No Traces of Public Space? Searching for Public Urban Life in Lilongwe. 2018

Master Theses

Urban development on the African continent more often than not follows inherited planning models that are based on EuroAmerican concepts, ideals, and lives. This work explores how a re-thinking of dominant planning systems can be achieved by challenging notions around public space in Lilongwe, Malawi. Understanding public space less as a spatial entity and more as a public practice, different forms of local public urban life are presented as case studies in order to inform a more grounded approach to Lilongwe’s future urban development. They encompass water kiosks, the Labor Office, Kachere trees, WhatsApp groups, a churches square, playing Bawo, the Area 13 Market, and a home plot.

This work is embedded in the theoretical framework as outlined by Abdoumaliq Simone (2010) and Richard Sennett (2017) who perceive of public space less as a spatial entity but more as a performative practice. By adopting this view, this work aims to adopt a southern perspective to urban development as demanded by a variety of urban scholars, namely Garth Myers (2011), Ananya Roy (2009), and Vanessa Watson (2009). A more grounded understanding of public urban life, finally, facilitates a better understanding of Lilongwe’s urbanity, as suggested by Paul Jenkins (2013).

Jenkins, Paul. 2013. Urbanization, Urbanism, and Urbanity in an African City: Home Spaces and House Cultures. Palgrave Macmillian: New York.
Myers, Garth. 2011. African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice. Zed Books: London.
Roy, Ananya. 2009. „The 21st Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory“. In: Regional Studies, Vol. 43(6), pp. 819-830.
Simone, Abdoumaliq. 2010. City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the Crossroads. Routledge: London.
Sennett, Richard. 2017. „The Public Realm“. In: The SAGE Handbook of the 21st Century City. Suzanne Hall and Ricky Burdett (Eds.). SAGE: London.
Watson, Vanessa. 2009. „Seeing from the South: Refocusing Urban Planning on the Globe’s Central Urban Issues“. In: Urban Studies. Vol. 46(11), pp. 2259-2275.



Urban Design Thesis Project by Rebekka Keuss