On April 15-19, 2013, the European Commission and the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels presented a side event and exhibition entitled ART § ARCHITECTURE at WORK: Best practices in inclusive and sustainable urban development initiatives in Africa, at the 24th UN Habitat Governing Council Meeting in Nairobi.
Since independences, African artists, particularly photographers, have documented urban life on the Continent, from daily pleasures and struggles, to critical urban, political and environmental issues affecting city life. New aesthetics have emerged, as well as a conscious will by artists to engage in urban development. The growth of contemporary art centres and art biennials in the last 20 years all over the Continent, and their urban programs, attest to this thirst for expression and commitment to the city. A new young generation of African architects is equally socially, culturally and environmentally conscious, placing priority on Africa-relevant resources, design, employment, and sustainability. They offer new approaches to urban planning and development, in tune with urban cultures and environmental issues.

The side-event advocated in this official forum the role of artists and architects for urban resonance: dream, inclusiveness, and creativity for urban welfare.
Heinrich Wolff (architect, CapeTown) discussed the architect’s role in situations where the city is largely developed without design professionals. He argued for the necessity of architecture and a working method in which architects can contribute to social change, and the need for a labour-absorbent architecture, the reduction of energy use, the role of infrastructure and the necessity to contribute to contemporary urban culture.
Joy Mboya (director of the Godown Arts Centre, Nairobi) presented projects of the GoDown showing how the cultural sector can be involved in sustainable urban development, in particular for the mobilization of stakeholders and beneficiaries of inclusive and participatory urban processes. Shukisha Nairobi: Common Ground, a neighbourhood development project, and Nai ni Who: a people-driven city-wide festival. Mboya shared partnership and leveraging strategies used, and stressed the importance of building legitimacy and acting as convening agency for diverse actors and issues.

Recommendations made to UN habitat in the closing of the side-event of April 17, 2013:
· reinforce its mandate by watching, learning from, and documenting successful, inclusive, bottom-up, urban culture-based, asset-focused initiatives that foster re-imagining of the city, cultural diversity, and cultural confidence and harmony among citizens;
· bridge the gap between civil society and national urban policies by showcasing these types of models;
· develop context-based narratives for sustainability.

UN Habitat thanked EC/BOZAR for this side-event and its important theme (‘art and architecture needs to be mainstreamed in the urban realm’), and discussions are underway for follow-up presentations of this theme at future fora: EDD Brussels 2013, World Urban Forum Medellin 2014, GC25 2015 and Habitat III 2016.