Travel award winner Jack Campbell-Clause talks about working in the slums of Kibera, Kenya

Jack Campbell-Clause, photographed in Kibera
Jack Campbell-Clause, photographed in Kibera

Jack Campbell-Clause has returned from Kibera, the huge informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, where he went to work after winning a student travel award from the Landscape Insitute.

Campbell-Clause, who is studying for a masters at Leeds Metropolitan University, said, ‘I wanted to go to Kenya to be able to reflect the way that I had been looking in my post-graduate work at the role of landscape architects in slum upgrading. I worked with the Kounkeuy Design Initiative which had been running micro-scale slum upgrading there for almost 10 years.’

He worked on the fourth of a series of sites named as ‘productive urban spaces’ and said, ‘It is always very difficult to get things up and running to the point that they can be self-sustaining.’

Some of the founders of Kounkeuy had been landscape architects, so they welcomed Campbell-Clause’s eagerness to use his training. ‘My contributions to the team was being able to act between the engineers and the architects and the urban designers and the communty as a good connector for the separate groups,’ he said. ‘Landscape architecture is a pretty holistic and open profession that can look at all the aspects.’

Some of the work involved cleaning up a section of river and removing a vast amount of waste from it, which may have a limited effect since the river is the only method of waste removal from the site. The exciting thing, said Campbell-Clause, was that ‘We were designing a site that was on its way to being fully sustainable and could help people engage with each other.’ The project included a playground, and two multi-purpose buildings, one run by women and the other by young people as an internet cafe.

He also entered the AECOM urban SOS competition with other students while he was in Kibera, and they have been shortlisted to the final three. Campbell-Clause is also writing up his experience as part of his work for his masters.

The award is supported by a fund set up in memory of David Ashmore, Adrian Brunswick and Michael Norton, three landscape architects who were tragically killed in an air crash at Biggin Hill on 13 January 1979. A legacy was added to the fund on the death of Mary Mitchell in December 1988. The aim is to provide applicants with an opportunity to travel that might not otherwise be open to them.

Applications for the 2013 will be open early in the New Year.

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