For some, work is a duty that they perform due to skillfulness. For others,its an obligation due to financial needs, but for a fellow architect , Francis Gitau Mungai, commonly referred to as F. G. Mungai, his work is his passion. A passion he developed at a minor age back in high school when his appreciation for physical things and excellence in Mathematics stood out of his other interests.
The Masters of Architecture graduate from the University of California, F. G. is the force behind AAKI Consultants Architects and Urban Designers, a firm which in its 18 years of practice, prides itself for moulding young architects to become professionals with integrity as well as creating quality and distinction in the architectural industry.
Upon joining the University of Nairobi in 1978 to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Architecture, F.G. had the privilege of learning under some of the best minds in architectural teaching and practice – his lecturers Jim Archer and Stanley Kibathi, who greatly fueled his passion for both teaching and practicing.
He completed with a First Class Honors degree in architecture in 1984 and joined Triad Architects where he practiced design and project management for two years. At Triad, he had a privilege of participating in projects such as Unga House which was among the first buildings in Nairobi with escalators and other features of modern architecture. Others included the Hill Crest Preparatory school and Murang’a Teachers Training College. At the same time, he was lectured at the University of Nairobi as a tutorial fellow. Many of city’s budding architects, including the editor of BUILDesign Magazine, have gone through his lectures.
The other firm he worked with was Mehraz Ehsani Architects where he participated in the design of the Village Market, a popular centre in Gigiri, Daewoo car showroom in Nairobi CBD and Bartuny Mall in Eldoret.
In 1995, FG set up his own architectural firm, AAKI Consultants, the name ‘AAKI’ meaning ‘builders’ in Kikuyu language.
AAKI’s first and one of its most prestigious projects is Nginyo Towers along Koinange Street in Nairobi. A post modern building, it was one of the first buildings to use double glazing technology – a design that helps in heat and sound insulation.
The critical issues as outlined in its brief included working on a tight site and meeting eco demands of the city under the sun. FG also had to ensure that the project caused no interference to the construction of Nakumatt Lifestyle adjacent to their site.
The main challenge here was stabilizing the building, a six floor high rise on the surface. This led to the omission of basement floor for the building. However, sustainability of the Nginyo Towers is non-negotiable to date.
Another one of AAKI’s notable projects is The City Cabanas in Embakasi. Having worked on The Village Market, City Cabanas was quite an adventure for FG. The projects shared a similar concept, an African village theme. The principal design consideration on the project was to create a feeling of rest and homeliness with an African theme which the architect managed to encompass perfectly. The first phase was the restaurant and the second phase was a transit hotel which was never built.
Other projects by AAKI include Nairobi Hospital’s Doctors Plaza, Prudential Housing scheme in South B. Other recent commissions include Esami Institute in Kampala, Mayfair Centre, CIC Plaza Upperhill, Enashipai Resort and Spa, Tea Board of Kenya offices in Dagoretti and Britam Apartments in Hurlingham.
FG has served at various boards in different capacities. He has been Chairman of Architectural Association of Kenya, regional Vice President of Commonwealth Association of Architects – East African Region, member of the Board of Registration for Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS), member of Housing Development Committee at Ministry of Roads and Public Works, chairman of KEPSA Physical Infrastructure Board and an examiner in professional examinations for Architects and Quantity Surveyors.
Under FG’s leadership, AAKI has grown to be a major player in the local and regional architectural scene. Together with his partner, Kariuki Muraya, they have been able to build a firm with a strong staff of 24 technical and administrative personnel and a notable portfolio of completed and ongoing projects.