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In 2012/2013 I worked in Tanzania as an architect refurbishing, reorganising and renovating hospitals and research facilities for the Ifakara Health institute (IHI) on behalf of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. Before I started my work I learned Swahili in Zanzibar where I lived with a family and got to know the people and the culture. Since that time I have been interested in the country, its culture and its history. In my thesis I want to go back and - with my new gained knowledge - add to a better city development in Zanzibar. In the beginning of 2017 I travelled to the island where I was working at the Department of rural and urban planning under the leadership of Dr Muhammad Juma (Director, Department of Urban and Rural Planning, Zanzibar) who agreed on helping me getting access to information. Through field work and interviews I got to know more about the culture, the work in the planning office and the challenges for the growing city. Through working on a defined site in a part of the city called Kisauni which lays on the edge of the city I hope to find answers and solutions to the challenges the city faces: Fast growing informal settlements, lack of infrastructure and poverty are some of them. I hope that my work in some way can contribute to develop a better city for the Zanzibaris.



The growth of informal settlements especially in third world country has become a problem on a global scale. In Asia and Africa, although under different circumstances, the fastest urbanization takes place. To find a good way on how to include the poor city migraters into the growing cities will be crucial in order to have more sustainable, peaceful and just societies. My focus lays on the semi-independent island state of Zanzibar which is one of the poorest regions in Africa. A touristic paradise on first sight it faces many problems like poor economy, lack of infrastructure and heavy floods in the city. In the midst of all this the continuous growth of the population makes the resources scarcer and the pressure on the city to provide living space, infrastructure and jobs is rising.  With a new Masterplan for the city (Zanplan 2035) the government wants to step forward and tackle the problems. In order to direct the future development of the city in the right direction the growth has to be more formal. My goal is to develop an approach which helps going from an informal growth of the city to a formal development which supports the citizens in their everyday life: From informal to formal. The approach will result in an urban design project on a specific site.

The site – Kisauni - now at the edge of the growing city, is currently growing informally. Through visiting the site, talking to people and interviewing some of the stakeholders more in depth knowledge has accumulated.

Four major challenges are highlighted: Climate Change, lack of infrastructure, lack of resources/ waste management and poverty. For each of the challenges a solution is provided: Climate Change Adaption, Service Streets, Recycle Economy, and Affordable Housing.  In the sum the solutions result in a sustainable urban design for Kisauni.


From informal to formal

The informal growth of the city causes problems as it is impossible to guide the city towards a sustainable development. Overall natural system like groundwater reserves, forests, wetlands, habitats and agricultural plots are threatened by the uncontrolled growth. The planning authorities have to direct the growth in order to protect the islands scarce resources. That’s why the new Masterplan – Zanplan 2035 – was developed. A fast area around the city is incorporated in order to deal with the future growth. The city is said to double the number of inhabitants from now 600’000 to 1’200’000 by the year 2035.

The masterplan seeks to protect the agricultural land in the north east of the city. There the existing settlements will be densified to avoid sprawl. The city gets more space to develop towards the South. The existing fisher-village Fumba will become a new centre.  

Transport oriented development (TOD) will help to guide the development. New rapid bus transport is planned to go along so called development corridors. One line to the North, one to the east and one to the South.

Furthermore the Zanplan highlights the importance of incorporating bikeways and pedestrian walkways throughout the city and wants to introduce a continuous green infrastructure. (Zanplan)

The Zanplan 2035 set the outline in which my project is developed. Within this document a provisional zoning plan for Kisauni is shown. This plan offers the base on which work on site started. After surveying the area the zoning plan was corrected and updated. Furthermore the bus system was defined and different identities added to the various areas within Kisauni.


Kisauni is set at the edge of an existing, dense agglomeration and is next to the airport. It also lays in the middle between the city centre and Fumba, the new centre in the south.

With its almost 800 ha Kisauni is a quite big Area. As of 2012 around 10’000 people life here. According to the Masterplan, by the year 2035 the area will be inhabited by 93’000 people.

In order to provide a useful design this area was looked upon as a strategic site. It provides the context for the project site.

The project site is 63 ha or 0,63km2 and focuses on the edge of the site as that is where an intervention has to be made as soon as possible in order to prevent the area of being taken over by informal settlement. Approximately 1’000 people life in this area right now. The project aims at providing houses for about 10’000 people.



Based on my own experiences, the interviews and the local opinion I had a look into statistics to check if the subjective observations and opinions correlate with the more objective statistics. Resulting is a list of four major challenges: Climate Change, lack of infrastructure, limited resources/ waste management and poverty. It is clear that urban design not alone can overcome the challenges but looking at the informal settlements one can see that bad planning can add and increase problems (flooding in the inner city, mix of sewage and freshwater, increase heat island effect …). A good urban design supports the citizens in overcoming the challenges they face.

In order to do so, each of the mentioned challenges is meet with a solution, described in detail in the next paragraph. Each of them can potentially improve the citizens’ situation and together they result in an urban design as the outcome of this thesis.


Climate Change Adaption

A changing climate can have dramatic influences on the lives of people. In Zanzibar the climate tends to become more hot/humid compared to the past and present. The built environment can either worsen the outcomes of this change or support the citizens in coping with it. Providing shade and allowing air to stream through the houses/blocks help to improve the microclimate and make life more comfortable for the inhabitants. Street grid and building volumes influence the wind flow into the area whereas shade can be provided on a smaller scale. Simple measures can have a big impact and help to avoid the use of air conditioning units which would raise the consumption of electricity / fuel.


Service Streets

Streets are the arteries/veins of the city. In this case the future streets will not only be used for transport but also as an infrastructure-line. Social services and businesses will be situated next to main streets in order to allow for better access. Pedestrian and bike-lanes are introduced and - along with the public transport system - will be privileged compared to private transport. Furthermore only street parking is offered in order to encourage the use of bikes and public transport. In order to make the bike system feasible parking possibilities for bikes have to be offered.


Recycle Economy

As Zanzibar has a problem with waste management and a lack of resources is it natural to combine the problems to solve them both. Use the waste to create resources. This approach can be applied to many material-cycles. In this work, however, the focus lays on construction materials and waste-water. Easy approaches make it possible to initiate different cycles from bottom-up and to create businesses and new opportunities for the locals. The suggestions are by no means definitive and more cycles can be added.


The idea is to develop new and affordable (housing)-typologies that can fit into a dens, urban context. In order to find those typologies the past history provided typical buildings of Zanzibar as a base to develop new, feasible and local solutions. Most of the examples derive from building forms seen in Stone Town and the inner city as it has a variation of different typologies with different historical background. This rich cultural heritage found in Zanzibar should be represented in the future construction of the city in order to make locals identify themselves with their city and their history. Furthermore those historic typologies are usually a reaction to local circumstances such as climate and the use of construction material and much can be learned from them.

Block development

There is a general idea on how to develop the blocks. In a first step the focus lays on defining the edge of the blocks which in turn results in a clear defined streetscape. As there are existing buildings within most of the blocks the volumes cannot align exactly along the street which gives the different blocks a nice variation and breaks up the rigid systematic. The gap between the new and old buildings opens the inner core of the blocks to the street. As this inner space is still pretty big more houses can be added. The mix between new rigid structures aligned with or parallel to the streets and the irregularity of the existing structures create interesting and unique semi-public spaces within each block.



A cut out of the masterplan is taken to show the basic idea of the phasing. As mentioned in various interviews the relocation of people is an important if not the most crucial issue in order to realise the project. In order to make people trust the plans and the idea for the development of Kisauni it is important that the relocation goes well.

In a first step the plans should be communicated to the inhabitants. Their opinions should be considered. In a second step people that have properties that will have to be demolished have to be informed and they should be offered either money, a plot or a new house/flat. The feedback from the presentation in Kisauni suggests that most people prefer to stay in the area and rather have a new house/ a flat than a financial compensation.

In a second step all the affected people have to be registered and afterwards houses can be built for them. The houses have to be ready for people to move in before their present houses are demolished.

Once there is space first the main and later the secondary and tertiary roads including infrastructure can be constructed. Simultaneously it is possible to start erecting more new buildings as specified in the masterplan.


Sustainable Urban Design

The resulting design works as a framework for the site and allows for adjustments in the further development. The goal is to help create a vibrant, safe and healthy environment for the citizens.

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