ARCHETYPE OF PROFESSIONAL LOYALTY
For the last 36 years of his practice, Fellow Architect Allan Simu has stuck with Mutiso Menezes International (MMI) and worked his way up from a fresh graduate architect from the university to the current position of Managing Director of the firm, which he has held for the last 18 years.
Architecture wasn’t his choice though. Allan wanted to be an engineer – a decision he made due to admiration of a technician friend of his father at Kenya Railways as well as his father himself who was a telecom technician. He was also brilliant in Physics and Mathematics.
He was introduced to architecture on joining the University of Nairobi in 1969 where he was admitted. Although he had no background in drawing, he liked the blend of science and art which is a relative discipline to his first interest, engineering.
He graduated with a B.A. Architectural studies in 1972 and joined the City Council of Nairobi during where he worked on projects like Kenyatta market and Huruma housing estate. He also enrolled for his Masters in Architecture and graduated in 1975.
In 1977, Allan joined MMI. He was introduced to the firm by Dick Stevens, a Canadian studio master working with MMI. The firm was then recruiting locals as part of government policy to have west dominated company recruit and train native Kenyans. He was also eager to work with his role model, David Mutiso, who was a director at MMI.
Allan was selected for a one month study tour on archive development in five European countries. This was to arm him with information he required to work on a big government commission that MMI had secured, national archives building that was to be built in Upper Hill, at the current location of the NHIF headquarters. The building was never constructed but Allan says the experience helped him in the design of Uganda Records and Archives building, a project that is currently under construction.
His sentiments on the failure to actualize the proposed Kenya National Archives back then gravitate to the low priority given to social and cultural projects by the government until today. He feels that more needs to be done to preserve our culture and history for future generations and one way would be developing an aesthetically healthy structure with a deep cultural appeal in a serene neighborhood for tourism attraction and appreciation of our national heritage to house national records and archive.
Allan registered as an architect in 1976 and is a corporate member of Architectural Associations of both Kenya and Tanzania since 1979. He was the registrar of AAK from 1982 to 1985 and vice chairman from 1986 to 1987. He became a board member of BORAQS in 1994 and was elected a fellow architect of AAK in 2001.
At MMI, where he has been practicing since 1977, he has held different positions from an Associate Architect between 1979 – 1980 and partner between 1980 – 1994. He became Senior Partner in 1995. Today, he is the Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of Director’s at MMI. He is also the senior partner and Project Coordinator of the firm.
He has also served as the Chairman and District chair of Scholarships at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology from 2011 to 2012 having had earlier served as the vice chair since 2010.
He is also a partner at Mutiso Menezes International Developers (MMID), a different entity from MMI that comprises of architects involved with land development on a mission to exercise quality architecture while creating affordable structures to give best value for money. This initiative is aimed at bridging the gap between the end user of the building and the architect.
Allan has been involved in many completed projects at different capacities in MMI.
Kakamega Telephone Exchange and Post Office in Kakamega. He was the design architect. The brief of the project according to the client’s brief was a well ventilated technical building which would besides personnel, mainly house cables and machines for postal and telecommunication services.
Egerton University campus projects. Projects involved refurbishment of the laboratory and workshops as well as expansion of the administration, library, hostels, kitchen and currently the physical sciences complex unit. This is one of the biggest projects that he has been involved in. His major roles here included conceptual and preliminary design as well as development and supervision in regards to his capacity as the managing director of MMI, the firm working on the project.
Stima Plaza Building, Phase 1 and 2 – KPLC wanted an all in one office block with commercial spaces for their retirement benefits scheme in a calming location away from the city centre. The brief requirements included a naturally well lit and ventilated building with no artificial air conditioning. To meet these requirements, Alan started by developing a master plan to accommodate phasing economically for convenient use of the facilities within the building. He dealt with climate by proper orientation to ensure that the building worked with passage of sun across the sky. He used large windows and other sun shading devices to harvest enough light in turn less power usage during the day as well as reduce heat circulation. Raw materials were purely local hence cutting down the cost.
Kenya Pipeline Plaza in Industrial Area – The client wanted a head office block that would give the company a respectable corporate image. Challenges with the site included designing a building that would sit at the industrial area yet be easy to clean and maintain the cleanliness on any weather especially the dusty seasons. The architect designed a two barrel structure connected by a central circular vent assuming the shape of a pipe to create an impression of the client’s petroleum business. On each barrel is an atrium to encourage cross ventilation. To deal with the issue of dust, the architect used external mosaic tiles which are easy to clean yet dust-repellant.
Komarock Estate – This housing project was designed with a courtyard concept creating a neighborhood of 250 units’ low cost residential houses for the low income end user.
Butabika Mental Hospital in Kampala, Uganda – It was a rehabilitation project and the most interesting element was the impact the change of the living conditions in the hospital made to the patients upon completion of the project.
Conceptual and proposed projects by Alan include Kenya National Assembly tower which is set to be built near the Continental House in Nairobi. This is to provide for additional office space for the MP’s.
Alan, who also designed Inoorero University current premises in Parklands, commonly known by the name Kenya School of Professional Studies (KSPS), is currently also involved in development of a campus master plan for the university at Kiserian. It’s a first land use project where he is expected to zone the facilities such that they create an academic home with a proper disposal system and convenient circulation within the premises hence functionality of all these elements together.
He is also developing the conceptual and preliminary design of the proposed Kenya Civil Aviation Authority headquarters. The client wants the company’s own office premises.
Alan is involved in rural development projects e.g. funding churches and schools and was the chairman of B.O.G., Tala Girls Sec School from 1996 to 2005. He is also a Rotarian and past chairman of The Rotary Club of Nairobi North involved in community work for the disadvantaged members of our society. He is the chairman of the Green Africa Foundation, a certifying body for green building standards.
Alan has a timely word for the emerging architects: He notes that the three principles of a good design will always apply i.e. lighting, ventilation and space. However, he calls on the younger professionals to embrace emerging trends and technology especially in regards to sustainability designs. He also reminds the starters to focus on a particular cause.
Allan also expresses disappointment from his years of practice; he has an impression of unhealthy competition among architects and thus appeals to the practitioners to exercise faithful stewardship of the good rules they hold and enforce good law to protect our environment.
He is about to relinquish power to the younger generation in accordance with the firm’s succession programme but he must see one more thing happen for MMI before handing over –ISO Certification of the firm. He wants to ensure that the firm enters the global standards of performance.