URBAN PROFILES & SITES The towns included in the competition differ in size, location and character; hence, the issues of each town differ. The above provides an overview of the different sites | © unhabitat
The towns included in the competition differ in size, location and character; hence, the issues of each town differ. The above provides an overview of the different sites | © UNHABITAT


UN-Habitat in collaboration with Ministry of Land, Housing & Urban Development: Urban Development Department, Kenya, is looking for creative planning and design ideas for sustainable urban development in Kenya. Students from around the world are below invited to participate in a student design competition for Kenya’s towns.


In 2006, the government of Kenya launched Kenya Vision 2030, whose agenda is to transform Kenya into a middle-income economy country. This vision acknowledges that urbanization will play a vital role in transforming Kenya’s social, political and economic landscapes. However, if current and future urban centers are not well planned and designed, effectively governed and managed, investments in infrastructure up-scaled and or matched to the desired levels, they will be incapable of driving this transformation. Whereas Kenya Vision 2030 has set the roadmap at the national level, only a few individual urban centers in the country have formulated development plans to guide the realization of Vision 2030. However, with a devolved government system that tasks governments with mandatory urban and regional planning, it is expected that urban centers will increasingly prepare development plans.

A combination of factors has resulted in the numerous challenges faced by Kenya’s secondary cities and intermediate towns. These include:

  • Spontaneous growth, resulting in urban sprawl, informal developments, environmental degradation, ineffective urban form with inadequate public spaces, unequal distribution of social and commercial services, and overall unsustainable urban growth;
  •  Inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water and sanitation, solid waste management, electricity, recreation facilities, parking spaces etc.;
  • Inadequate housing (especially affordable low-cost housing) and public amenities (e.g. public space, recreational parks, health and education facilities, social halls etc.);
  • Ineffective land administration and land-use planning, characterized by illegal/informal land subdivisions that have contributed to a fragmented urban form, poor street network & connectivity, poor plotting pattern, and unplanned conversion of prime agricultural land to urban real estate;
  • Inability or lack of integration of informal economic activities and increasing competition over urban space between “formal” and “informal activities”;
  • Proliferation of informal settlements and their deteriorating conditions of living, often characterized by socio-economic deprivation;
  • High unemployment rates, urban safety challenges and related social issues;
  • Ineffective planning and governance institutions, characterized by inadequate capacity to plan and implement urban plans.

To address the above challenges the KMP undertook to formulate ISUDPs for selected towns in various counties in Kenya. This process is scheduled for completion in the last quarter of 2015. The competition aims to contribute to these ISUDPs by demonstrating the value of urban design in tapping the inherent potential of the towns and in addressing various challenges, including that of ineffective implementation of previous plans.

Each team is required to undertake urban design for one out of the 9 towns listed below.

1.Embu 2. Kitui 3. Machakos 4. Malindi 5. Mombasa 6. Naivasha 7. Nakuru 8. Nyeri 9. Thika


The application is open to students of Urban Planning, Urban Design, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Economics and any other relevant discipline globally.

Applicants from a specific school may apply as individuals or as a group. An applicant must be enrolled in a certified program during the 2015/2016 academic year at Bachelors (preferably those past their midlevel of their program), Masters, or Ph.D. levels.

Applicants whose choose to apply as a group can do so. Group sizes are open and an entire studio class from a specific university can register as a group, but this group, just like individual applicants will have to be paired with students from another university (based in Kenya or based outside Kenya, accordingly), to form an International Competition Team. All Teams must comprise students from both Kenyan-based universities and students from a university outside Kenya.


Each student need to register themselves via the online registration form, where they will be asked which option they wish to apply under. Please be prepared with:

A proof of your student status

The name of your fellow applicants (only if you apply as a local group or as an international competition team)

The name and email of your selected group or team leader (only if you apply as a local group or as an international competition team)

An agreed common name for your group or team (only if you apply as a local group or as an international competition team)

Please register for the competition HERE


Competition announcement – 11 Jan 2016

Questions to Secretariat and Answers – 11 to 23 Jan 2016. Answers will be provided on the website on 25th January 2016 and thereafter on a continuous basis until the competition ends.

Registration 11 Jan – 1st Feb 2016.

Registration deadline – 12:00pm/24.00 hrs. on 1 Feb 2016 (Nairobi time)

Notification of acceptance & teaming – 8 Feb 2016

Commencement of actual design work – 12 Feb 2016

Submission deadline – 12:00pm/24.00 hrs. of 10 April 2016 (Nairobi time)

Competition results and shortlist of best proposal for each town/site – 2 May 2016

Announcement of overall winner, exhibition and presentation of awards – 6 May 2016 (to be confirmed)


The jury will select the best proposal from each of the 9 towns/sites. Out of these 9, the jury will select the overall best design proposal. The team with the overall best proposal will be the Competition Winning Team. The other 8 proposals will be runners-up.

The Competition Winning Team will be awarded $10,000 US. The Organizer will partly fund nominated member(s) of the team to participate in the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador from 17-20 October 2016.