PUBLIC DEFENCE – Jacob Msengui Lutta

“Transformation of Collective Spaces in an Interstitial Informal Settlement. The case of Mlalakuwa, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.”


  • Date: 29 September 2023
  • Location: Campus Brussels, Paleizenstraat
  • Timing: 5:30 p.m. CET



This doctoral research focuses on the transformation of emergent collective spaces in the interstitial informal settlement in Mlalakuwa-Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). Academics and professionals see inclusive public space (and in extension collective spaces, i.e. spaces that are used in a collective way) as paramount for the construction of community development, especially in informal settlements. Unlike the case of informal settlements that are defined by a more peripheral position in the urban fabric, interstitial informal settlements are positioned between larger activity clusters that have a strong potential for economic development, precisely through the growth of their constituent collective spaces, which are socially and economically linked to these larger activity clusters.

The goal of this research is to gain novel perspectives on how collective spaces in interstitial informal settlements are changing. It describes the positions, attributes, and configurations of the various current collective places. Additionally, it recognizes the socio-cultural requirements of communities projected onto the many collective spaces that are already available, identifying their challenges and possibilities. It also examines the transformation of the collective spaces of the neighbourhood during the last 20 years due to its interstitial position. In order to undertake a case study in the Mlalakuwa informal settlement, mixed method techniques were used. The study employed analytical frameworks for the transformation and physical development of collective spaces.

Results demonstrate residents are embraced by the social-cultural structure which has become a dynamic process of spatial changes in the Mlalakuwa. The notion of extended families in the neighbourhood cultivates the transformation of the existing collective spaces to accommodate room spaces for new members of the family. In addition, building additions and new construction for social and economic purposes have contributed to the community’s spatial development. The study identifies challenges as well as positive aspects associated with the whole process of collective space transformation in the locality of Dar es Salaam.

Keywords: Collective space, Spatial informality, Interstitiality, Sustainable development, Spatial design and Planning, Social-cultural, Social-economic, and Spatial quality.



Prof. dr. Yves Schoonjans (supervisor, KU Leuven)
Prof. dr. Aldo Modestus Lupala (co-supervisor, Ardhi University Tanzania)

Prof. dr. Pieter Van den Broeck (KU Leuven)
Prof. dr. Daniel Mbisso (Ardhi University Tanzania)

External members
Prof. dr. Griet Verbeeck (Hasselt University)
Prof. dr. Luce Beeckmans (KU Leuven)


Prof. dr. Filip Mattens (KU Leuven)