Workshops and Projects » Mobility in Nairobi 2009 » Jobless Corner: The open source job table



Nairobi, Kenya
Mathilda Oluoch
Brian Mumo Kianga
Ulf Seißenschmidt

Initial Position

Groups of people sitting around as far as the eye can see. Next to the lively bustle of the streets in Nairobi, there is a multitude of people sit around, either in groups or scattered between these groups, with no apparently opportunity to for a lucrative and gainful job. These are the masses of unemployedpeople, and job seekers in Nairobi, who spend their days sitting or laying around without engagement. The most frequented and centrally located gathering place for people looking for employment is the so called „Round Table“ in front of the Hilton Hotel in the heart of Nairobi. Nearly 90 Percent of the people there do not have a regular job. The “Round Table” is situated in a focal point of various movements of the city and its people. Where the everyday paths and ways of Nairobians intersect with those of the tourists and businessmen from other countries. The following section provides information on the square in front of the Hilton Hotel and the people using. It focuses the site of job seekers, who come togehter with different intentions and expectations from all parts of the city. Experiences of job seekers, an analysis of the existing facilities of the place and its surroundings, the function and identity of this special place will be described. Emerging questions and a pool of informations should serve a basis for further work of following projects.

How does the „Round Table“ work in detail – the identity of a gathering place in the centre of Nairobi

  • Infrastructural integration of the place in the city 
  • Analysis of configuration (materials, furniture, services, shapes etc.) 
  • Orientation and visual axes after Kevin Lynch 
  • Observations of the activities which take place during rainfall 
  • Personal interviews with„members“ of the place based community and outstanding people 
  • Statistical comparison of the social data of the interviewedpersons

Questions to be answered in the text, which emerged by the observations

  • How do the jobless people get to this place and what charge do they have for coming to this place?
  • What makes this a successful gathering area for job seekers? ...and more than job seekers?
  • How do they show their qualifications or professions? Why not? 
  • Do the jobless people use opportunities like the internet cafe in the area to find work? 
  • What are barriers at or around the place? 
  • What are the topics the jobless people like to speak about and what do they think about public expression of opinions? 
  • Do the jobless appreciate the „Round Table“ as a kind of personal space or teritory? 
  • Do some of the jobless people only come to this place, although they do not believe in getting a job again, but they see the daily mobility as a intrinsic need to hold onto social connection?

Emerging questions for continuative project work in future

  • How do they get in contact with potential employers, if it is raining all day?
  • Why is nobody using the inside of the „round table“? 
  • Why are the seats showing to street and not to the inner part of the „round table“? 
  • Is the inner part of the place consciously not refurbished, to avoid the possibilit of a mass meeting? 
  • Why is the “Hilton Hotel” not interested in styling the space in front of their building? 
  • Why are only the benches in front of the Hilton entrance built down?


Approaches for a change of situation on open sourced job corners like the “Round Table”. Rough variations of possible structures for other situations of communication. Abstract collages which only show a possible direction without set concrete solutions, should animate other ideas. (roofed tables with Internet access in the inside, turnig the seatting areas to the inside, a dome or roof over the space...)


  • “Place identity, participation and planning”
  • Cliff Hague, Paul Jenkins “Mobilities”
  • John Urry “Tourist gaze”