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Doctoral thesis defence: Collins Makunda

Collins Makunda will defend his PhD thesis "Urban Habitat Transformation and the African Middle Class, The Case of Kileleshwa, Nairobi, Kenya" at AHO on 24 September 2021. The defence will be in English. 

Title of the trial lecture: How does the study of middle class housing and middle class developments, in Nairobi and other centres in the global south, contribute to, critique or position a theory of southern urbanism?


Defence: 11.00

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PhD thesis
Read the thesis online here.


The subject of urban transformation in cities generally and in those of the global south in particular is a significant matter that requires to be understood and where possible, guide policy. While poverty is growing in cities of the south, there is an emergence of a significant middle class that has also increased the demand for basic urban goods such as decent housing and infrastructure. Developers are providing housing for this class and this is evident across many cities of the south. 

In this thesis, the nature of this transformation was investigated through the following key research question: What are the processes, characteristics and outcomes of the rapid transformation occurring in low-rise urban residential areas in Nairobi? 

Using a predominantly qualitative approach, the key actors involved in the process of transformation were investigated through a case study residential area located in Nairobi. Their strategies for achieving their desired outcomes was explored as was the physical transformation manifested in the emergent building typology of the residential area. Also examined were the social outcomes, access of the middle class into the neighbourhood, and the issue of urban quality and sustainability. 

The findings of the investigation are that property developers wield the greatest degree of influence in the process of urban habitat transformation hence are shaping the course of urban development in the city. In a process imbued with informality and irregularity, this has resulted in a profound shift in housing typology without commensurate physical and social infrastructure. Hence potentially compromising urban quality and sustainability.
The investigation concludes that developers´ actions, coupled with growing middle class demand for housing, and a lax regulatory regime are leading to the rapid transformation of a residential area through a profound change in its housing typology. This has economic, social and environmental implications. 

About the candidate: Collins Sasakah Makunda has held a position as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, since 2011. He is currently a lecturer in the university´s Department of Art and Design, Faculty of Built Environment and Design (which until mid-2021 was the School of the Arts and Design, College of Architecture and Engineering). He has Master´s degrees in City Planning (MCP) from the University of Pennsylvania (U.S.A.) and in Interior Architecture (MIARC) from the University of Oregon (U.S.A) as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Design (BA-Design) from the University of Nairobi. With his multi-disciplinary design background, he is keenly interested in the theoretical, pedagogical and praxis aspects of design not only as object and process but also in its spatial expression at both the interior and urban scales. His academic, professional, and research interests and experience are in the intersection of design at its various scales [object, interior, architecture, urban] with social, cultural, and human factors, in addressing pressing societal challenges, and its implications for sustainable outcomes and a better quality of life in the built environment. 

Main supervisor Karl Otto Ellefsen
Co-Supervisor Håkan Edeholt, Tom Anyamba

Adjudication committee:
  • First opponent: Professor Winnie Mitullah, University of Nairobi
  • Second opponent: PhD Anders Ese, Head of R&D Urban A, Oslo.
  • Coordinator Professor Tim Ainsworth Anstey, AHO.

Dato: 24 september, 2021
Tid: 11:00

Sted: AHO, A3