The Benin City Moat System: Functional Space or Urban Void?
Achieving the accommodation of all land needs, complementarity and functionality are amongst the main objectives of land use planning. Thus, urban space which serves no particular purpose in the system is akin to a weak link in a chain and does not promote effective management. Following reports about the deterioration of Benin City’s most prominent urban feature, the Benin Moat system, this paper sets out to ascertain whether the structure performs a present-day role in the modern urban environment as it did in ancient times for ancient society. This is important because a lack of function suggests a disadvantageous waste of space which could challenge effective urban management. The approach involved inspections of the Moat system and enquiries which were made from the urban management authorities and the National Commission for Museums and monuments. The findings indicate that the Moat is not part of a modern urban design or adapted for modern urban use; it is not assigned any urban function(s), it is non-functional; neglected; negatively used; and tending towards becoming an urban blight. It is a stand-alone feature which does not complement the other urban land uses. Evaluations reveal that by design, function and impact, the Moat conforms to the urban void concept. The conclusion, therefore, is that the Benin Moat system is an urban void, not functional urban space.