The linkage between traditional values and built environment is a topic broadly discussed by architects, sociologist and historians in the context of cities in the developed world. This study extends the discussion to Sub-Saharan Africa, a region which is under-urbanised yet currently has the fastest rate of urbanisation.
Based on historical and current development of cities in Ethiopia, i.e. Gondar and Addis Ababa, the study illustrates the role of traditional values in determining meaning and use of urban spaces. The study provides an interesting discussion on the role of religion and socio-political administration in determining hierarchical relationship and meaning of urban spaces. The author establishes theoretical arguments based on Harvey’s writings to show the significance of socio-cultural values in the studies related to spatial planning; and to identify and understand institutions which play important roles in translating the mentioned values into actions which continuously modify the built-up environment.
Through a lively discussion, which incorporate photos, historic documents and illustrative analyses the author establishes that the built-up environment of a city is a record of history and experience of its residents. It is a result of continuous process from its very beginning to the present. As well, it transfers knowledge from one generation to the other. Consequently, this research denotes the significance of this knowledge to planners, policy makers and researchers in order to guide urban development and to get benefit from it. At the same time, it emphasises that the built-up environment is a heritage of its dwellers, which should be treated with due respect.