Updated Abstract



Lamu, Kenya (2° 17′ 27.85″ S, 40° 54′ 44.02″ E)

LAPSSET, Lamu, Cities, Mangroves, Recycled Plastic Lumber, East African Coast, Swahili Culture

“How can the community remain quiet when thousands of acres of mangrove will be demolished, when our coral reef will be destroyed by dredging, when artisan fishing will be disrupted and indigenous peoples displaced?”
- Mohamed Ali Baddi, LEPAC (Lamu Environmental Preservation and Conservation)

Recent political developments in Sub-Saharan Africa have lead to heavy investments in mineral and natural resources as a method of furthering the economic advancement of the countries involved. The LAPSSET oil pipeline and port project situated in Lamu, is one such example. Although the proposal highlights economic expansion for the region, uncontrolled repercussions of the economic success can cause rapid urbanization, threatening both the delicate mangrove ecosystem as well as land rights and the cultural heritage of the centuries old community situated in Lamu.

Mikoko Lamu is a proposed new micro-community in Lamu which confronts the decline of both the mangrove ecosystem and human culture by situating itself within the proximity of the mangrove zone. The aim is to instigate an urban proposition which serves to replenish mangrove cover at the urban sample scale of (1 hectare) and within a wider context, in the formation of a buffering zone, surrounding vulnerable areas around the ecosystem from destructive and uncontrollable urbanization. The nearby UNESCO town of Lamu is used as a key indicator of local cultural practices, from which the urban fabric is reworked into a grid, with a North-South street axis and horizontal, East- West public axis. The new city aims to contain spaces and situations that reflect on Lamu’s way of life whilst carefully carving out an existence that respects its established context.

As an over all strategy, Mikoko Lamu plugs into the imminent port construction in order to amplify the positive potential of the scheme. This includes the ability to use trade from the port and surrounding infrastructure- in the import and export of recyclable plastic, and its development of a material construction tectonic for the proposed City. The defined material choice is wood plastic composite (WPC) which can be extruded into continuous joint less structural elements. These elements can be used at foundation level, as a branched system responding to the dense mangrove floor, or as city forms as they continue above the raised ground plane. With an ability to mimic timber, WPC can behave beyond the properties of timber though extrusion and heat manipulation. It is imperative to the project to develop a construction shorthand through standardization.

The location of Mikoko Lamu confronts a territory between water, land and an existing projecting jetty. For this reason, the urban sample negotiates between linkage to existing infrastructure, amongst housing and commercial and public space relating to the mangrove scheme, as well as spaces for traditional skills relating to the timber industry such as boat building to be highlighted. In order to engage with the biome, water channels as well as prevalent winds are also explored to provide thermal comfort and reduced reliance on artificial environments.

The anticipated outcome is a city emphasizing a modern, but socially and environmental method of living on an East African mangrove coast. The main aim is a mitigation strategy which addresses the above mentioned social and environmental issues confronting the people of Lamu today. In a region that is experiencing rapid change from small scale to a global scale, the satellite mangrove community can serve as an important urban sample which unites two separate fronts to benefit the people, but placing emphasis on permanency and long term goals.


1. Mohamed Ali Baddi, LEPAC (Lamu Environmental Preservation and Conservation)
Ernst, Hadija: “Port project hits snag: Community makes demands” 4th March 2011, Chonjo magazine

2. The LAPSSET project (Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport) project links Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia in a promotion of regional socioeconomic development (via a main oil pipeline) in order to enhance cross border trade.

3. “Environmental and economic damages caused by the alarming loss of mangroves in many countries should be urgently addressed FAO said today, calling for better mangrove protection and management programmes. The world has lost around 3.6 million hectares (ha) of mangroves since 1980, equivalent to an alarming 20 percent loss of total mangrove area according to FAO’s recent mangrove assessment study…”

4. A more detailed indication of Lamu’s history and cultural practices can be obtained from the UNESCO webpage about lamu found at the following link:

5. Although LAPSSET’s potential for economic growth is outlined, the project has not only failed to integrate the local population with a heritage dating centuries, but also propose a valid EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment.)
“KENYA: Disquiet over Lamu port project” http://www.irinnews.org/report/96675/KENYA-Disquiet-over-Lamu-port-project

6. If “Placing a monetary value on natural ecosystems is a key step on the road to “green” economic growth,” as stated by the World Bank. The maintenance of rapidly depleting Mangrove forests is crucial- Mangrove forests have throughout history been used for fish agriculture, timber and thatching for building and non timber products. They are also important as marine and coastal habitats which protect the coastline from flooding, and can be used in the process of mitigating climate change.
Harvey, Fiona: “World Banks calls on countries to take urgent steps to protect ‘natural capital”, 9th May 2012,

7. Note that local objection to the port has been the lack of interaction and engagement between the governing body and the local community. “These colossal port plans have not included community consultation,” says Mohamed Ali Baddi, LEPAC’s project coordinator. “How can the community remain quiet when thousands of acres of mangrove will be demolished, when our coral reef will be destroyed by dredging, when artisan fishing will be disrupted and indigenous peoples displaced?”
Ernst, Hadija: “Port project hits snag: Community makes demands” 4th March 2011, Chonjo magazine

8. The requirements of a maritime educational facility where relayed to be in an interview with Mr. Abdillah Ahmed (Chairman, Forum for Salvation of Lamu) and Mr Abubakar Mohamed Ali (Chairman, Save Lamu), in December 2012. A transcript of this interview is pending the approval of both the interviewed.

9. Collins, R George and Christiane Crasemann, “Camillo Sitte: The Birth of Modern City Planning” Dover Publications, 2006

10. Alexander, Christopher: “A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction” Oxford University Press, 1977

11. Engelsmann, Stephan, Spalding, Valerie and Peters, Stefan: “Plastics in Architecture and Construction” Birkhauser, 2010

12. Holl, Steven. “Urbanisms Working with Doubt” Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010

13. Carlos Ferrater Partenership (OAB) “Landscape, Architecture, & Construction: Synchronizing Geometry” ACTAR, 2006

14. http://kenya.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/profiles/Lamu_Dec2011%2037.pdf

15. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol11/iss2/art14/

16. http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Africaspeaks/Conservation_and_managemen_mangrove_Kenya.pdf

architectural association school of architecture diploma unit 16 ©2012