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Implications of Cultural Heritage in Urban Regeneration: The CBD of Dar es Salaam

Implications du patrimoine culturel dans la régénération urbaine : le quartier central des affaires (CBD) de Dar es Salaam
Rafael Maximiliano Flores de León, Nelly John Babere et Ombeni Swai


Le patrimoine culturel est une dimension inhérente du paysage urbain qui évolue avec les villes. Il est largement reconnu qu’une gestion coordonnée de l’héritage culturel et des transformations urbaines contribue à des interventions urbaines plus effectives, malgré le fait qu’un écart important persiste toujours dans la pratique. Dans le quartier central des affaires (Central Business District [CBD]) de Dar es Salam, l’absence de coordination est évidente. Ces dernières années, des bâtiments historiques ont été démolis et de nouveaux immeubles de haute taille ont été construits, alors que des initiatives pour la protection du patrimoine culturel étaient déjà en marche et que certains immeubles historiques avaient été restaurés. L’analyse proposée dans ce texte, qui combine des données issues d’une analyse morphologique et ceux des entretiens d’acteurs locaux, explore comment les interventions pour la transformation du CBD de Dar es Salam ont été mises en place et souligne le rôle que le patrimoine culturel a joué dans le processus. Ce texte suggère, de la même manière, des initiatives dans lesquelles le patrimoine culture pourrait contribuer à la régénération urbaine de la zone étudiée et met en lumière l’importance du patrimoine culturel immatériel, comme un aspect fondamental qui définit la manière de vivre et l’identité des communautés locales et qui doit être méticuleusement examiné afin d’assurer des processus inclusifs et holistiques de régénération urbaine.

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1. Introduction

1Cities are complex and dynamic systems shaped by economic, socio-cultural, political, geospatial, technological and environmental aspects. Cultural heritage, understood as the inherited physical and intangible features which are of value for a social group, is an important aspect inherent of cities; which should be carefully considered in planning interventions. However, it has been discussed that in sub-Saharan African cities the incorporation of urban cultural heritage into planning processes is still limited (UNESCO, 2016).

2Several cities in Africa have strong physical and intangible heritage from their pre–colonial, colonial and post-colonial past that should be more widely recognized (UNESCO, 2016). It has been argued that countries often do not have adequate policies nor inventories for the management and protection of urban heritage (CRATerre-ENSAG and UNESCO, 2006). Additionally, the high rate of urbanization in many African cities is also a challenge for the preservation of cultural heritage, as the need to accommodate new population has been associated with the risk of displacement of the existing urban morphology and social practices (Cui et al., 2011; PEARL, 2015). Megacities in Africa with around 10 million inhabitants, such as Lagos and Kinshasa, and other cities, like Dar es Salaam which is expected to have more than 6 million inhabitants by 2025, are currently facing fast urbanization processes (Freire et al., 2014). These challenges raise the question of what is the role that cultural heritage will play on the sustainable development of historical urban areas in Africa, particularly on those which have not been designated as UNESCO world heritage sites.

3The Central Business District (CBD) of Dar es Salaam is a historic urban landscape that presents several of the aforementioned characteristics and challenges. As one of the fastest growing cities of the African continent (Freire, et al., 2014, p. 23), its cultural heritage comes to attention while the city is negotiating between the demand to accommodate a growing population and the need to guarantee a good life quality for its residents. This paper examines the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the CBD of Dar es Salaam and provides an account on how actors play their roles in the transformation of the area.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Urban Cultural Heritage and the Changing Nature of Cities

4The cultural heritage of cities includes tangible assets, as architecture and monuments, and intangible elements, like celebrations, festivals, language and other everyday practices. These tangible and intangible elements of urban landscapes encompass the meanings and values of people, and it is this association of manifestations with meanings that give rise to local identity, sense of belonging and attachment to places (Taylor, 2015, p. 183). Urban landscapes are lived spaces and sites of collective identity (Panjabi and Winter, 2009). In other words, the cultural heritage of urban landscapes are material and immaterial elements to which social groups attach and therefore value.

5In recent years, the Historic Urban Landscapes (HUL) approach has gained momentum as a frame to improve the management of urban cultural heritage. It argues that the awareness on the life cycle of cities contributes to better understand and manage the pressures and challenges that historic cities face (UNESCO, 2013a). The life cycle of cities implies that the urban fabric can decay and therefore interventions may be needed to counteract those processes and maintain or improve the life quality of the citizens. Moreover, the need to adapt to new technologies and to satisfy new needs of the population also implies the existence of different interventions to transform the urban environment. The HUL aims to manage historical urban landscapes in an integral way in which the true identity of urban heritage is adequately preserved while it adapts to contemporary needs.

6From a planning perspective, there have been several approaches to counteract the decay of cities and manage their transformations. In the 1960s, urban revitalization emerged as an approach to bring new life and to improve the social welfare in deteriorated areas of cities (Roberts, 2004), without specifying a method of intervention (Coach, 1990 cited in Tsenkova, 2002 p. 1). Urban renewal and redevelopment, the most used approaches in the 1970s and 1980s respectively, implied intensive physical interventions including demolitions and significant changes of the form and uses of the intervened areas (Roberts, 2004; Coach, 1990 cited in Tsenkova, 2002 p. 1). In the 1990s, urban regeneration emerged, with a more holistic approach to urban transformation embedded in the emergent theory of sustainable development and consequently considering social, economic and environmental factors (Roberts, 2004).

7Urban regeneration stands out from other similar approaches because of its holistic and comprehensive perspective. Roberts (2004) points out, among other characteristics, that it considers the linkages between social and physical conditions, the relevance of economic development for prosperity and life quality, and the need to understand the political powers that shape development. Additionally, cultural identity has been mentioned as an element that should be considered in urban regeneration because it enhances the life quality of the residents (Barosio et al., 2016). The objective of improving the life quality of the residents and the acknowledgement of the relevance of cultural identity within the discussion of urban regeneration are of significance because they indicate fundamental synergies in the contemporary agendas of urban regeneration and urban heritage preservation.

2.2 Challenges in the Management of Urban Transformation in Historic Cities

8In order to achieve an effective management of historic urban landscapes, there is a need for a strong coordination between urban planning and heritage preservation authorities (Bandarin and van Oers, 2012; Oevermann and Mieg, 2015). Nonetheless, several authors argue that a disconnection among the fields is still prevalent (Bandarin, 2015; Bandarin and van Oers, 2012; Ryberg-Webster and Kinahnan, 2014; Siravo, 2015; Taylor, 2015; Veldpaus, 2015). Moreover, it has been stressed that there is a need to educate urban planners on the importance of heritage preservation and to train preservation practitioners on how to promote a more integrated and successful management of heritage sites (Taylor, 2015).

2.2.1 Economic Interests over Cultural Sustainability

9The management of historic environments in inner cities and downtowns poses a particular challenge for authorities, as they are usually highly desirable areas for new developments and more intense land use occupation models due to their centrality, accessibility and high relevance for economic dynamics (Morris, 2012). In Vienna, Austria, in 2002, the Wien-Mitte project proposed to build four towers as part of the improvements for a train station in the border of the historical center of the city, which is a World Heritage site. Preservationists considered that the project would strongly affect the visual integrity of the historical center and after strong public opposition the Municipality finally cancelled the original project and developed a new proposal (ibid). The historical center of Riga, Latvia, is also a World Heritage site, and it was altered by a large-scale redevelopment that included high-rise office buildings in its buffer zone in 2003, which damaged significantly the visual integrity of the city’s historic urban landscape (ibid). These cases illustrate the prevailing challenges to preserve urban heritage while balancing the interests of investors, even in developed countries where there are stronger regulatory mechanisms in place.

10In developing contexts, there are also challenges to implement interventions in historic urban areas. The project of Rio San Francisco in the historical center of Puebla, which is a world heritage site in Mexico, is an intervention that has been criticized for promoting new economic activities and favoring real-estate investment while excluding and displacing the local inhabitants with limited resources (Cabrera, 2014; Milian, 1997). The project was temporarily stopped and then readjusted after the local community and academics organized themselves to oppose it, evidencing the risk that the project constituted for the city’s intangible heritage and for the functional diversity of the area (ibid). Nonetheless, the intervention that was finally implemented still favored the interests of the developers and resulted in the privatization of public space, had an esthetic and functional discordance with the historical area, and displaced almost all the residents of the area, which in turn diminished its cultural richness (Cabrera, 2014).

11The involvement and commitment of the communities are considered crucial for fruitful urban regeneration (Ercan, 2010; Ostanel, 2017), and for the successful preservation of Historic Urban Landscapes (Turner and Singer, 2015). However, there are still limitations and weaknesses in how communities are integrated into participatory processes for the regeneration of historical areas. In the neighborhoods of Fener and Balat, which are part of Istanbul’s world heritage area in Turkey, an ambitious urban regeneration intervention with a focus on the challenges of the local community was implemented from 2003 to 2008 (Ercan, 2010). It promoted employment generation, punctual restorations, cultural projects, and regulations to leasing and selling in order to avoid displacement (ibid). Yet, its erratic and tokenistic participation processes as limited time to achieve outputs did not allow to consult the local community effectively, added to limited spatial and temporal scopes resulted in the failure of the intervention, which in the long term has caused pressure in the poor local community to move out (ibid).

12Another widely discussed approach to urban regeneration in historic areas is culture-led (Leary and McCarthy, 2013). The culture-led urban approach refers to the use of culture as a motor for urban regeneration. This approach has been linked to artistic manifestations, cultural institutions, creative cities, tourism and events and festivals (Jones and Varley, 1999; Leary and McCarthy, 2013; Nobre, 2002; Torres, 2016; Ulldemolins, 2014). One of its criticisms is that it often results on the attraction of very specific markets, “creative societies”, artists, among others; which can lead to the displacement of the local communities and might also be linked to favoring economic interests. As Morris (2012) argues, economic interests are often prioritized over cultural sustainability.

2.2.2. Management of Historic Urban Areas: Frameworks and Actors

13Before the establishment of clear safeguard mechanisms, the protection of urban cultural heritage is very challenging. If cultural heritage is not designated as protected, physical features can easily be demolished and practices suppressed by new forms of development. Going back to the case of Puebla, its historical center suffered the destruction of around 30% of the city’s historic buildings before the declaration of the area as a Zone of Historic Monuments in 1977 and its further recognition as UNESCO world heritage site in 1987 (Jones and Varley, 1999). Before the designation, the area was strongly affected by the poor maintenance and abandonment of several historical buildings as the elite and middle-income classes moved to other parts of town and because the municipal authorities attempted to “modernize” the area (ibid).

14The historical center of Puebla finally regenerated as a recreational and touristic area, due to the new regulations and the commitment and investments of several middle-class property owners who aimed to recover the colonial-Spanish character of Puebla’s historical center and to dissociate it from the poverty image that it had gained (Jones and Varley, 1999). In this case, the property owners, who arguably had the strongest attachment to the area, actively contributed to the area’s regeneration. However, the process caused the displacement of the low-income leasers living there. The current preservation discourses aim to be as inclusive as possible so that marginalized groups are not negatively affected and cultural diversity is preserved. For example, the HUL approach highlights the relevance of hearing all the voices coexisting in the urban environment and of being aware that different subgroups may inhabit the same space in different ways (Smith, 2015). Similarly, it is discussed that if there are perceptions of different local identities, it can raise questions on whose heritage is being preserved or for whom the interventions are being implemented (Turner and Singer, 2015).

15The myriad of actors and the market conditions are among the external factors that planning and preservation authorities have to recognize to successfully regulate the transformation of historic urban areas. In Glasgow, as the market demanded larger spaces for commercial activities, planners established rigid building restrictions in the inner city and a more permissive frame for buildings in neighboring areas (Morrison, 1994). This allowed to preserve the character of the central area of the city while guiding the growth of the city to another area (ibid). Although a withdraw of the economy reduced the investment in the emergent area and brought it back to the inner city, Glasgow illustrates how planners can successfully orient the city’s transformations. As Morrison (1994) states, planning and preservation regulations influence not only morphological aspects, but the investment climate. Nonetheless, it must be mentioned that the effectiveness of planning is also determined by the institutionalization of regulatory processes and the capacities of administrative bodies, which are not the same in all contexts.

16Planning and preservation authorities also need to be able to navigate between different levels of governance, as there can be a strong disconnection between them in regard to urban transformation and cultural heritage, in both subnational and supranational planes (Veldpaus, 2015). A taxonomy exercise in Amsterdam evidenced that there were differences in the definition of heritage between departments (ibid, p. 148). These differences in definitions can lead to different processes and scopes on what heritage is and how it is protected. Moreover, in more drastic scenarios, the lack of agreement on heritage definitions could lead to different institutions or departments promoting contrasting interventions and processes for the management of the same areas.

2.3. The Regeneration of Historical Cities in the African Context

17In recent years, a pilot project for the application of the HUL approach as an innovative model to manage urban heritage in three Swahili cities that flourished around the 13th century and which are recognized as World Heritage Sites – Stone Town in Zanzibar (Tanzania), the Island of Mozambique (Mozambique) and Lamu Old Town (Kenya) (UNESCO, 2013b) – has strongly contributed to the study of the subject in the African continent. In the Island of Mozambique an inventory was developed to identify heritage elements with the support of the community and in Stone Town in Zanzibar the process to define a buffer zone led to an institutional reform so that various managers could be equally involved in the management of the site (ibid). In Zanzibar’s case, the relevance of the management structure was also highlighted for the need to cope with the increasing traffic and tourism that affect the site’s intangible heritage, and in Lamu, it was highlighted that public participation will be fundamental for the conservation of the site (ibid). As in other contexts, participation, management structures and clear regulations to identify and protect heritage elements are central to the current discussion on African urban world heritage sites.

18On the other hand, the information on the management of historical urban areas which have not been designated as world heritage sites in Africa is very limited. Many cities pay little attention to their cultural and natural heritage, which is reflected in the policies of the government, the lack of inventories and on the lack of awareness of the people (CRATerre-ENSAG and UNESCO, 2006). Moreover, in emergent African megacities, like Lagos and Kigali, there are urban renewal plans focused on large infrastructure that will transform drastically the urban morphology of the inner cities (Bafana, 2016; Ighobor, 2016). The discussion around the plans focuses on the modernization that these new large-scale developments will bring to the cities, with no remarks on the role that the urban heritage or the local culture will play. Subsequently, there is a possibility that these renewals will replicate the similar urban configuration and architecture that is nowadays seen in many large cities all over the world, which has been criticized for its permanent evolution according to ephemeral fashions (leaving no characteristics of its own age or local culture), lack of character and market orientation (Koolhaas, 2017).

19The literature about urban regeneration in Sub Saharan Africa is very limited. Most of the examples are focused on South Africa, with the culture-led urban regeneration of the neighborhood of Maboneng being considered an emblematic example (Bethlehem, 2013). In Tanzania, only two examples were found: explorations on Arusha regarding tourism (Matotay, 2010); and in Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam, about satisfaction in participatory process (Layson and Nankai, 2015).

2.4. Bridging Gaps

20There are prevailing challenges for the protection of heritage and management of transformation in historical urban areas all over the world, including the risk of displacement, losing tangible and intangible heritage, unclear regulatory frameworks and integrating the multitude of actors involved in the process. In African colonial cities, it is particularly pressing to understand how the transformations of historical areas are taking place and which role heritage is playing in them, as cities are growing fast and plans to renew the inner cities are being developed. Therefore, case studies in African colonial cities, as Dar es Salaam, are needed to understand how these transformations of historical areas are managed and how they fit in the global discussion; so that in turn, they can contribute to identify and develop improved mechanisms to manage historic urban landscapes.

3. Methodology

21The study on the CBD of Dar es Salaam was based on a detailed morphological analysis of the study area, which highlighted the changes of the area in the last ten years, and on the discourses of the local authorities and residents regarding the transformation of the area and the fate of its cultural heritage. The data was collected through structured questionnaires and observation, through an archival study on recent interventions in the area and through in-depth interviews with the relevant institutions and with twenty-seven members of the community. This approach enabled to systematically integrate and analyze the data collected from different sources.

4. Exploring the CBD of Dar es Salaam and Its Cultural Heritage

22Dar es Salaam, the largest city and commercial center of the United Republic of Tanzania has been at the core of the development of the country for more than one century (The United Republic of Tanzania, 2015). Founded by the Sultan of Oman Seyyid Majid in year 1862, it was later the capital of the German and British colonies, which ruled the country from 1887 to 1916 and from 1916 to 1961 respectively (Burton, 2005; Markes, 2011; Seifert and Moon, 2017). After the country’s independence, Dar es Salaam was the capital of Tanzania until 1973 when it was relocated to Dodoma (Seifert and Moon, 2017). However, many institutional bodies and commercial activities are still concentrated in the city (ibid). Throughout its relatively short history, the city has had a highly cosmopolitan development, as Omani, German, British, Indian and Arab groups, plus the Swahili and Wazaramo African groups originally living in the area have contributed to its development (ibid).

23The morphological analysis of the area, which was guided by the approach used by Wu and Tan (2014) to explore historical cities in China, enabled to explore and identify urban landscape units for their further management and/or protection. The analysis demonstrated that the CBD of Dar es Salaam encompasses built evidence of the different historical periods of the city. Map 1 evidences that there are still homogeneous areas in terms of land uses, architectural styles and setbacks which largely reflect the city’s colonial past. The two main homogenous areas identified coincide with the former European and Asian zones of the city.

24The former “Indian Bazar” has a predominance of mixed uses and buildings with no setback, buildings with colonial and art deco influences and an irregular urban layout. In the former European zone, there is a predominance of institutional uses and buildings with setback and fence, the predominant architectural styles are colonial and modern, and the area has a regular layout. Therefore, it is possible to argue that there are still several blocks mainly constituted by historical buildings with specific architectural styles, which could be considered tangible cultural heritage of the city, as it has been suggested by other authors (Burton, 2005; Seifert and Moon, 2017; Markes, 2011).

25The public space of the CBD of Dar es Salaam can also be considered part of the city’s heritage because it is the scenario of a wide variety of social practices taking place in a regular basis. Vendors of different goods, including local spices, nuts, books, among many others, can be seen all over the study area. There are also food vendors moving throughout the city with a jar of coffee or in a bike with an adaptation to carry coconuts or nuts. The sidewalks, particularly the areas with shade, are transformed into gathering spaces when members of the community bring plastic chairs and sit together to have coffee or to have a chat. Even local entertainers can be found, as a comedian offering a show in the middle of the street and offering the compilations of his work for sell afterwards. These transgressions towards the original purpose of the public space also constitute opportunities for social integration, as people with different cultures and religions interact in those spaces in a regular basis. It is important to stress that it is not the aim of this study to state that all the unregulated vendors selling any kind of good in the study area should be considered cultural heritage.

26After exploring what features of the CBD could be perceived to be cultural heritage, it was necessary to explore what the local authorities and members of the community conceive as their cultural heritage. Moreover, it was important to explore how the members of the community live that cultural heritage. Regarding the tangible heritage of the area, the postures were ambivalent. Some respondents mentioned the “old buildings” as the heritage of the city and gave vague descriptions, referring mostly to old governmental buildings, churches and mosques. They discussed that other old buildings in the area, as art-deco and colonial influenced apartment complexes, should be demolished to give space to new development. On the other hand, the respondents who had lived for a long time in the study area considered most of the old buildings in the area to be beautiful and full of memories for them. They suggested that the protection of the heritage in the CBD should not focus just on a few monuments but be more extensive to cover the rich heritage of the area.

27The discourses about the intangible cultural heritage were rich and reflected on several aspects from the everyday life and also on particular celebrations. In terms of everyday practices, the respondents mentioned how the food, smells and sounds define the character of the CBD of the city. Everyday rituals like drinking coffee or drinking coconut water in the street were highlighted. In terms of particular celebrations, different socio-religious activities were explained by the respondents. Diwali, the Indian celebration of the lights, Eid, marking the end of the fasting for Ramadan and several processions of Muslim groups were explained in detail. These celebrations also evidence the multi-culturalism and heterogeneous characteristics of the CBD of Dar es Salaam.

28The discourses of the respondents on the cultural heritage of the area also evidenced the presence of different sub- identities coexisting in the CBD of Dar es Salaam and that there are significant gaps between them. For instance, many of the Swahili informants (or African) were not aware of any special event taking place in the area. As one respondent mentioned:

“If you are asking somebody like myself, like black Tanzanians, I don’t know if you will be able to get much information about what happens (regarding celebrations) in the city center.”

29Some respondents further questioned if the heritage from the former Indian and European areas is from the original Tanzanians, or Swahili people, and part of their identity or not. This phenomenon is directly linked to the colonial background of the city, and therefore, to the exclusion of the Black Africans from the former European and Asian neighborhoods. Considering that accessibility is fundamental for developing a sense of attachment, appreciation and valorization of the cultural heritage (Nordic Perspectives, 2009), it is not surprising that some respondents of Swahili ascendancy directly or indirectly indicated that they do not identify themselves with the heritage of the CBD.

5. Urban Transformation and Cultural Heritage in Risk

30The CBD of Dar es Salaam encompasses a rich historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the country. However, the heritage of the area is facing strong pressures. In recent years, the development of new high-rise buildings has implied the demolition of several historical constructions. Additionally, the protection of the built heritage is limited and the intangible heritage is not mentioned in any of the policies or regulations of the country. Regarding the study area in specific, from a sample of 38 blocks, only two blocks and thirteen isolated buildings or monuments are protected by the current regulations.

31In the sample of 38 blocks established in the study area, it was possible to identify that at least 12 historical buildings were demolished in the last 10 years. Additionally, 24 new developments were identified, of which 19 were high-rise buildings. This vertical growth constitutes a strong disruption of the urban landscape, as prior to these projects the area was characterized by heights between four and six levels. On the other hand, only two restored buildings and three renovated buildings were identified. One of them, the Old Boma, is considered to be the oldest building in the city and it was restored as an initiative of the Dar es Salaam Centre for Architectural Heritage (DARCH) with funding from the European Union. The restoration of this building, completed in 2017, is particularly relevant as the site has been transformed into a cultural center open for the community.

32The posture of the respondents towards the transformation of the study area was ambivalent. As it could be expected, the organizations working for the protection of cultural heritage in the area are not satisfied with the changes that the area is undergoing as many buildings with historical and architectural value are being destroyed. The actors involved in the protection of the heritage of the area also expressed a sense of powerlessness as they cannot influence the planning processes guiding the transformation of the area nor guarantee the protection of the buildings. The respondents mentioned that they have prepared different proposals to expand the list of protected buildings in the area but that they have been rejected. The representative from Division of Antiquities, which is the governmental body responsible for the protection of cultural heritage in Tanzania, indicated that they have expressed their opposition towards the demolition of historical buildings in the CBD but that they have not managed to stop the processes. These weaknesses evidence the existence of deficiencies in the coordination between planning and preservation administrative bodies in the case study.

33Some members of the community also expressed their discontent with the new buildings and reflected on the lack of quality of the new constructions. It was also suggested that they should be constructed in another part of the city. On the contrary, other members of the community considered that the new buildings are nice and that they contribute to improve the urban image of the city, as it looks more modern and developed. The respondents also reflected on the poor maintenance of the old buildings, and that perhaps, if they were better maintained, the CBD would be worth being preserved. The planning authorities, investors from the private sector and a parastatal housing organization, which is the custodian of the buildings in the area, expressed that it is necessary to promote vertical development in the area to accommodate the growing population, to accommodate the existing demands and for the profitability of the interventions.

34In terms of participatory processes, the members of the community and local leaders expressed that they have not been involved in any process to determine how to guide the transformation of the area. It was suggested that planning authorities often invited representatives of specific organizations, but that local leaders and members of the community were not adequately involved. The planning authorities indicated that for the new master plan for the city, members of the community have been invited to some consultative meetings, but that they have not been fully involved in the process.

35The current imposed order guiding the transformation of the CBD reflects mainly the interests and values of the actors interested in the vertical development of the city. The regulatory frameworks established by the planning authorities support a process in which the assets of the CBD can be demolished and new projects can be started from scratch. This approach, which attaches to the definition of urban renewal or redevelopment, facilitates the interventions of some actors like the housing development parastatal organization and the private sector. At the same time, it suppresses the interests of the stakeholders interested on the preservation of the historic urban landscape of the city, as the processes to approve the demolition of the non-protected historical buildings in the CBD of Dar es Salaam does not follow any procedure in which preservation specialists are involved.

36The intangible heritage of the city is completely neglected in the existing policies and regulations. However, it still plays a prominent role in the production of space. As discussed in the previous section, the social practices can be perceived throughout the entire study area as the different social and religious groups maintain their traditions alive, which can be seen in their food, clothes and celebrations. The appropriation of the public spaces, to create ephemeral encounter spaces or drink Kahawa (coffee) and eat Katashas (traditional peanut sweets) sold by ambulant vendors, are among the intangible elements that contribute to define the character of the city. The prevalence of these activities evidences how the plans and regulations developed by the planning authorities are not the only elements that influence the occupation and transformation of the area.

6. Urban Renewal and the Neglect of Urban Heritage

37The renewal of the CBD of Dar es Salaam is displacing not only the former colonial, art-deco and modern architectural typologies that characterized the area, but the local community and its ways of living. Some of the new buildings have features that prevent the occupation of the public space in their frontispieces. These mechanisms are in place to avoid the occupation of the area by informal vendors. Nonetheless, they also limit traditional sociocultural functions that largely prevail in older constructions like the gathering of neighbors sitting in plastic chairs in the public space. Secondly, the members of the community indicated that they cannot afford the prices of the new buildings.

38Besides the displacement of the local culture, the neglect of cultural heritage has had other negative impacts for the development of the CBD. Regarding the protection of the heritage, the new constructions affect the integrity of the area. Most of the historical buildings in the CBD are in a range of between two to four stories and are usually plastered and painted in light colors. The new towers, with their reflective glasses and massive heights, do not integrate with the prevailing morphological characteristics of the area. Therefore, the lack of coherence of the new constructions can be considered detrimental for the value of the protected monuments.

39The profitability of the projects in the area and maximizing the use of the land were among the guiding values that gave place to the new high-rise projects in the city center. Nevertheless, regarding profitability, the success of the new towers was limited. The new towers in the area are not fully occupied and the prices are coming down, as there is more supply than demand. Regarding maximizing the use of land, or promoting vertical development, it is important to recognize that a strong protection of the built environment would indeed limit the construction of high-rise buildings in the area.

7. Urban Regeneration, Integrating the Heritage Values of the CBD of Dar es Salaam

40The neglect of urban heritage could not be possible in a process of urban regeneration. Although the fieldwork evidenced that the CBD of Dar es Salaam is not going through a process of urban regeneration, it enabled to examine the arguments of different respondents on the role that the cultural heritage could and should play for its regeneration.

41Considering that the recognition and inclusion of marginalized groups in urban regeneration processes can reduce the gaps between social groups and help to avoid gentrification (Ercan, 2010; Ostanel, 2017), it could be argued that the careful consideration of the cultural heritage of the different groups coexisting in the urban landscape of the CBD of Dar es Salaam could contribute to the social cohesion of the area. In an interview with a local leader, it was discussed that there are important cultural exchanges between groups of Asian and African ascendancies in the CBD of Dar es Salaam. The respondent explained that members of the two groups interact and learn from each other, particularly regarding commercial activities.

42The regeneration of urban areas rich in cultural heritage has often been linked to tourism activities (Jones and Varley, 1999; Nobre, 2002; Torres, 2016). Several informants of this study recognized the touristic potential of the CBD of Dar es Salaam. Furthermore, two informants indicated that they already offer tours in the CBD. The tour operators emphasized that they try to involve the local community in their tours by showing local shops and traditional street vendors as part of the appeals of the city. Additionally, one informant explained that in his tours the groups visit the Indian neighborhood of the CBD, so that tourists can see the food and social practices which can only be seen in this part of the city. This celebration of the city’s diversity could also contribute to the recognition and integration of the different socio-cultural groups. Finally, it was discussed that Dar es Salaam is already a point of transit for tourists visiting other attractions of the country, and that the consolidation of attractions in the city could interest the visitors to spend more time in the area and increase the revenue of the city from that segment.

43Some respondents suggested that the CBD could be preserved as a historical center and that the development of new buildings should be done in other parts of the city. This suggestion would contribute to the sustainability of Dar es Salaam because it would imply the decentralization of the CBD and it could contribute to reduce its congestion, which was one of the main problems of the area according to the informants of this paper. It would also contribute to ensure that the high-rise buildings are constructed in areas where the infrastructure is capable of supporting them. Furthermore, this approach would satisfy the aims of the different sectors, because the heritage would be preserved and another area with adequate infrastructure for vertical growth could be consolidated. This method has been successfully used in several cities, like in Glasgow (Morrison, 1994) for example.

44Cultural heritage also has economic implications in the dynamics of the study area. The built environment and the spatial practices are immersed in a network of relationships, where the demands of the social groups are linked to the services offered. However, the main economic implication of the cultural heritage of the CBD for urban regeneration is that it constitutes a valuable asset that other parts of the city do not have and that therefore cannot be neglected in planning processes. Whereas the vertical development can be replicated in several areas, economic activities benefiting from the built cultural heritage of the city could only be implemented in the CBD and its surroundings. If the heritage of the city is not used and managed adequately, it can disappear forever, which definitely would be a misuse of one remarkable asset of the city.

8. Conclusion

45Based on the urban transformation that the study area has experienced in recent years and on the values and objectives that the informants of this study linked with the cultural heritage of the area, this paper has discussed the implications of cultural heritage in the regeneration of a historical urban landscape. In the CBD of Dar es Salaam, economic interests are often prioritized over cultural values when guiding transformations of the urban landscape. This has resulted in the displacement of social groups and their ways of living, incoherent interventions and has been detrimental for the integrity of the cultural heritage, effects that have been seen in other contexts. The informants of this study also suggested different ways in which the cultural heritage of the city could contribute to the success of urban regeneration processes, by supporting social cohesion, economic development and urban sustainability.

46Significant gaps for the management and protection of cultural heritage still persist in the CBD of Dar es Salaam. There is no clarity on which part of the CBD is and should be protected and with which aim. The city affronts demolitions and the destruction of historical buildings which were seen in cities like Puebla more than 40 years ago. Therefore, it is confirmed that there is a need to improve the inventories, recognition and protection of urban cultural heritage. There is also an urgent need to improve the coordination between the planning and preservation authorities, aiming to empower the later so that they can directly influence planning processes. Moreover, the development policies of the city have to be readjusted, so that they pursue more inclusive objectives and contribute to cultural sustainability. If these changes are not implemented, the transformation of the CBD will continue in its current track and it will become a generic space that will not be distinguishable from other large cities all over the world.

47Besides the management challenges, certain particular characteristics of African colonial cities make difficult their protection. The historical area of Dar es Salaam is young when compared with its Latin American and European counterparts, as is the case in other African colonial cities. This represents challenges for its protection as many of the structures might not seem old enough or valuable enough to be preserved. Moreover, a considerable part of the population perceives these places as areas of segregation and oppression that belong to the colonizers (who still controlled the country around fifty years ago) and to other outsiders (as Asian merchants that still live in the area), and not to their own people. If the tangible elements of the cultural heritage of the CBD of Dar es Salaam, and perhaps other African colonial cities, are to be preserved, regulations have to be put in place and spaces have to be opened to locals so that they can develop ownership and value them, not only as evidence of their history but as assets for their future development.

48This paper argues that the lived space should be a main focus of the planning and preservation practices. The exploration of the CBD of Dar es Salaam allowed to understand better how the members of the community live their space and what they value of the area. The spaces of social interaction and the temporary occupations of the urban space in the form of traditional shops and ephemeral encounter spaces were recognized by the members of the community as part of their cultural heritage, which are no longer present in the new developments. The recognition of these practices and spaces is fundamental to ensure their continuity and, consequently, to guarantee the preservation of the intangible cultural heritage of the urban landscape.

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Rafael Maximiliano Flores de León, Nelly John Babere et Ombeni Swai, « Implications of Cultural Heritage in Urban Regeneration: The CBD of Dar es Salaam »Revue Interventions économiques [En ligne], 63 | 2020, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2020, consulté le 18 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Rafael Maximiliano Flores de León

Ardhi University, Tanzania,

Nelly John Babere

Senior Lecturer, School of Spatial Planning and Social Sciences, Ardhi University, Tanzania,

Ombeni Swai

Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, Construction Economics and Management, Ardhi University, Tanzania,

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