Instagrammable Landscapes: Linking and Revealing Heritage through Social Media Influence
The natural heritage of Nairobi is deeply rooted within the city’s natural landscape. Nairobi once boasted a rich landscape characterised by natural forests, wetlands and marshy wetlands, abundant wildlife, the Kitengela corridor and riverine ecosystems. It was known as the “Green City in the Sun.” However, urbanisation and the rapid population rise have led to a reduction in the natural landscape (Tibaijuki, 2007). With the city having lost most of its landscape character and natural vegetation, only a few green spaces were spared to serve as recreation spaces, and offer tourists the chance to see the Kenyan wildlife and to aid in improving environmental and air quality.
This thesis is an investigation of how social media influence, specifically Instagram, can help to restore the lost heritage in Nairobi, and explores the physiological and historical landscape of the city and the site, Uhuru Park. By regenerating the forgotten indigenous heritage through systems restoration and green infrastructure – the dissertation studies the role of Nairobi’s landscape character in defining the identity of the city. It highlights a juxtaposition between natural landscapes, identity and aesthetic value. The correlation between these, emphasises the heritage value of restoring natural landscapes in urban cities where indigeneity is slowly getting lost with vegetation cover being quickly replaced with urban surface.
The site being used to reveal the heritage of Nairobi is Uhuru Park, a recreation park located adjacent to the central business district of Nairobi. Uhuru Park was originally a large green swath but has since been encroached to make room for a hotel, a museum and a ‘members only’ Golf Club. Further plans by the Kenyan government include an elevated highway that links downtown Nairobi to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport curving its way through Uhuru Park. Ultimately this means disrupting the natural landscape even more. Addressing the issue of heritage value of the natural landscape would mean restoring the park to pre-colonial Nairobi – a wetland, the savannah grasslands and the wildlife that once occasionally roamed along the Kenyatta Avenue during the colonial era.
The thesis aims to show that through the lens of Instagram, landscape architects can create a unique identity and user experience that is reminiscent of the indigenous landscape character of a space, the heritage of the space becomes well preserved and draws people to the landscape.