National book award goes to Korydon Smith for his study of Kigali, Rwanda

by Tyler Madell

Published May 30, 2019

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 (built and natural) over time.

Book cover for Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda.

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

Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda, co-authored by Smith and Tomà Berlanda, 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 one 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.

At UB, 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 wellbeing of marginalized, underrepresented, and vulnerable populations. 

The award was presented at EDRA's 50th anniversary celebrations on May 23, 2019, in New York City.