Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Just before nine one morning in May, I arrived at the Alpha Palace Hotel, not far from the center of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. A team of American architects waited nervously outside, dressed in blue suits and holding battered travel tubes of drawings. In them was the conceptual master plan for the future of Kigali: a sweeping vision to turn today’s red-dirt ad-hoc city into a verdant capital with tree-lined boulevards, mixed-use neighborhoods, a new university, parks, and a network of wetlands to mitigate storm-water runoff. OZ Architecture, from Denver, along with EDAW, a landscape-architecture and urban-planning firm, had been quietly working on the scheme for three years. This morning, 13 years after Rwanda’s genocide, they would present it to an audience of local planning officials, foreign consultants, and politicians. I had come to watch, to see what American-style urban planning looked like in Rwanda, and what it could possibly do to help transform a place of poverty and struggle into one of prosperity and peace.