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College of Design

Research + Work

Zanzibar, Tanzania


Since July 2009 the University of Minnesota Center for World Heritage Studies and the Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority (STDCA) conducted an UNESCO inventory project of Stone Town, focusing on the documentation of vernacular architecture and public spaces, analyzing the use of public sqaures as unique social places.  In August 2011 the CWHS participated in a workshop held by UNESCO on Historic Urban Landscapes to refocus the urban conservation efforts.  The Stone Town of Zanzibar is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture, which has brought together and homogenized disparate elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India, and Europe over more than a millennium. 

Stone Town was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2000 as a site of cultural value, more specifically it is considered an Historic Urban Landscape. The survey of public sqaures was conducted in three phases.  The first phase (pilot study) was meant to test the assumptions and establish a survey form in August of 2009.  These surveys were then applied to the second portion of the pilot study.  A digital database was created to aid in the assembly of the observational data collected, and to define key characteristics of the squares.  Finally, a full scale survey was launched to catalogue each district.  The survey work was conducted for the purposes of creating an inventory of Stone Town public squares to establish further steps and ensure further conservation efforts.  Future goals include the creation of an updated list of recommended conservation practices for the squares observed, provisions of new and effective management tools to ensure immediate use and implementation of gathered documentation, and updating the currently used map of Stone Town with changes since the last file was drawn in 1992. Moving forward, it is the responsibility of the STDCA to implement the suggested conservation efforts.

Download the Zanzibar Project Summary