Dystopia: How The Tyranny of Specialists Fragment African Cities

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African Urban Institute Press, Jul 21, 2020 - Architecture - 276 pages

A revelation of the spatial atrocities committed by specialists in development of African cities. 

For more than fifty centuries, cities were planned and developed by generalists. The town planners were Jacks of all trades yet masters of none. In the last fifty years however, this all changed. Town planning dismantled into various specialists – masters of a single trade. Traffic engineers, urban environmentalists, modernist architects, town planning regulators, Marxist and postmodern scholars. As these specialists focus on their specialities, governed by ideological loyalty and possessiveness, they work in isolations a practice that is pushing African cities off the cliff. 

In Dystopia, Archimedes Muzenda reveals the destruction that specialists are creating in cities across Africa. He reveals how the in their tyrannical nature specialists are committing spatial atrocities, turning African cities into dystopias. In doing so, Muzenda sets basis for specialists to find one another if they are to create prosperous, sustainable and just cities – cities that are liveable. 


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When I started reading this book I thought it was a relentless attack on specialist planners. By the end of the first chapter it convinced me it was more than an attack. Other than picking the specialists one by one and discussing their contribution to fragmentation it also gave me an understanding of the underlying explanations of the actions of specialists. The author packed historical evolutions of specialists and town planning profession in such an illuminating way. One of the best books I have ever read on African cities and a challenge to African municipalities. It could have had a more comprehensive chapter on the framework on how to rationalise specialist interests, it was not fully developed. This is seminal work which is going to provoke many debates. (Advance Reader Copy). 


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About the author (2020)

Archimedes Muzenda is a city planner and scholar on urbanisation. He has worked across Africa supporting cities with technical advisory on urban transformation. Archimedes is a senior research associate at the African Urban Institute and the director of African Planning Society. His forthcoming book, titled: Transpolitical Cities explores the transformation of cities in the postmodern. 

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