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Collapse: Grey development and fake buildings in Nairobi

8 October, 2019 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm SAST

Visiting scholar Constance Smith from Social Anthropology at The University of Manchester presents Collapse: Grey development and fake buildings in Nairobi, on Tuesday, 8 October 2019, at 15:00.

Nairobi has recently experienced a spate of residential tower block collapses resulting in significant casualties. In an attempt to understand this precarious architecture, I juxtapose two different, yet linked, construction booms currently reshaping the city. The Kenyan government development rubric Vision 2030 is re-envisioning Nairobi as a ‘world class’ city of spectacular infrastructure and gleaming high-rise buildings. At the same time, ad hoc property speculation is constructing high density, poor-quality tower blocks that pose a high risk of structural failure; buildings that Nairobians often describe as ‘fake’. Drawing on literature in African Studies about the power of fakes and the counterfeit, as well as on recent debates in Urban Studies problematising informality, I reflect on Nairobi’s drastic landscape of architectural failure, and how this is entangled with larger processes of urban transformation.

Constance Smith is a UKRI Future Leader Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, UK, where she also works within the Urban Institute. Her work explores the social, political and material dynamics of urban landscapes in times of transformation. She has done fieldwork in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Kampala and London. Her new book, Nairobi in the Making: Landscapes of time and urban belonging (James Currey, 2019) explores how the residues of colonial architecture shape self-making and city-making in contemporary Nairobi.

WHEN: Tuesday, 8 October 2019

TIME: 15:00 – 16:30

VENUE: Davies Reading Room, Environmental and Geographical Science Building, Upper Campus, UCT


8 October, 2019
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm SAST
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Davies Reading Room
Room 2.27, Environmental and Geographical Science, UCT
Cape Town, Western Cape 8000 South Africa
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