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There's Art in Planning

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On 13th -17th October the Schools of Art and Design, University of Nairobi hosted an art exhibition themed ‘Under Construction’ by Ibuka. The aim of the exhibition was to showcase students’ art and design works based on contemporary issues and provide a platform for engagement with other disciplines within the university.

The setup and layout was a construction site as the theme ‘under construction’ suggested. Social publicity of the event was intense attracting thousands drawn from the university and general public. Subthemes of activism, patriotism, innovations, technology and environmental conservations were well articulated in the exhibitions. Such opportunities are normally seen as platforms for individuals to showcase to university fraternity and market.

What can then school of built environment especially the planning department draw from such an exhibition? What ideas can be incorporated in the planning processes? How can artistic exhibitions be used in planning and what are the benefits to the targeted clientele?

 Art exhibition presents an opportunity of a possible paradigm in the relaying of information to the layman within the discipline and practice of urban and regional planning. Public participation insists in the people understanding what is happening and how it is or it is to happen. Long speeches, seemingly endless publications, wordy power-point presentations, and map-filled charts on a wall are not the only way to present planning related information to the people. We can go back to the basics and bring it out in the simplest manner possible; adopting elementary school methods so as to break it down to people in the simplest way possible.  Involving visuals and relating issues to in ways and to matters which individuals are familiar with. Less is more. Reducing on urban planning jargon means individuals will be able to understand better, know and contribute to what is happening around them.

Videos, photography, graphic designs, audio, real life re-enactments, creative writings etc. when used to express planning and planning related information in innovative ways, become tools to of teaching and expression. A gallery with pictures showcasing planning problems would communicate more effectively to the people than a list of them in a book. An individual would understand a cartoon clip showcasing the evolution of urban and regional planning than a two-hour lecture of the same.

Just as it is time to embrace technology in the discipline and practice of Urban and  Regional Planning it is also time to apply new techniques in the presentation of information. Students should practice and utilize the opportunities provided within the university to be innovative in training and practice.

By Nasra Omar and Jacinta M. Mbilo

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