If there is an architectural practice in Kenya that can confidently lay claim to the title of being the ‘best architectural firm’, by any standards, be they of having been around long enough, or having a huge stamp in the landscape of Nairobi and other cities in the world or even having bagged the most number of local and international architectural awards, that firm can only be Planning Systems and Services Ltd.
Jim Archer and his long time partner, Trevor Andrews, recalled how the firm came to be, more than 35 years ago, to our editor and reporters.
It was a narrative filled with highs and lows, failures and feats, challenges and achievements. The most important thing is that they kept their promise of delivering to their clients not only what they wanted but also what they never dreamt of.
The result is that the firm has quite literally modified the skyline of Nairobi with its high-rise projects. Fedha Towers, Lonrho House, I & M Building and Rahimtulla Towers are just but a few of the buildings which are easily notable to many.
Other projects include the Citibank Building in Upper Hill, The Atrium in Kilimani, Windsor Golf and Country Club in Nairobi and The Australian High Commission in Riverside Drive.
One of the projects that the partners won’t stop singing about involved some 60 acres of an abandoned coffee plantation in Lower Kabete that became the subject of an architectural competition in the late 1970s.
Having just set up their practice, Jim and Trevor were the underdogs who were not even qualified to compete as the big boys were the only ones invited. Through some intervention, they were allowed to compete. They produced the winning entry for the developer, Nairobi Homes Ltd. Lakeview Estate is now acknowledged as the foremost residential estate in Eastern Africa.
Lakeview Estate has been a recipient of a number of national awards over the years since its completion.
Some of their ongoing works includes the KCB Headquarters in Upper Hill, and the luxurious apartments at English Point Marina in the coastal city of Mombasa.
The firm has not only engaged in commercial ventures. They are the visionary of the Community Cooker Foundation, a project that was established in 2010 by Jim Archer. Community cooker is a stove designed to produce safe, clean and cheap energy for cooking from rubbish.
Planning Systems Services Ltd has also proposed an intervention project titled ‘Re greening the City in the Sun’. They are advising on the renovation and redevelopment of the Nairobi River Front, Mazingira Park and other significant public land within the boundaries of the city of Nairobi.
The success story of Planning Systems Services Ltd cannot be solely attributed to Jim and Trevor. Over the years, they have maintained a steady policy of recruiting and training a competent team of technical and administrative personnel to run their firm. And with their sunset years approaching, the partners have slowly begun to relinquish power to a younger generation of architects. The firm is currently being run by Arch. Musuva Mumo who is the Managing Director. Several other staff members have been appointed as directors to run the various arms of the firm, which is now a limited liability company.
Delivering their promise to clients with mind blowing designs, Planning Systems also have a high regard for nature, a rule incorporated in all their projects. This keeps their initial clients coming back, making their largest clientele referrals and return clients. Today they are looking into how to improve building and construction in the industry by embracing technology and developing creativity, for instance the artificial lake view design at their own premises.