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Neighbourhood Streets as Public Space

Covid-19 Public Life in Kimisange, Rwanda


Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, countries have had to swiftly adopt lockdowns and social distancing measures in order to prevent worse public health outcomes that are likely to influence the relationship between urban society and space. Whereas the economic impact of the pandemic is obvious, its influence on public life remains uncertain, and yet the pandemic has drastically changed our relationship with our streets, public spaces and public facilities. A longer term concern lies in understanding the risk that living the new normal could have on our future perception and use of public space. Using activity mapping on a neighbourhood street in Kigali, Rwanda, this paper explores the relationship between public space and quality of life before and during Covid-19 lockdown. The research found that neighbourhood streets are increasingly becoming popular for recreational activities, and hence more valuable to users. This positive sensory experience, at a time when the pandemic preys on public life in urban areas, shines new light on the notion of street as public space.

Pages:39 to 52
Section: Space
How to Cite
Malonza, J. (2020) “Neighbourhood Streets as Public Space”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(3), pp. 39-52. doi:

Author Biography

University of Rwanda
Rwanda Rwanda

Josephine Malonza is an enthusiastic and curious architect and urban designer keen on the dialectical relations between Architecture and Society, particularly passionate about quality of life in urban areas. She holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Her doctoral research focused on brining life into urban public space. She is the founding dean of the School of Architecture in the University of Rwanda, where she has been substantially involved in teaching, research and community engagement for the last eleven years. Her work is inspired by the unique concept of cultivating learning environments that are participatory, reflective, action-focused and change-oriented. She has been involved in international research collaborations with the Centre for Sustainable Healthy and Learning Cities (SHLC), UN-Habitat and the Global green growth Initiative (GGGI). She served as the vice chair of the Technical Advisory Group supporting the city of Kigali in the revision of the Kigali city Masterplan and sits in various joint sector review boards in the ministry of infrastructure in Rwanda. She is a column opinionist for Rwanda’s leading English daily, the Newtimes, where she publishes various opinion pieces on pressing urban issues to non-academic audience.


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