Architecture of societies in transition—the case of the Maasai of Kenya

Rukwaro RW, Mukono KM. "Architecture of societies in transition—the case of the Maasai of Kenya.". 2001.


Historically, it has been observed that people's settlements tend to change with their changing cultural values. Societies in early and rapid transition offer rich laboratories for the testing of this observation. The Maasai of Kenya are such a group that in a relatively short period have undergone revolutionary transformation as a casual observation may reveal. This paper investigates whether there is any relationship between their new built forms and their current cultural values. Using a number of identified culture – change variables including land tenure, education, religion, occupation, and rite of passage, the paper analyses what impact changes in these variables has on the Maasai settlements. It clearly reveals that as these variables change due to contacts with western-based modernity, the settlements have undergone noticeable transformation. For example, change of land tenure from communal to individual leads to permanent settlements. While exposure through education, religion and occupation leads to a change in the spatial organisation of the dwelling and the use of new building materials. These insights are a useful background to any policy matters regarding housing that respects the cultures of the people. They are indications of what can be considered as a transitional architecture as communities struggle to modernise.


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