The 1994 ‘Conservation Plan’ identified a number of schemes for Zanzibar’s open spaces in order to ensure their protection, upgrading and rehabilitation. In particular, the work carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) targeted three areas: Kelele Square, Forodhani Park and the Mizingani Seafront. Kelele Square was completed in 1997, following the adaptive reuse of the ex-Telecom Building into the Zanzibar Serena Inn, which defines part of the square. The much larger and ambitious rehabilitation of Forodhani Park, the most visible portion of Zanzibar’s seafront, was completed in 2008–09, while the rest of the seafront, along Mizingani Road, is currently being planned and its rehabilitation is scheduled to begin in 2011. Together, these open areas represent almost seventy-five per cent of the public open spaces along Zanzibar’s seafront and are the most visible and frequented public areas in the Stone Town.
Forodhani Park and the Mizingani Seafront form a continuous public open space along the Indian Ocean, stretching from the Orphanage House, at the southern end of the seafront, to the port at the opposite end. The area has the highest concentration of monuments and significant historic buildings in the Stone Town.
Prior to its rehabilitation, Forodhani Park was in very poor condition. It had, however, kept its original organization and layout from the time of its creation on the occasion of King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. The design for the rehabilitation of the gardens was aimed at reconciling current uses and needs with the historic significance and traditions of the garden. To that end, its original elements were preserved and restored and some new features added. The aim was to create a contemporary urban space, while enhancing the original features and historic character of the place. Accordingly, the Park’s layout includes new paths lined with benches, linking together the original elements of the garden with a new organization and structure. Today, as in the past, Forodhani Park functions both as an active meeting place and passive promenade. At the same time, it maintains and defines separate areas intended for pedestrian movement, food vending, sports, contemplation and repose. The layout of the Park and proportions of lawn, paving and planting were derived from the main cross-axes defined by the fountain, bandstand and pier, all pertaining to the original configuration of the garden. These simple geometries were reinforced by structured plantings of palms and umbrella shade trees. Detailing was designed in a robust but understated manner, with a formal vocabulary and materials typical of the Stone Town. The paving has an exposed coral aggregate finish, a reminder of weathered surfaces found elsewhere in the historic area, while the park lighting is derived from the original cast-iron lamps manufactured in Glasgow. The baraza seating, modelled after traditional examples, accommodates the need for social interaction and provides the opportunity to simply enjoy the gardens in comfort. The remaining ship cannons scattered about the site were carefully restored and repositioned as a six-gun shore battery.
Bianca, Stefano & Francesco Siravo. Zanzibar: A Plan for the Historic Stone Town. Geneva: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 1996.
This publication includes the documentation and proposals prepared for the Conservation Plan. It begins with a review of Zanzibar's urban development and the character of its architecture, then surveys the Stone Town's present condition and looks at the pressures threatening its historic fabric. It ends with a presentation of the plan itself; including land use policies, protective measures, and a series of programs and proposals to improve the town's infrastructure and principal open areas.
The Old Dispensary in Zanzibar was the second major historic building restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The project has since been expanded to the restoration of other landmark buildings and several modest dwellings and caravanserais in the Zanzibar's Stone Town, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In this book an argument is put forth suggesting that growth and new development are not incompatible with the preservation of the Stone Town's old buildings and spaces. On the contrary, they can contribute to protecting the cultural heritage, while improving standards of living and promoting economic activity in Zanzibar's central area. The Conservation Plan provides a framework needed to encourage appropriate development, and foster a living and working environment in the Stone Town that is both attuned to today's requirements and in line with Zanzibar's traditional urban character.