Kigali Nouveau

Yesterday evening I attended a public presentation Kigali Nouveau. From Vision to implementation held in Goethe Institute. It was a presentation of the “recommended” development through the Conceptual Master Plan for Kigali City and the steps to make it happen. It was an important event in increasing the awareness of what is happening in Kigali, as it is the subject of a major transformation towards a positive development (from many points of view), but the attendance of Rwandans was much lower than the attendance of muzungus (whites).

Watching the presentations (my cup of tea I might say), I was surprisingly brought to reality by the questions that speakers received from the audience. As I still keep my habit of “what I learn from it” everyday list, I made some notes while reflecting over the meeting. I don`t contest the professionalism and the passion that all those concerned with the master plan have given, I actually appreciate such a devotion and some brilliant ideas for Kigali city development that they brought. However, presenting a conceptual master plan of a metropolis, a clear implementation strategy has to be highlighted. I understand how and why such a large scale project creates a lot of confusion among the citizens. In my opinion, confusion is created by firstly some images/ impressions used and secondly by words used to awareness of the Conceptual Master Plan. The public realm is strongly influenced by word of mouth here, therefore the information send has to be clear and specific. Thus, what I take away from my future public consultations/ presentations in front of an audience that is not part of professional fields are the following points:

  1. When consulting the citizens, don`t show a map if it doesn’t say a thing specific – and large scale maps rarely say one. A map should be easy readable for each citizen. A map`s impression is worthless compared to a rendering image or a drawing. For ordinary people, a map can create more confusion than clarification.
  2. Careful usage of the words undefined: as “concept”, “identity”, “territory”, public space”, “green system”, “urban sprawl”, “public realm”, etc., at least without making clear what they are. There are terms that we use every day, so much that we sometimes don`t realize that are part of our professional vocabulary. I ask my neighbor what is public space and he will answer shortly, after a while of thinking, “the market”.
  3. Make clear the role of the parts involved: professional practitioners, consultants, and more important of all: the role of the public, the role of the citizens. The people need to see that the city development is made for their own welfare; they need to feel that is their city, their space.
  4. The core of the development, the main concept, has to be visible in the whole process of development. In Kigali`s case, “1+1=3”, the sustainability, the land-marking, where did it all go?  How does this concept still work and why? Those are not rhetorical questions, are means I find only between the lines.
  5. Marketing a project if based on exaggeration can induce false impressions and threatens the trust of people. Use an image not because its fancy but because it`s meaningful.
  6. The ideas within the Master Plan, and on which it relies on, are not just drawn on a paper because one woke up in the morning and said “Let`s build a 12floor skyscraper above the central roundabout”. It has to be clear that all interventions, although at conceptual level, on the map, are drawn as solution to a specific query, by personal with experience in dealing with urban issues, only and after consulting both the administrative body (municipality) and the public (the citizens). Therefore the master plan gives an alternative of city development without taking sides – the key of a development supporting the needs and interest of all parts.
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