Bringing Life In Urban Public Open Space:rwandese ‘Akarubanda’ Concept
Malonza, Josephine Mwongeli
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Public open space plays a vital role is the social life of communities throughout the world and forms an integral part of cities, so much that without it, it is said that human settlements would be unimaginable. The production and use of urban public open space (UPOS) varies from city to city, and from time to time due to the varied social, economic, political and environmental considerations that influence urban planning and development. This research is therefore concerned with bringing life into UPOS, taking a case of the Rwandese akarubanda concept. In Rwanda, historically, public space dominated the landscape and had a great influence on the everyday living of Rwandans. Currently, however, the trend seems to have faded away, so much so that the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali, does not have sufficient UPOS, and the few existing spaces are empty and lacking life. In Rwanda, land scarcity, coupled with high population density, pose a multifaceted challenge to urban development. Land is continuously under so much pressure from rapid urbanisation that the domain of UPOS seems to have been neglected by urban planners and designers. The selected cases for investigation helped to track the trajectory of public space in Rwanda in order to arrive at the concept of a pragmatic UPOS; which enabled the study to unpack ‘what works’ and how its application could bring back life into Kigali’s Public Open Space. A traditional case study; of the Nyanza King’s palace was used to find out ‘what was’, while a transformative case study; of the Biryogo courtyard and node was used to demonstrate ‘what has changed’ and further, a contemporary case study of the Rujugiro palace and compound was used to envision ‘what is’. Therefore, as part of exploring UPOS and determining interventions needed, the researcher used observation and mapping in order to determine the physical dimensions such as accessibility and linkages. Field surveys and interviews with xxi residents and planners were used in order to gain insight on the social dimensions such as the activities and user perceptions of UPOS. These empirical experiences, combined with literature and document review, provided an analytical framework for the assessment of selected case studies in Rwanda. The findings of this study indicate that the current provision and use of public open space have been less successful in offering a new meaning to the residents of Kigali. There is a major weakness in the lack of the application of the akarubanda concept to inform the current planning and management of urban space in the city. The researcher concludes that bringing life back to UPOS enhances their liveability, which is a crucial element in the structure of any city. Despite the challenges rapid urbanisation poses, the concept of akarubanda remains relevant and useful for people, time and space, because it allows the continuation of the transmission of societal values as well as offering a balanced democratic space for building relationships. The knowledge that the study will contribute towards the relevance of indigenous knowledge is indeed timely, not only for Rwanda and the East African region, but also the continent of Africa and beyond, where there is an increasing interest for an investigation into pressing urban issues, with public space being a key component.
University of Nairobi
RightsAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States
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