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College of Design


Research + Work

Lamu Old Town, Kenya



During the summer of 2011 the University of Minnesota Center for World Heritage Studies in coalition with UNESCO conducted a workshop on Historic Urban Landscapes and an inventory project of Lamu Old Town, focusing on the study of Islamic architecture and open space. Thorough on-site documentation of public sqaures and urban fabrics led to the compliation of a digital database for inventory, management, and conservation.

Lamu Old Town is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, retaining its traditional functions. Built in coral stone and mangrove timber, the town is characterized by the simplicity of structural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors. Lamu has hosted major Muslim religious festivals since the 19th century, and has become a significant centre for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures.  The digital database system has since lent itself to developing a plan of action regarding conservation of the unique culturally infused qualities of the architecture and public space of Lamu Old Town.

Download the Lamu Project Summary