discovered another mind opener book called The courage to be disliked by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga. The book has so many pieces of wisdom that not only had me rethink my life perspective but also allowed me to put new truths into action. Let me just mentions bits that broadened my thinking:

  • Trauma doesn’t exist, people just choose that kind of life. (yeah right, I was surprised too, sounds victim blaming but he explains his perspective)
  • If we are upset about something its coz of the story, we are telling ourselves about that particular thing.
  • We choose to be unhappy and we are using that particular circumstance to justify that. (happiness is a choice)
  • You are the only one who’s worried about how you look. (people are busy worrying about themselves, what makes you think that they are actively thinking about you?🤡)
  • Choose the best path that you believe in, what kind of judgment that other people pass on that choice, that’s the task of other people and that’s a matter you can’t do anything about it.
  • We should not compliment or insults anyone but only give affirmations.

I think that’s enough to get you reading the book. Just don’t overthink it, and question everything including people that suffer from mental health problems. I don’t know a lot about mental health but what I know is, some mental health problems are a result of both genetic and environmental factors. Read the book with an open mind and take away the good ideas.

Speaking of mental health. How are you feeling today? How’s your mental health? September is National Suicide Prevention Month, I thought I would write about how urban life affects our mental health. The questions of urban living and mental health is a complex issue that’s related to many other interrelated factors. Urban life exerts a huge impact on our wellbeing including mental health. The impacts can either be positive or negative.

Studies show that urban dwellers have a 20% higher risk of developing anxiety disorders and a 40% risk of developing mood disorders. Urban stressors include air and noise pollution, lack of enough greenery, traffic congestion, etc. These challenges are brought by the rapid pace that our cities and towns are growing. (Effects of urbanisation) Social stress is the main factor that causes mental disorders in urban areas. Like living in crowded areas will bring you stress.

The key to improving our wellbeing in urban areas is by making the city more livable and concentrating the city design on Sensory Landscape. By sensory landscape I mean the smelling, hearing, seeing, touching, and even tasting of the city. we often interpret the city through the technical rather than the sensory, yet it is the sensory from which we build feeling and emotion and through which our psychological landscapes are built.

Just differentiate the feeling you have when you walk on Moi Avenue street and the one that’s on Aga khan Walk on a sunny day. Lots of study shows how our interactions with nature improve our state of mind because people tend to be more active in nature and sights sounds and smell of the greenery boosts our mood.

Aga khan walk.Nairobi.

The physical nature of cities also puts a strain on the emotional wellbeing of their inhabitants. When planning new neighbourhoods and refurbishing existing ones we should put in mind phycological health. What if our city planners and designers start their plan with words like beauty, love, happiness, or excitement as opposed to spatial outcomes or ‘planning framework? We need to understand people’s emotions. A lot of us are talking about sustainable development forgetting that cities need to be psychologically and emotionally sustaining. If we are talking about sustainability let it be sustained across a range.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinion on this. Get in Touch!

Edited by Noor


Hello to everyone or any one reading this blog post ,this my first writing so I really don’t know if anyone will really be reading this but any ways,let me introduce the blog, have had this thought of starting this blog for a while now and as I see it this the best time to start coz WHY NOT!( I’m a fun of the Peaky blinders series and I really had to use the Tommy Shelby’s favorite line😂).

You probably think that maybe I’m writing this blog on my life history and shit actually you are not wrong but the difference here is I’ll be writing my life experience in cities and towns in my country. But I lowkey wish I was writing about my life history coz damn have had quite an experience for the 20 years have happened to live this life, which of course I’m grateful for them.

I actually don’t consider myself a writer or an influencer, but I feel like someone gotta do this, I mean, I have not encountered any youth in my country talking about sustainable everything or anything. And if they are there then they are very few.

Wake up guys! Sustainable living is now a need, and don’t worry coz we’ll learn together on our responsibilities in our cities and towns. I hope when you see this blog post it will be one of those moments that you sit in a bank waiting to be served while watching news and the realize how much you actually care for environment when you see a huge forest burn or any other effects of climate change. I really wish this was an incitation blog but I’m just tryna get you to resonate with me, especially people around my age coz we are capable of a lot more that you think. I believe they are thousands of people out there that are willing to do whatever it takes to make a place they live a success.

Let’s get to the point, everyone loves living in the cities coz of a lot of reasons including job opportunities, better life and other specific reason you have on your mind, (you can revisit your history notes on urbanization for other reasons🤗) but it is different for everyone, and lemme ask this question, what do you do with the things you love? You take care of them.

I’m starting this blog to be the voice of reason, to educate and encourage ways that we can make our cities a safe place for all of us to experience our short lives no matter the age or abilities (city for all🏙️). I believe cities should be a place that makes you feel safe, I mean this is our home and do you mishandle your things at home? and for a city to evolve positively, its effectiveness is solely relied on the plan behind it(the work of our urban designers and urban planners)but mostly how the city dwellers handle it.

What I’m tryna say is, it is up to us to make the city to what we want it be. You know of a saying that goes “you are what you eat” now we should treat our cities like our bodies and handle it with as much care as we handle our bodies. Let’s not be among the mindless eaters that don’t consider the harm that any food is doing to their bodies.

Consider this a blog post on urban happiness, urban creativity and human conditions in urban areas. I actually wanted to name the blog urban happiness but, someone already has the name but then I came up with the name urban designage from urban design and urban signages. Like consider this a sign that you are supposed to change your ways of thinking and the way you handle urban areas🙄.Let me know in the comment sections if I should ignore the urban designage and take up the urban happiness name or what. Welcome to my journey of tryna convince you to live sustainably.

Feel free to contact me for a collaboration or something. And don’t forget to follow my Instagram page. You can also follow the blog ,stay tuned for more posts!