Archives for category: Urban Planning

Creating a mashup of aerial images of African cities is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now and today I finally had a minute to put the satellite images together. Here’s the link: Afrian_metropolises. I downloaded all of the images from Google Earth Pro at the same size and scale (from 34.7 miles). The top row shows six of West Africa’s largest cities, the middle row shows East and Central African cities, and the bottom shows southern Africa plus New York and Boston for familiar comparisons (for me at least). A few striking first glance observations include the size of the South African giants Johannesburg and Cape Town, and Nigeria’s neighboring megalopolises Lagos and Ibadan (especially these two Nigerian cities in comparison to Kano, which recent (politically motivated) censuses have given population figures equal to Lagos. This is not to say geographic size of a city is determinant of its population, but the aerial difference between these three cities is readily apparent). Also interesting to note is how obvious (but obviously not a scientific method) it is to tell how paved a city is or is not based on where the city lies on the scale between brown (dirt) and grey (asphalt). There’s a limit to how useful images/maps like this actually are, but it’s fun to look at and helpful to have a for developing a mental imprint of the relative geographic sizes and shapes of African cities. 


(Mark Duerksen 2014)


A few cities (mostly in South America) have recently built or are planning to build gondolas to lift people up and over traffic to take them throughout the city as an efficient, low(er) cost, and scenic means of public transportation. This is the second time I’ve run into this urban mobility solution in the last couple of weeks and given how successful some of these projects have been, I’ve been wondering why it has not yet been more widely implemented. Compared to the disruption and all the technical difficulties in digging tunnels for underground metro systems, building these hanging subways is far less disruptive (and cost “between $3 million and $12 million per mile, comparing favorably against $400 million per mile for subway systems and $36 million per mile for light rail systems”} and although they don’t have the carryings capacity of underground trains, they can be visually “timed” and offer a visible link to the heart of the city for residents of historically marginal areas (or “urban islands”) that are then connected to gondola lines. The article claims that plans for a gondola system is in the works for Lagos (I’m not sure if it’s part of the proposed but slow to develop plans for a Lagos train metro system). This is a phenomenon worth following.


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A great blog post on Nigeria’s plans to build a new centennial “smart” city (more of a district) for 100k people in its capital Abuja (itself a planned city that was built in the 1980s). While praising the socially and environmentally conscious planning approach that promises “a mature vibrant ecosystem,” the piece reminds us that new cities in developing countries are almost always reliant on fickle market driven investors hoping to reap huge economic playoffs from these “green and sustainable” international business hubs by quite simply plundering its countryside. These ambitious, environmentally conscious, new city projects are in themselves fantastic examples of planning and social responsibility, but as the post points out, at some point we have to take a step back and question whether our capitalist economy and its byproduct of violent ecological damage are themselves sustainable, and how do we plan and build a better version?


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Billing itself as a kind of anti-megacity that have been the focus of urban studies in the developing world, the Anam New City project is creating a new “rurban” (mixed rural and urban) area in east-central Nigeria for approx. 30k people to live in. Funded by the Chife Foundation, the aim is to create a model for sustainable development that mixes agriculture and pastoral space and lifestyle with dense community living (and the service delivery that is possible with it) in a clustered, mixed use master plan. I’m very curious to follow this project as people move in. Unlike past African city plans, this one seems to have a better appreciation for the “rurbanism” that eventually works its way into nearly all African cities–I read somewhere that the cows in Nairobi produce some massive quantity (in the 1000s of pounds) of dung a day. Of course this is a project funded by an wealthy NGO and unlikely to be reproducible across the continent where a more likely widespread approach is the privately funded planned cities to cater to international economic development. Still it seems like the NGO is going to eventually upload a manual onto their website that shares information on how to build similar cities. Master planning isn’t nonexistent even in places considered the epitome of “adaptive self-organization” such as Lagos where the current mayor Babatunde Fashola is building planned urban housing projects for the city. It would be interesting to see the effect of aspects of Anam New City incorporated into a kind of “nodal development” of a megacity, creating hubs of pre-planned order with services and uncongested transportation. Here’s a link to the Anam City blog.


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Nyere’s utopian capital that was never fully realized

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Would this work in Lagos? Is that question a luxury for marginal residents of Lagos?

Image source (Photograph:  Kunlé Adeyemi)