Tag Archives: Praia

Unexpected patterns in neighbourhood quality – Part 2

This post completes the previous one, which focused on a neighbourhood in Praia (capital of Cape Verde islands) which, despite being formally planned and relatively affluent, shows several limitations in terms of accessibility and urban environment.

The case study in this post is diametrically different. The area was settled in the late 1990s, mostly by migrants from other parts of the country. It is an informal settlement and it lacks access to basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation.

The majority of the men in this area have always worked in the construction industry, and so they had the skills to build a whole neighbourhood almost overnight.

What is remarkable is that the neighbourhood includes several of the characteristics of a good urbanization plan.

The built up area and the street patterns, have followed the contours of the terrain, and no constructions are to be found in the area closest to the river bed, reducing the risk of flooding during the rainy season:

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The structure for a future paved street network is also visible, with the angles of the houses adjusting to the curves of the terrain, and space left open for an eventual road intersection:

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Many footpaths were also created to link the neighbourhood to the main road up the hill, where most services are located, and where the population can access the bus network:

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Inside the neighbourhood, some areas have been designed to become public spaces. On the top of a rock there is a mini ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue similar to the one in Rio, and the space around the rock has remained open. Allegedly, the builder of the statue could not afford to build a roof to his own house, but spent time and effort creating and installing this statue, based on the belief that the roof would protect only his household, while the Christ statue would protect the whole neighbourhood.

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Other informal public spaces exist, such as the one below, and are used for example during the celebrations of a religious festival (link to a video in Portuguese).

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This example is another interesting case study of the local population’s resilience in adapting to a harsh geographical environment, building the structure of a liveable neighbourhood despite the poverty and lack of access to basic facilities.

A plan for the legalization and formal urbanization of this neighbourhood has been announced recently. In recognition of the vital role of the community, a “social pact” has been signed by the municipal government and population, where the former is responsible for providing access to basic services and constructing collective equipment, and the latter is responsible for preventing the appearance of further illegal constructions, and for making efforts to improve the conditions and appearance of the existent buildings.

Many thanks to Dr. Judite Nascimento for the excellent background to this case.

A large number of studies analysing other examples of environmental issues and community resilience around the world can be found here.

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Unexpected patterns of neighbourhood quality – Part 1

This and the next post will reflect about issues of urbanism, mobility and sense of place in the capital of Cape Verde islands, opposing two different neighbourhoods at the fringe of the city, where we find unexpected patterns in terms of urban environment and neighbourhood quality.

Thanks to Dr. Judite Nascimento for the background about both places.

To understand urban planning in Praia, it is important to know the demographic and socio-economic context of the country. The city’s population is growing partly because of high natural growth (comparing with European countries) but also because of migration, with incoming flows from the interior of the island, from the other islands in the archipelago, and from other African countries. There are also flows of Cape Verdean migrants returning from other countries. The average income is growing, and the country is now one of the few “middle income” economies in Africa.

The neighbourhood in the pictures below is a new development at the western edge of the city, and is one of the richest areas in the urban area. The residences are either villas with several stories or large apartments. Many of these residences are the property of emigrants in other countries, and are not permanently occupied. The rest is occupied by people working in the main centres of the city, which are several km away.

The area was designed with car accessibility in mind. In fact, there is a total of 3 companies in this neighbourhood, which has an area of 1 km2.  All workers then rely on commuting.

However, this is the only neighbourhood in the city that is not connected to the bus network.

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There is also an almost total lack of equipments in the area, and as such, residents need cars not only to travel to their workplaces but also to go to schools, shops, health centres and in general, to access the opportunities and services offered by the city. There is also no place for relaxation or social interaction such as a square, park or garden.

Pedestrian space is mostly absent, but when it is not, it is in a poor state of condition, despite the neighbourhood being relatively new.

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The buildings are dispersed throughout the area in small clusters, and there are still many buildings under construction, plus some aborted projects, adding to a sense of desolation to the area. This is also one of the driest parts of the city.

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All things considered, walking in this area is not a pleasant activity, mainly due to the design of the neighbourhood in terms of car access, but also due to the small degree of involvement of the local residents in the planning process.

Despite prior expectations, richer – and formally planned – areas show a poor urban environment.

The following entry will focus on an area where, also contrary to prior expectations, a poor neighbourhood shows several features of a good urban design, despite being a spontaneous and unplanned settlement.

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Walking in Praia, Cape Verde – Second report from the field

This post is another short report on non-motorised mobility in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde islands, and continues where the last post left off, talking about the gaps of mobility between the old and new centres. This is a phenomenon observed in many cities, and is especially noticeable in fast growing urban areas in middle income countries such as Cape Verde.

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In these contexts, fast urbanization mean changes in the overall structure of the city, shifting employment, education, shopping and leisure locations to new centres in recently developed areas. This goes hand in hand with the construction of new transport axes linking old and new centres, and both with the new residential areas. With time, these axes also attract a series of new activities and become important destinations themselves. Traffic levels here are high and (outside congested peak times) vehicle speeds are also high, due to the characteristics of the road (straight alignments, wide lanes, good pavement…)

These are the locations where the pedestrian is more vulnerable to car traffic. The number of formal pedestrian crossings points is limited, leading to risky behaviours. In some cases, the zebra crossings can also be unsafe due to fast speeds and proximity to cars parking, although to be fair I must say that a good percentage of drivers stop to give way to pedestrians, even  away from the zebra crossing – unlike other cities of the same dimension elsewhere, where pedestrians have to run for their lives.

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In roads such as this, the quality of the pavements usually depends on the amount of construction work going on in the surrounding areas. Holes in the pavements are the main hazard, especially if you’re jogging – a ubiquitous activity in this city in the cooler hours of the day.

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The possibility for cycling along major roads is also limited, which, along with the relief (the city is formed by a series of plateaus), may explain the reduced use of bicycles in Praia – although there is a growing critical mass of citizens claiming for more space for cycling. (link in Portuguese).

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Along the national roads linking the city with the outer suburbs and then to other parts of the island, the high traffic levels also reduce the space for walking.

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Comparing the old and new centres themselves, the pedestrian environment tends to much better in the former. The two pictures below show the main square in the historical centre and the main square in one of the “new” centres (built in the 1970s). The first square is pedestrianized, populated with benches and trees, and has free wireless internet. The second square has been appropriated as a car park and  is an inhospitable place, with few amenities. More and better pictures of the second square in a local blog here.

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The neighbourhood in the second picture has 10% of the city population, while the one in the first picture has 1%. Plus the tourists.

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