Paper presented at the XXXIII IAHS World Congress on Housing, 27-30 September 2005,"Transforming Housing Environments through Design", University of Pretoria.
The creation of the built environment has not only been determined by physical and natural resources - there is often an underlying cultural value attached to creation of traditional spaces . As culture varies from one community to another; so the cultural meaning and use of space will also be different. A community’s identity will thus be formed in the way they build and more interestingly, the way they give meaning to their created spaces.
The Luo, Kenya’s third largest ethnic group, have both functional and cultural meanings to spaces. The Luo homestead and hut layouts may at first sight have some semblance of spaces in other African communities. However, on further investigation one finds that the meanings attached to these spaces and the way they are used are specific to the Luo. From the ‘grave to the cradle’ a Luo uses space in a manner that identifies him as a Luo. From the level of the hut, through the homestead to the village, a Luo gives meaning to space like no other community does. When designing housing for a group such as this, is it not fundamental for architects and planners to understand the people and what space means to them in all aspects, culture not ignored?
This paper intends to illustrate how ignoring people’s culture can inhibit sustainable use of newly created urban environments especially housing estates. Kisumu, a major urban centre in the heart of Luoland has a ‘story’ to tell of the conflicts between housing development and cultural practices that frustrate its efforts to have sustainable living environments. This paper captures this ‘story’ to further ‘drum’ in the fact that yes! we need to take into consideration the social, economic, physical, technological etc. aspects of the people to be housed, but we should not ignore culture.
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