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Coen Beeker seminar, publication and exhibition


EventPublication, Exhibition


2016 - 2017

AAmatters team

Antoni Folkers

Iga Perzyna

Antie Kaan

Alexandra Papadaki

Berend van der Lans


African Studies Centre Leiden

University of Amsterdam

Delft University of Technology

Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies Rotterdam

Creative Industries Fund

Relevant links

Order book


#exhibition #debate #urbanism

#urban planning #placemaking #bottom up 

Coen Beeker is an unsung pioneer in bottom-up and participatory approach to urban planning with over 40 years of experience in Africa. During an international seminar on 23 March 2017, organized in partnership with the African Studies Centre Leiden, the work and thought of Beeker was celebrated. A retrospective glance at his achievements and their benefits for contemporary and future urban planners was taken. The seminar featured speakers from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Zanzibar & the Netherlands. 

Also a travelling exhibition on Coen Beeker, Urban Fields: Coen Beeker at Work in the African City and a book The Beeker Method. Planning and Working on the Redevelopment of the African City: Retrospective Glances into the Future were launched. The book includes contributions from scholars and practitioners from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Zanzibar and the Netherlands and is available through the web shop of the African Studies Centre.

The exhibition travels to the University of Amsterdam, the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies in Rotterdam, Delft University of Technology and the Canadian Centre for Architecture after the presentation in Leiden.

The name of Coen Beeker 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 several African countries deserves a more critical look. 

Beeker’s work focused primarily on urban redevelopment projects in Ethiopia, Tunisia, Sudan and Burkina Faso, of which his 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 which has also proved highly 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 and long community consultations, and planning and site work conducted 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 considerable interest on the part of authorities and practitioners working in developing countries to apply bottom-up and participatory approaches, involvement of the poor and often disadvantaged groups in these processes remains difficult to achieve.

This contemporary reassessment of Beeker’s projects and the underlying principles of his approach aims to contribute to the current debate on urban planning in Africa.

Speakers on the seminar were among others 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), Muhammad Juma (Director of the Department of Urban and Rural Planning, Zanzibar), Gilbert Kibtonré (Secretary General of the Ministry of Lands and Developemnts in Burkina Faso), Yolande Lingané (Direction Générale de l'Urbanisme et de la Topographie, Burkina Faso), Anteneh Tesfaye Tola (Doctoral Candidate, TU Delft).


Document available for download in the AAmatters online Library.

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