Kisumu communities co-design safer, greener and more inclusive streets and public space using Minecraft
Kisumu, Kenya, May 2022 - The City of Kisumu in collaboration with UN-Habitat the Block by Block, the Institute of Transport and Development Policy (ITDP), the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP) and other partners organized a Minecraft workshop for the participatory design of Freedom Park (also known as Uhuru Park) as part of the Freedom Park facelift Programme and the “Reclaiming Streets” project.
32 local community members and technical staff of the City of Kisumu took part in the two day Minecraft workshop on 6th and 7th May which looked at the proposed public space design of Uhuru Park and the surrounding streets in the centre of the city. Throughout the workshop special attention was given to ensuring representation from youth, women and people with disabilities. The session also formed part of ongoing efforts to create awareness of the idea that streets are public spaces too.
On the first day, participants were provided with the Streets for Walking and Cycling guidebook and training on the implementation of the Kisumu Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan at the community centre. This was followed by an exploratory walk in which participants were encouraged to assess the space’s accessibility, safety and comfort.
On the second day, participants were guided through a 3D Minecraft model of the space and invited to provide their suggestion and ideas for the design of the Park and the surrounding streets based on their learnings from the previous day. Their suggestions were presented to local authorities and community leaders including Director of Environment Benard Otieno Ojwang, Director of City Planning Judy Balla and George Audi Ogada, Chair of the Kisumu Residents Association.
Carolyne Agwanda, Chair of the Kisumu County People With Disabilities Council and special advisor to the Governor on issues related to women, youth and people with disabilities, provided detailed feedback on the presentations. “Everything you do is not a favour; it is a must. You must ensure there is universal accessibility in every element you include in public spaces”, said Agwanda.
The workshop participants identified lighting, pedestrian crossings and footpaths as core priorities. They also highlighted the need for washrooms, benches, shelter from the weather and accessible infrastructure for people with disabilities.
Minecraft is a computer aided tool that allows people to build models and portray real life scenarios by using blocks similar to Lego, but in a digital world. It enables people without design or urban planning skills to effectively describe their ideas and desires to professionals.
UN-Habitat has utilized Minecraft for community participation on every continent for 10 years in partnership with the Block by Block Foundation. This is another successful example of how the methodology enables community participation in the design of safer and more inclusive streets.
The findings from the workshop will be used to improve the safety and accessibility of the area through tactical urbanism activities while lowering emissions in partnership with the City of Kisumu. The activities are supported by the “Reclaiming Streets” project funded by the United Nations Road Safety Fund and the “Urban Pathways” project funded by the International Climate Initiative; and the Freedom Park Facelift Programme implemented by CSUDP. These initiatives will be showcased between 17-21 May at the Africities conference.