Continuity And Change in Historic Planning: A Sustainable Townscape of Old Town Mombasa.

Historic urban environments are deteriorating in socio-cultural, architectural, economic and historical continuity- This is due to the challenges of rapid growth, blurred vision and lack of commitment to substantive positive change. The architectural heritage, which is an outward expression of irreplaceable spiritual, cultural social and economic value, is in danger. The Old Town of Mombasa is one such historic urban area, threatened by the alarming rate of loss of historic character. As we endeavour to restore some order out of the existing situation, there is need to draw a balance between the obsolete and fashionable styles in the context of a dynamic society. In a society that has started de-linking itself from the past, one has to make the inhabitants empathise with styles that enrich their environment and ensure that development in the long run will be sustainable.

To these ends this study examines the evolving character of the Old Town of Mombasa townscape and establishes the problems associated with its planning and management. The study also elicits attitudes towards the perception of the neighbourhood character; and explores ways of making the neighbourhood sustainable. The study sites is the field, in the Old Town of Mombasa. The main research method employed is the structured interview designed along the semantic differential scale. Focussed group discussions and observation of the physical environment are used to bolster the inferences made from the largely qualitative data.

From the analysis, it was clear that attitudes are neither arbitrary nor idiosyncratic but divulge common patterns of preference. The inhabitants of the Old Town of Mombasa were found to value their heritage, but were at crossroads because the buildings did not offer much economic value to them. They were therefore inclined to let them deteriorate since the law does not allow for their demolition. It is from these that the study proposes an intervention framework by suggesting planning and design strategies that can lead to a sustainable townscape. The area around the government square is isolated as a strategic area to revitalise among other economic opportunities for the sustainability of the historic character.

The adaptive re-use of the obsolete buildings is advocated for in the study since it does not require a lot of monetary injection yet can allow for the introduction of added density of use and more current accommodation. It is further proposed that strict zoning of use should be shunned. To manage and plan the historic area, the study advocates for the formation of a Conservation Areas Development Authority.

 

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