LANDMARK BUILT-FORMS A CASE OF KISUMU CITY

ABSTRACT

Kevin Lynch, an urban planner and author, first investigated how the characteristics of an urban space affected how well people remembered features in it [Lynch, 1960]. He found that the respondents organized their city images using a set of common features: landmarks, paths, regions, edges (barriers), and nodes (intersections). This is an investigative study of landmark built-forms in Kisumu City. It seeks to identify these specific built-forms in the city, investigate their roles as landmarks and the elements that enable them to play these roles.

Why Kisumu City? Kisumu as a city on the shore of Lake Victoria, Kenya, has been a focal point since the pre-colonial period. Its identity began as a trade port from pre-colonial times. Its name is derived from its historical significance as a place of barter trade, “Kisumo”, between the predominant Luo and the Abagusii, Abaluhya, Nandi, Kalenjin and Maasai. At an early stage, it stood out as an identifiable centre in a prominent spatial location, as Kevin Lynch describes a landmark. The background against which “Kisumo” stood out was the rural lake basin context and thus it became a focal point for local communities.

Kisumu today, being an urban node in the lake region, has buildings within the city that have developed into nodes. A look into Kisumu’s architecture will unfold its progressive movement, showing the shift from one landmark to the next one, but not taking away the inherent significance of the predecessors. Investigating these landmarks involves not only studying them at an urban scale but also at the street level and building scale.

At the urban scale, landmark built-forms play a role in the identity of a city. In fact, the relationship is synonymous since the city as a background also makes a built-form a landmark. At the building scale, lessons can be picked from how these landmark built-forms are designed externally. Why do people identify buildings as landmarks at first glance while bypassing others? What elements make these buildings so unique such that people unanimously gravitate towards them in wayfinding? How were these elements achieved in and how appropriate are they in façade design?

After opening up a discussion on landmark built-forms, the study takes an exciting direction because how people perceive a landmark and the elements that the common man notices on a building are vast and unpredictable. These outward elements are worth studying, having earned the thumbs up from the public, the ultimate clients. Critiquing landmarks at the urban and building scale will unearth design strategies specific to the city of Kisumu which will guide the design of future potential landmark built-forms.

Key words: Landmark built-forms, Kisumu City, Roles, Elements

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