Stories behind Dar es Salaam’s unique architectural designs

Saturday September 19 2020


By Josephine Christopher @JocfineQ

Dar es Salaam. A city can be identified by many things – including, for example, its cultural scene and its people.

But, perhaps, nothing can define a metropolis quite as distinctly as its architecture.

From Athens to Rome, Vienna to Dubai, great architecture is both artistic and scientific; both beautiful and practical.

Dar es Salaam - generally known as a cosmopolitan metropolis featuring people from different cultures - is also known for its ancient buildings that date back to the colonial era.

However, as the city is fast transforming into a modern metropolis we’re witnessing the emergence of new, impressive architectural designs across the city skyline. These impressive buildings have become attraction sites, begging the question of what inspired the design.

The Citizen decided to do a research on some of these buildings that grace Dar es Salaam streets to find out more on the ‘backstory.’


The president of the Architectural Association of Tanzania (AAT) Mr David Kibebe says “Creating good architectural designs is no easy task but it’s important because it makes cities elegant and can draw in more travellers.”

Some of the notable impressive architectural designs in the city include the following.

Tan House

The curvaceous office complex is an innovative designed structure.

It has curved columns at the corners and curved aluminium fins, both non-structural members; bringing the illusion of an egg and basket or whatever someone decides to define.

The 13-storey building is strategically located at Victoria along New Bagamoyo Road. The project was completed in 2014 under the local architectural firm, Epitome Architects Limited.

AAT President Kibebe - who doubles as the firm’s director - said the original idea was to build something that is unique and beautiful.

“The client wanted to get the best of the best, something of his own. A symbolism, which is all the client wanted, so innovation was a key tool on our drawing boards and hence we came up with that building” said Kibebe.

He also added that the building was designed to communicate on all four sides.

From any side that people will be approaching it will display the same characters and catch the eye.

ZO Spaces

If you pass along the New Bagamoyo Road, one of the most recognizable buildings will be an 11-storey work of art with a unique outlook of the alphabetical letter Z.

ZO Spaces building, whose construction was completed in 2019, was designed with the embodiment of both technology and productivity, according to the building’s sales and marketing manager Mr Hussein Simba.

He said “The ‘Z’ signifies the ‘Z-Generation and everything it represents. The ‘O’ stands for ‘Opportunity, Openness’ as we have expressed in our exterior design.”

Generation-Z represent the demographical group that has used information technology from a young age, and are comfortable with the Internet and social media.

The building represents the modern world full of interactive technologies.

“Our exterior and interior designs complement each other. We have installed interactive and environmentally friendly technology in the building,” said Mr Simba.

NSSF Waterfront House

Located at the city centre along Gerezani Street, the building is an 11-storey structure owned by the NSSF.

It is a modern architectural building with a falling dummy image that makes it unique. It also has a unique lift which is visible on through a glass material.

It is home to various businesses located just next to the port of Dar es Salaam near the Indian Ocean. Its alluring presence adds a unique touch to the city’s aesthetics along the port.

MrKibebe is from Epitome Architects, the firm that worked on the project. He said “We had an objective to design a building that attracts its own narrative, something that people would talk about due to its unique features.”

One of the perks of being unique is the isolated identification attached to the building.

“People would actually identify a location by saying ‘I’m near the bending building’, its unique structure has become an identification in the city centre,” said the architect.

He also added that the advantage of building structures today is the availability of state-of-the-art technologies that’s at the disposal of architects. “It’s really amazing how the boundaries of conventional building designs are constantly being stretched,” Kibebe said.

PPF Pension Fund HQ (Proposed)

This modern commercial real estate property located along Sam Nujoma Road is a 35-storey high-rise building said to be the tallest building in Tanzania currently.

An aerial view of the building’s rooftop has been the talk of town. Everyone has their own narrative as to what it signifies.

Compounding the mystery, one of the architectures of the proposed PPF Pension Fund headquarters didn’t reveal much, but said that the construction of the building factored in the ability to have a view of the entire city.

“The design of the building was done so to capture the whole view of the city,” the architect said.

He added that the building has four interconnected buildings with a big parking space that can accommodate nearly 900 cars, and the space for office renting, shopping malls, and conference halls.

“A key factor that was considered during the unique design was the plot environment where the building is located and the direction of the wind”, he said.

Sky Tower

What makes this 22-storey building located along the New Bagamoyo Road stand out is its zip-like structural design that can be seen clearly from the exterior.

“The uniqueness, luxury, beauty and elegance is what we were looking at when we were designing the building,” says Ms Irene Bashaija, the building’s real estate manager.

She said the building’s design and shape has succeeded in bringing out the uniqueness they were looking for in the design ideation process. It is now a landmark building along the New Bagamoyo Road.

City development

Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs-2030) seeks to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

With the world’s urban population expected to reach 60 percent by 2030, it is important for African cities such as Dar es Salaam to design buildings that are more linked to their local environment, climate and culture.

The UN says with sound, risk-informed planning and management, cities can become incubators for innovation and growth and drivers of sustainable development.