Earth Institute Contact: Dr. Elliott Sclar
The Earth Institute at Columbia University has been awarded a five-year $2.4 million grant by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations of Gothenburg, Sweden to establish a new Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD).
CSUD is one of three interdisciplinary global “centers of excellence” established by the Volvo Foundations as part of their “Future Urban Transport” project.
The Earth Institute center, under the direction of Elliott Sclar, Professor of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, focuses on the utilization of land use and transportation planning to create physically and socially sustainable cities in developing countries.
CSUD’s initial project will establish ongoing research and educational exchanges around these issues in developing countries with the goal of aiding local officials in designing policies and plans for sustainable urban growth.
CSUD's first project is located in Nairobi, Kenya — a logical starting point since today about 33 percent of Africans live in urban areas with this number likely increasing to 52 percent by 2025. Nairobi itself has a population of 2.3 million people, with about 60 percent living in informal or illegal settlements or slums on five percent of Nairobi’s land area. People living in these slums face a severe lack of urban services, housing shortages, land tenure insecurity, high transportation costs and pollution.
The Columbia University team, along with Kenyan stakeholders and potential partners, identified Ruiru, a satellite town of Nairobi, as its first project site. Ruiru is facing the demographic pressures of Nairobi’s sprawl and unplanned structures are mushrooming in the town without infrastructure to support them. Traffic clogs the highway between Ruiru and Nairobi and lack of water and sanitation infrastructure has led to an increase in water-borne diseases, such as typhoid.
The Spring 2006 Nairobi Studio has two foci: the regional development of metropolitan Nairobi and the planning of Ruiru; a dormitory city in the region. The two parts are interdependent. The planning of metropolitan Nairobi provides context and Ruiru provides a chance to more fully explore the site specific implications.
The Studio project will involve close collaboration between students and faculty at Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation’s (GSAPP) Urban Planning/CSUD Studio, the Workshop in Applied Development at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Nairobi.
Over the next five years, in addition to Nairobi, CSUD will send students and faculty to two other cities in developing countries. CSUD’s approach includes concretely demonstrating that sustainable urban development is a workable process, repositioning urban transportation as an active tool for shaping sustainable metropolitan growth in the developing world, and securing more resources for planning in developing countries.
Education is a critical element of each city project, and CSUD will help train a new generation of planners and scientists who will advance the field of sustainable urban development through urban planning studios.
In Nairobi, CSUD plans to partner with the University of Nairobi and to foster exchanges between faculty and students from the two universities. Faculty and students will work and share their results with local stakeholders and build relationships between local policy makers and national and international development organizations.
Cross Cutting Themes:
Project Web Site:
Volvo Research and Educational Foundations