Why do some Master Plan show so little respect for the citizens?

New urban projects proposed  for Africa Often seem designed for an audience that ignore everything about the city and the urban condition. They show cities that are “ideal” only for its designer, or perhaps for a remote or barely involved investor, but not for its citizens.

It hard to accept that at this point someone intends to sell an alleged “cutting edge” urbanism as a solution to African urban problems, as Photoshop retouched fruits are being sold. Planning also owes a lot to Photoshop.

Hardly compatible activities are neighboring without a clear reason, that should be to facilitate a dubious pedestrian  or cycable traffic , or more likely to respect the “logic” of the  frame. Particularly striking is the “tourist park” location near the container harbor.


SEZ = Special Economic Zone

But do not look for strange reasons, because its classification as SEZ explains everything. The urban form depends on a legal classification: a polygonal surface associated to a deep water docks that can accommodate tax-free activities. That’s all.

Purely zonning, far from the most valuable concepst in planning as territory vocation, sense of place, heritage or adaptation to the physical and cultural environment. None of this appears in this plan, which could well developed elsewhere, without improvements or worsenings.

Some people may think this is due to the lack of urban tradition in Africa. Nothing is further from reality here. Some kilometers north of the proposed SEZ lies the old Swahili city of Bagamoyo, Once main trade port and colonial capital, this beautiful, cultural mixed city has a great heritage potential that easily could influence the proposed harbor-city.

Bagamoyo1 A street in Bagamoyo

Swahili and colonial heritage had a virtue that contemporary urbanism has not: a high level of adaptation to the natural environment, particularly referring to climate. And also is important its “sense of place”.  History and cultures have left an added value in the form of meanings, which makes the building shapes, the width of the streets or sidewalks types seems not capricious, but part of an harmonious landscape.

How much energy can require a high glass building to maintain an acceptable temperature? What kind of tourist resort can attract new plant next to a harbor?Having in the vicinity such a powerful urban resources, would be a serious error to import a standardized model.