City of Harare together with the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ), have embarked on the “Historical Building Plaque Project” that will see plaques and information frames placed on buildings and the creation of a street map to be used for guided tours to historical building in the capital.
Louise Bragge, director of Urban Space – an organisation seeking to improve our city’s aesthetic and cultural landscape – says that “History and the Arts drive a city’s appeal. The character of most cities in the world is influenced by their historical backgrounds, and Harare is no exception.” A giant street map detailing a walking route through the city that visits the historical buildings will be erected at Speke Avenue, where Urban Space have recently completed a painting project to add interest and colour to the area.
Godfrey Nyaruwanga, researcher and curator with NMMZ, said, “The move is aimed at preserving the buildings and generating tourism. World wide, historical buildings have attracted tourists, researchers and scholars.” He explained that countries like Singapore have taken note of the local conservationists’ campaigns for a cultural city and are now promoting historic areas as tourist attractions. Other examples include Bhaktapur, one of the most traditional cities in Nepal, as well as the Medina of Tunis and the historic city of Quito in Ecuador.
There are a number of protected buildings in Harare, with a host of them located along Robert Mugabe Way, and others scattered within the CBD. These include: The Harare City Library, the Anglican Cathedral, and the Parliament Building. Nyaruwanga made it clear that these examples only include protected buildings that have been well maintained and well utilised. “But however as we go to downtown there are a number of protected buildings that are in a dilapidated state and are a threat to occupants and users. These building include, for example, the White House Building along Mbuya Nehanda, which has been subjected to uses not compatible with the age of the building leading to structural damage and decay.”
The move by the City and its partners comes against the backdrop of the recent demolition and alteration of historical buildings in the capital without the consent of the authorities. Buildings older than 50 years are considered for their historical status with all structures built as early as 1910 automatically protected by the NMMZ. So far earmarked buildings include The Ranch House College, Queens Hotel, Market Square Hall, Arnold Building, The Parliament of Zimbabwe, Mashonganyika Building and Cecil House.