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Dynamics and materialisation in the margin between public and private spaces in Mwanza Region, Tanzania.

Katrien VAN UYTSEL student laureate

°1983 Belgium
Civil Engineer Architecture, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2006

Dynamics and materialisation in the margin between public and private spaces in Mwanza Region, Tanzania.

In her predecessors’ footsteps, Katrien Van Uytsel examines an original subject, which is highly characteristic of the central regions in Africa, i.e. the impact and the real-life situations of the many ‘empty’ spaces that are found all over the built-up areas.

She has first made full use of the research that has been published on the subject to date, from which she kept the elements she considered really essential to her study. She has striven to be as clear and selective as possible in the aspects she deals with in her study and particularly in the vocabulary she uses in order to limit approximations or ambiguities in a subject that is relatively abstract, initially at least.
She then clearly identifies the context of the area under examination, which has a relatively large town (at least in terms of its population) at its centre, and so justifies her choice of what are very different study sites, ranging from the town centre to the rural outskirts (the latter nevertheless directly affected by the proximity of a main road).
She then goes through every site in great detail, taking advantage of both her visual observations and her direct contacts (despite the language barrier and her different roots) to pinpoint the elements that would be truly useful to the aims of the study that she set out to achieve.
She applies a rigorous working method, producing a thorough analysis, which at first is relatively descriptive but quickly becomes mainly interpretative. She then builds more theoretical concepts, which are original and highly personal and which she confronts with her original interpretations.
The in-depth study she makes of the reality – visible versus invisible, public versus private – is of prime significance. Her main interest nevertheless reveals itself particularly clearly when she endeavours to identify the progressive changes in the occupation and status (de facto) of these intermediate spaces.
The challenge she has set herself is remarkable, as she deals with an issue that is poorly understood, highly complex and rather abstract, and which is also a ‘terra incognita’. But she manages to present/construct a detailed analysis and then forms her own concepts in a very appropriate and thorough manner.
She is all the more deserving because she deals with an issue that is vital to the majority of the population concerned, but which the people in charge of ‘development’ generally know almost nothing about, viewing these intermediate areas as ‘marginal’ or even ‘abnormal’ if not downright ‘dangerous’.
Furthermore, her research paper reads like a book with both the content and the form being fluid, attractive and interesting.

Report: Prof. P. Frenay, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Faculty of Applied Sciences – BATiR Department, Brussels, Belgium