Seminar with African Architecture Matters: The Beeker Method: Planning and Working on the Redevelopment of the African City


Video duration: 
2 h 48 min.

Urban planningThe Beeker Method: Planning and Working on the Redevelopment of the African City: Retrospective Glances into the future

The seminar will be both in English and French.

The name of Coen Beeker, a Dutch urban planner working in Africa between 1978 and 2010, may be unfamiliar to many; however, with increasing interest in urban Africa and the topic of urban planning on the continent, Beeker and his extensive work in Africa deserves a more critical look.
Beeker’s work focused primarily on urban redevelopment projects in Ethiopia, Tunis, Sudan and Burkina Faso, of which Coen Beekerhis involvement in the modernization process of Ouagadougou is perhaps the most notable. Beeker applied an approach to urban planning that was not only ahead of its time, but also proved successful. The ‘Beeker Method’, as we would like to call it, is, in essence, about redevelopment carried out by residents themselves, through a dynamic process of palavers, long community consultations, and planning and site work with little interference from above.

The importance of community participation has been widely acknowledged in the current urban planning discourse. It is considered a fundamental prerequisite to fair and representative decision making in contemporary urban planning practices and the democratization of a process that was once in the hands of experts. Although there is a considerable interest on the part of authorities and practitioners working in developing countries to apply bottom-up and participatory approach, involvement of poor and often disadvantaged groups in these processes is difficult to achieve.

Can a contemporary reassessment of the successful redevelopment projects carried out by Beeker and their underlying principles contribute to the contemporary planning discourse?

Logo African Architecture MattersIn this seminar, the organizers African Studies Centre Leiden and African Architecture Matters would like to celebrate Coen Beeker and take a retrospective glance at his work to see how it can benefit contemporary and future urban planners. The seminar will consist of two parts. During the first part, Coen Beeker and some of his former colleagues will give presentations on the ‘Beeker Method’ and provide a historic context for the subsequent panel discussion, during which the contemporary relevance of the ‘Beeker Method’ will be discussed.

Take a look at the programme.

A book launch of a publication with the same title, with contributions from scholars and practitioners from the Netherlands, Ethiopia, Zanzibar and Burkina Faso and the opening of the travelling exhibition Urban Fields: Coen Beeker at Work in the African City will also take place during the seminar.
This exhibition gathers together a selection of archival materials presenting the process behind Coen Beeker’s work and achievements in urban redevelopment projects in Ethiopia, Tunis, Sudan and Burkina Faso in photography, designs, drawings and plans. As of 22 March it can be seen in the corridors of the African Studies Centre on the first floor.

For this occasion the ASCL Library has created a web dossier on urban planning and urban architecture in Africa.

Logo Stimuleringsfonds

Logo UL

Logo LeidenASA


  • Coen Beeker, University of Amsterdam
  • Joseph Guiébo, Former director of the Direction Générale de l’Urbanisme et de la Topographie, Ouagadougou and UN Habitat expert
  • Jan Fransen, Deputy Director of the IHS
  • Muhammad Juma, Director of the Department of Urban and Rural Planning, Zanzibar
  • Yolande Lingané, Direction Générale de l'Urbanisme et de la Topographie, Burkina Faso
  • Peter Pels, Professor in the Anthropology of Africa at Leiden University
  • Anteneh Tesfaye Tola. Doctoral Candidate, TU Delft

Date, time and location

23 March 2017
14.00 - 17.30
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 1A20 (first floor)