Transformation of Swahili stone houses in Lamu island

ABSTRACT

Overtime Swahili stone houses have evolved with the changing pressures and tastes exerted from within and without its boundaries. The determinants of evolution in the ancient times are different from the current ones. Amos Rapoport states that the determinants of the creation of house form and urban morphology include but are not limited to; climate and need for shelter, building materials and technology, site, socio- cultural issues, defence and religion. Despite efforts made by the conservation department to preserve the traditional architecture, modern houses are still coming up and the traditional ones are being altered. This begs the question, if the traditional houses were suitable for the Swahili people and the warm and humid climate why are the local residents changing them? Therefore, this research sets out to find the transformations that have already taken place in Swahili stone houses, the factors that influence the transformations and which direction the houses are heading. Thereafter, a hygro-thermal performance of the traditional and modern stone houses is evaluated to determine which of the two houses perform better and how future houses should be built for human comfort.

Based on literature review the fieldwork uses the case study design strategy, which is the most appropriate because it is specific but flexible and expansive enough to adapt the various complexities that encompass the subject matter. The author studies the urban morphology of each of the three towns then selects a street to study for further analysis. A sample of each of the different stone house typologies is studied in each town and taken as representative of that particular typology. The four typologies established in the literature review include: Swahili traditional houses, shop- front houses, verandah houses and traditional Shela houses. Since the house typologies have different attributes, a modern and traditional house under each typology is examined to establish the transformations that have taken place.

The study finds evidence that the Swahili stone houses have transformed and will continue transforming in future. Moreover, it is evident that there are new determinants of transformation other than the old ones mentioned by Rapoport and other scholars. Since this study only focuses on the transformations of stone houses in Lamu Island, transformations should also be examined in other East African coastal towns. E.g. Mombasa Old Town which is also transforming. Furthermore, the mitaas around Lamu Old Town are growing up at a very fast rate. Further research can attempt to investigate this and perhaps uncover the influences for this growth and how it can be mitigated.

Documentation : 
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