Workshops and Projects » Mobility in Nairobi 2009 » Dynamic urban patterns: The case of the Globe Cinema Roundabout



Nairobi, Kenya
Josef Kril
James Kanyi Njoroge
Melanie Giza

Initial Position

Dynamic Urban Patterns deals with different ideas and theories of space linked to the Globe Cinema Roundabout, the biggest roundabout in Africa. This chapter presents the Globe as a spatial container that transforms into a social and mobile phenomenom everytime its users adapt the space to their needs. Intersections of actions and acquirements of space create a sensible structure of this constantly changing space. Not only the daily high traffic volume but also the permanent construction work cause a wide range of mobility on different layers.

Hawkers profit from the high traffic volume and offer products and services that fit perfectly to the resident's needs: Open stalls situated at strategically smart positions enable fast and easy shopping, that completely adapts to the bustling character of the space and to the rush of its users.

Permanent construction work forces people to form flexible business strategies that can be modified and adapted to new general conditions. Therefore most businesses have an informal structure, just quickly built stalls so that they might change places easily as the Globe changes every day.

How such a multilayered transformation affects the general understanding of the space, what the residents and users think about the Globe and if there is even a chance for a proper formal structure despite the fact of constant change, is the main focus of our research.

Desk Research

This chapter contains a detailed documentation of how the different activities  constitute the space and constantly redefine it. Thus we deal with different sociological theories of space such as absolute and relativistic theories and concepts of space that we research and analyse.


Field Research

According to our first working title › Urban Areas ‹ we used the method of walking and went around the streets of Nairobi in order to find interesting hot spots that are strongly influenced by mobility. By observing and analysing the dynamics of these hot spots, it was our aim to draw conclusions about the needs and the developments of their structures as well as future options for these places. For example, some of our criteria were a) the possibility of time-independent observations (in the context of safety), b) a certain mobility routine and c) unique features that clearly differentiate a particular spot from any other in Nairobi. The location should include different social layers and lead through different areas like residential or industrial zones, to get a strong basis to work with.

First, we concentrated on the main traffic arteries of the city. These, however, did not fulfil our criteria. Our attention then turned to the roundabouts that were supposed to support the self-regulation of the traffic and to bring a better structure into the traffic flow. With a diameter of 250 m, the Globe Cinema Roundabout is the biggest in Africa, and seemed to fit the needs of our study perfectly. However, during our working period we were confronted with problems that we could not anticipate and that we will introduce later. Primarily, our interest was focused on the different layers of mobility, which we hoped to find at › the Globe ‹, and to analyze the relations between them, because they should reveal information about how mobility generates space and » how one can interpret the mechanisms of this reproduction. « (Schroer op. cit., 83) Central questions leading us to our thesis were: how does a high traffic volume at a single spot influence the behaviour and actions of its users? Do we find behaviour patterns or actions specifically for mobility? For that reason our thesis is: a constant mobility flow at a certain spot also activates the informal mobility of its users. With this ambition, we established a research plan for a working period of 5 days.


Days 1, 2: Covert Observation

We decided to use the rooftop of the Paramount Building for observations as it gave us an overview of the whole area. Using this general method, we could decide on the next research steps in detail. It was easy to document the development of traffic during the whole day, and even to check on the behaviour and patterns of movement of the people at the Globe. We were able to identify a certain daily rhythm, as well as different areas used by specific groups. We defined these specific groups according to their informal activities, and planned on conducting some interviews with them:

Mokokoteni drivers
Street traders
Charcoal transporters
Matatu driver
Recycling material collectors
Vegetable or fruit salesmen
Shoe shiners
Car washers
Kiosk owners
Charcoal sellers

Days 3, 4, 5: Interviews

To gain more information about intentions, motivation and interests of the
protagonists and their activities at this place, we decided to do some unstructured
interviews in order to generate questions relevant to the person
and their situation.


Item Overview

#1 Political conflicts disturbing the traffic at the Globe

This mob of mechanics gathers together to fight for the land that the city took away from them lately. They in the area that used to be their space to work on. It was sold to someone else and transformed into a dead spot at the Globe. The mechanics are wait for a politician to come and talk to them about what is going to happen and what the city is going to offer them. Since they wouldn't leave without... more

20 May 2009 by Melanie Giza

#2 Quick services at a bustling spot

It is Muranga road during the morning rush hour. There are lots of different people on the sidewalk heading towards their work places but there are also people like this shoe cleaner whos work place is directly on the street. more

23 May 2009 by Melanie Giza

#3 Informal matatu station

At this first day there were only few cars and few passengers but the station developed well during the next days. Here are the waiting vans with the conductors that buy stuff at the hawker that placed her stall nearby. The photo has been taken on a workday afternoon, the camera did not disturb the people (the scene did not change after our camera became visible and we started to make photos). more

27 Sep 2009 by Melanie Giza

#4 Trash collectors at work

This is a sidewalk towards city centre with a group of young street kids collecting trash at the Globe for recycling. This is a big group, some kids are having cardboards, others are carrying plastic bags with smaller items. The surrounding still looks very dirty, there is also lots of trash left. There is lots of traffic and some pedestrians are passing by.  more

27 Sep 2009 by Melanie Giza

#5 Informal Structures at the Matatu Station

We are right in the middle of Globe Cinema Roundabout at the matatu stop. This stop has constructed waiting stations where people can sit down on benches which also protect from rain. Passengers are moving between the matatus and in the middle there is a so-called "conductor" who is responsible to drag passengers into his matatu. He is holding a card with a number in his hand so people know where the car... more

27 Sep 2009 by Melanie Giza

#7 Segmenting Space

There you see the official matatu station in the inner circle of the Globe. The station has a paved ground, shops and is very organized in contrast to the outer circle of the Globe. A lot of matatus stop there, but this day, the place is not too crowded.


27 Sep 2009 by Melanie Giza

#10 Slow vehicles blocking the street

There are four young men using the left lane of the Globe Cinema Roundabout/ Muranga Road/ city centre with their manpowered vehicles. The first vehicle is packed with every different kind of garbage such as cardboard, plastic bags etc. One guy is pulling the vehicle upfront while another is pushing from behind in addition. The second vehicle is ten steps behind the other and packed with different sacks.... more

27 Sep 2009 by Melanie Giza

#86 Rush Hour at the Globe

This picture shows the morning rush hour at the Globe. Lots of matatus and few private cars try to get inside the city but get stuck on the three lanes of the Globe. Pedestrians arriving from the outer areas of Nairobi get off their matatus and continue working to their jobs to avoid being late because of the traffic.


07 Jan 2010 by Melanie Giza

#87 Pedestrian tunnel on the inside of the Globe

Here one can se the pedestrian's tunnel entrance from the inside of the Globe. Crossing the three lanes of the Globe is dangerous to walk due to high traffic volume. This tunnel is an oppurtunity to cross the Globe through an underground walkway. It is a popular place for street traders to put their stalls since a lot of pedestrians pass this area during the day. more

07 Jan 2010 by Melanie Giza


For the exhibition at the open studio in the Goethe-Institut we created an editorial system that presented the roundabout and the related information as an illustration to the visitors, and also offered possibilities to participate as an author and to add personal information regarding the Globe. We confronted the visitor with media, such as newspaper articles describing the past and the current situation of the Globe. The articles were linked to the actual places of our protagonists on a topographical map of the Globe.




Bibliography / References

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