Public space is a common good that cities around the world strive to make accessible to citizens to indicate social equity and gender equality (Andersson: 2016). The city of Dar es Salaam is projected to reach Mega-city status of 10 million people by 2030.
This development anticipates densification of the city and the building of rapid transportation networks all that have an impact on public space. Old public spaces have been reduced in size while new public spaces require to be redesigned in ways that foster greater access and wider functions. A recent surge in population growth, extension of built up areas and densification has put a threat on public spaces in the urban context of Dar-es-Salaam. This has created an urgent need to improve public transport network systems to accommodate city’s expansion and densification. However, these improvements take up large tracks of public open space. Planners, architects, urban designers, psychologists, ecologists and the like agree that the quality of life in cities is determined by the quality of its public spaces.
In cities like Dar-es- Salaam where public space is lost to ‘development’ or ‘urban regeneration’ projects, planners, urban designers and architects have an important role in redesigning and developing of responsive urban public spaces.
Two scenarios playout in public spaces in rapidly developing cities like Dar es Salaam. Firstly, there are public spaces with a strong sense of heritage because they were designed in the colonial era that need to the redesigned. Some of these public spaces have been redesigned with post- independence theme. Secondly, the emergent public spaces – Larval public spaces- in newer sections of Dar es Salaam are struggling for definition, as local authorities try to reinterpret their functions. Lack of proper guidelines for their development has led to public space neglect and in most cases non-availability.
The theme for Unit 15X in 2019 focuses on critical investigation of emergent, larval public open spaces in Africa. The chosen sites of investigation for Unit 15X are three public spaces in the inner city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, namely; Mnazi Mmoja in Ilala Municiplaity; Magomeni in Kinondoni Municipality; and Mwembe Yanga in Temeke Municipality. Unit 15X is motivated by two reasons for investigating public spaces in Dar es Salaam. Our interest is to reimagine and re-define public space beyond the traditional modernist/ Eurocentric ideals of places designed for relaxation, visual enjoyment or offering climatic respite from the indoor environment for the working-class communities in inner city environments. In contemporary African cities, public spaces need to respond to multiple functions and create broader meanings; this is what Unit 15X aims to define through this research in Dar es Salaam.