Historic buildings provide a foundation for regeneration of many of our towns as it contributes to the local economy and creates jobs.
trueBy Paul Muleme
As urban authorities plan to transform towns into modern architectural outlook with storied buildings and the setting up of housing estates in outskirts, it should be acknowledged that there is need to preserve the old architectural buildings for the purpose of regenerating cities, preserving culture, history and the need to promote tourism.
Historic buildings provide a foundation for regeneration of many of our towns as it contributes to the local economy and creates jobs, it reinforces local culture and instills a great sense of pride and confidence in the community.
Zones like old Kampala is known for its historical monumental purpose as the first centre of urbanisation in Uganda with Fort Lugard lieing at the heart of Kampala hill. Fort Lugard signifies the countries colonial era under colonial rule. It was the first centre of urban settlement in 1890 was Captain Lugard set up shops and later relocated to Entebbe.
At the moment according to the old city council physical plans old Kampala was planned as a residential area with places like madras gardens, perrymans gardens , fort road and martin road however its now transforming into a commercial hub .
The Muslim community put up a modern mosque in the names of Gadaffi mosque which is a modern prestigious venerable monument of Islamic civilization in Uganda that attracts so many tourists for site seeing.
The whole zone should be demarcated as a place of natural heritage and historical remembrance. The urban authority should plan to uplift the standard of buildings to modern trends while preserving the old architecture plans to preserve the past history which will promote tourism in form of site seeing that will bring in revenue to urban authorities .
In modern cities like London, Toronto, Paris to mention but a few some areas are preserving their old buildings to promote tourism and their natural heritage. In Toronto heritage visitors spend $5 on historic sites which is matched to $ 97 elsewhere in urban economies.
The idea of congesting tall modern buildings in one area may not make a big economic sense as some are constructed so hurriedly with no matching physical standards to taste a period of time for the purpose of making money and recover bank loans.
A lesson should be learnt from the Tegula project started four years back to renovate Namirembe cathedral which has been transformed to modern standards while preserving its old architectural design that has stood a period of time to preserve its history and natural heritage that adds beauty for religious gatherings ,site seeing and tourism.
The argument may be to utilize the small space in towns and plan for growing levels of urban population, like in kakiri town council population has grown to a tune of 2 million people in the recent population census . With the policy of preserving old architecture buildings it will help to de congest the city and help the development of other areas that have big chunks of land without upcoming building plans for urbanization.
There is evidence that commercial schemes which re use historic buildings have higher value than new building developments and can regenerate local economies this may comes as a result of rental fees in that new buildings may attract higher rental fees in coverage of sq metre floor space where as old buildings will retain an average rental fee.
The reuse of old buildings can be more environmentally sustainable. It is good to recycle old buildings than to demolish them and build new ones. We should focus on redeveloping areas of lower quality and retain areas of heritage like the national museum in Kamokya, national theatre at the cultural village, the cultural historical sites like the Lubiri and Kasubi tombs .
It should also be acknowledged that some old buildings like churches and theatres are important for leisure and education. These places play a social role in the community as they provide green space ,they are centres of social gathering ,can be transformed into play areas and learning centre’s like computer centre’s , nurseries for learning.
Historic environments support small businesses as they help to define the identity of cities which give economic value to the sitting population. Places like the cultural village is a testimony to this setting.
Its quoted that in many parts of Britain historic buildings have been a positive catalyst in achieving structural economic change , attracting high value investments, job creation and many people have argued that old buildings have intrinsic value built out of high quality materials ,they attract people’s attention due to the unique style and architecture ,they remind people of city’s culture and complexity and you may not need to regret when you demolish the old once gone never to be recovered and you may never be certain of what will be value in the future.
In a nutshell historic environments and good urban designs are key elements in achieving urban renaissance. We can keep the best of the old and introduce high quality sensitive new developments.
The writer is a teacher and a business person
Old architecture buildings a regeneration to urban cities