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Smith receives national book award for study of African city

By TYLER MADELL

Published June 4, 2019

Book cover, "Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda" co-authored by Korydon Smith and Tomà Berlanda.

“Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda,” co-authored by Korydon Smith and Tomà Berlanda.

UB architecture chair Korydon Smith’s recent book, “Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda: Architectural Inquiries and Prospects for a Developing African City,” has been selected as the 2019 winner of the Great Places Award for books.

Presented by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) in partnership with Project for Public Spaces, the Great Places Awards recognize work that combines expertise in design, research and practice, and contributes to the creation of dynamic, humane places. These projects reflect an interdisciplinary approach that is enduring, human-centered, sustainable and concerned with the experiential relationship between people and their environment — both built and natural — over time.

headshot of Korydon Smith.
“The Great Place Book Award is such an honor. Even more, I hope that it extends the impact of our ongoing work in Rwanda and in helping to find workable, culturally relevant solutions in informal settlements worldwide.”
Korydon Smith, professor and chair
Department of Architecture

Submissions range across many fields, including design-oriented fields like architecture, natural sciences and social sciences. Along with the book award, there are three other award categories: place design, place planning and place research.

Co-authored by Smith and Tomà Berlanda, a professor at the University of Cape Town School of Architecture, Planning & Geomatics, “Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda” explores the pressing challenges and opportunities to be found in planning, designing and constructing a healthy, equitable and sustainable city. Asking “what is an authentic-yet-modern, prosperous-yet-feasible African city, Rwandan city?” Smith, Berlanda and colleagues conducted research on Rwandan activities of daily living and how these routines are connected to space-making practices and the Kinyarwanda terms that describe them.

“The Great Place Book Award is such an honor,” says Smith, a professor of architecture and co-director of UB’s Community for Global Health Equity. “Even more, I hope that it extends the impact of our ongoing work in Rwanda and in helping to find workable, culturally relevant solutions in informal settlements worldwide.”

Through a culturally informed view of urban and rural lifestyles and spaces, “Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda” presents principles and proposals for neighborhood development in the challenging context of Kigali’s informal settlements. With 1 billion people living in informal settlements worldwide — a number expected to double by 2030 — the lessons learned in Rwanda provide a complex, fascinating and urgent study for scholars and practitioners across disciplines and around the world.

A UB faculty member since 2012, Smith pursues innovative solutions in planning and design in support of diversity and social justice. His research develops policy and design solutions that improve the health, happiness and well-being of marginalized, underrepresented and vulnerable populations. 

He received the Great Places Award last month at EDRA’s 50th anniversary celebrations in New York City.