Jerry Ndong

Jerry Ndong

PASSION, ETHICS & RESILIENCE

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Born in 1950 in a small town west of Kenya called HomaBay in South Nyanza, Architect. Jeremiah Eddy Obar Ndong is 64 years old. Often referred to as Jerry Ndong, the founder and senior director of Edon Consultants International, Arch. Jerry Ndong has been practicing for the last 32 years.

Arch. Jerry Ndong, Founder and Principal at Edon International Consultants Ltd

Education

After primary school in his local village in 1965, Arch. Jerry Ndong was admitted to Mang’u high school for his O’ levels. He would then proceed for A levels at Homa Bay high school in 1970. Upon completing his A level studies, Arch. Jerry Ndong could not pursue further studies. With eleven children, his father who worked as a primary school teacher could not support his family efficiently and therefore Arch. Jerry Ndong had to start working and earn a living to help educate his siblings. He started working at the Kenya Commercial Bank (then known as National & Grindlays Bank) as clerk section head. Immediately after, Arch. Jerry Ndong got married.

At the bank, Arch. Jerry Ndong took a deep interest in computers and hence approached his manager to transfer him to a computer centre in order for him to learn computing. He worked for four years in the bank while training computer operations and programming his interest in this technology was fast increasing. On that fourth year, Jerry decided to quit the banking job and pursue computer engineering since the bank would not allow him to become either a computer programmer or even an operator at his level.

In 1976, he got a scholarship to go study electronic engineering at Khartoum University in Sudan. Upon joining the university, Arch. Jerry Ndong was introduced to this artistic course closely related with engineering. The discipline was rather appealing however, it would take him a long study period and as a married man, that would be a challenge. He would later learn that both architecture and engineering courses took equal duration of study. Understanding that architecture was more lucrative, Jerry settled for architecture instead of the engineering course.

Early career life

After five years of study, Arch. Jerry Ndong graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture in 1980. He came back to Kenya joined the Ministry of Public Works as an assistant architect. Around the same time, he also became a part time lecturer at the University of Nairobi, faculty of Architecture Design and Development.  In 1983, Jerry sat for his professional exams and was registered an architect. Nurtured to complete his work in a day at the bank, Jerry’s performance at the Ministry was exquisite hence in the same year he was appointed Head of Department in charge of Building Requirements for the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock Development. After three years, Arch. Jerry Ndong was promoted to the Provincial Works Officer and posted to Nyeri in Central Province. His work in the new position was maintenance of government buildings. After working in Nyeri for four years, Jerry was posted to the head office in Nairobi. He worked there for one year then was appointed Secretariat of Presidential Commission on Urban Land Use. 

Private Practice

In January 1989, Jerry left the Ministry after nine years of civil service to start officially establish his own firm, Edon Consultants International Ltd, which he had been running in a briefcase for 7 years. He had registered Edon in 1982 but he operated from his house while still employed until 1989. The big break for Edon International was design of Asili Co-operative House that same year of establishment; it was a commercial block for a cooperative society, which was located along Moi Avenue next to the Graffins College. The building currently hosts the Clarion hotel.

Our Lady Queen of Peace, South B – Photo by Michael Khately

The 25 year old firm, Edon Consultants International Ltd, is still in operation as a fully independent corporate institution offering architectural services, project management, interior design, landscaping and contractor services especially to clients living abroad. They have since opened offices in Namibia, South Sudan and Uganda.

A few of the major projects for Edon International over the years include Kibish paramilitary station in Turkana; which has all the facilities for police training hence can hosts all the forces collectively. The project which is due completion is located at the border of Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. Others include Kisii University, Kabiange University, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, KU Uni City and HCDA Cooling stations among many others.

Asili Cooperative House – Nairobi CBD

Achievements & Recognition

Architect Jerry is the lead consultant and founding director of Edon Consultants International Ltd since its establishment in 1989 to date.  He is a member of the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) and the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS). Jerry was appointed as the Secretary General, African Union of Architects in 1995 where he served until 1998. He was also the chairman of AAK since 1996 to 1998. He hence chaired the AAK Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2003. Jerry was also appointed Vice President of the African Union of Architects for East African region from 1998 to 2001 and subsequently, the Vice Chairman, Public Procurement, Complaints, Review and Appeals Board until 2004. He has remained the Senior Trustee of African Union of Architects since 2003 to date. Jerry will also be the director of Lake Victoria South Water Services Board, Kenya until next year 2015; a position he has served since the year 2012.

 Design Advice

Jerry’s best design advice would sound like a reminder to designers that “Form follows Function”, a principle that will never change and the foundation of architecture. In his words,” People concentrate too much on the beauty and the form hence ends up creating buildings that do not function. Always let function guide the design; what is it meant to do? Function should be the first thing for an architect to put maximum emphasis on. There are three components of a design; function, cost and then aesthetics.”

On the semi baked graduates joining the practice today, Arch. Jerry feels that absentee lecturers are to blame. Contrary to their time back in the 60’s, today, most of the tutors in the institutions also own private firms and thus there is divided attention between the student and the business. The sharp young brains need more attention and committed training to produce quality at the market place. Jerry also calls on the professional bodies to involve scholars more by offering career talks to help them understand the real world.

Challenges

As it would be expected, success comes with its own share of huddles. Economic fluctuation has been one of the major challenges for Jerry; when the economy goes down, of the three basic needs to humanity, shelter is least prioritized. People will first consider food then clothing and shelter comes last. In turn, it is the architect who suffers in such a case as there is no work for him/her.

The other default challenge o nearly all professionals is Corruption. One cannot just quantify how much this vice has derailed professionalism.

Professional fees poses as the other challenge for architects, Arch. Jerry Ndong included. While the 6% may sound like a lot of money, mostly, by the time a project is complete, the money paid in small instalments is already consumed in the errands of the project and the pending balance may take forever to be cleared.

Competition between the big firms and the small firms is also graduating to a real challenge since small firms with fewer overhead costs charge way cheaper for a similar project that established old firms will require to charge huge money. This acts as a disadvantage to the old firms, like Edon, only salvaged often by capacity and experience as they can handle more work at a go.

Industrial Revolution

Arch. Jerry Ndong has been practicing for the last 32 years. Certainly, he has seen the best and the worst of the architecture industry in Kenya. He notes that overtime, the field has evolved for the better, especially for the last 10 years. He terms 1992 to 2002 as the darkest years of his business but since the new government took up from 2002, there has been a lot of improvement. Looking into the post colonial period, Jerry remembers how the industry was white dominated with only a few African architects in practice. Of course, Architect David Mutiso formerly of MMI, the late Arch. Daniel Mutiso of Triad, Waweru Senior of Waweru & Associates and the late Arch. Ngotho of Studio House. At the time and unlike today, architects would get commissioning letters from the government in the post office having been given a job without having to pursue it.

A major revolution in the industry is the computer technology. Arch Jerry Ndong defines computing as one of the best things that ever happened to the design world. He totally appreciates the speed and efficiency offered by computers remembering how time consuming manual designs used to be.

Mentors/Inspiration

The first person who mentored and inspired Jerry locally was Kenneth Matiba. He was the Minister of Public Works when Jerry used to work as a Public Works Officer; he terms Kenneth’s work ethics as strong and exemplary. He remembers that Kenneth would be in the office by 6.30am, latest 7am every morning and still he would be the last to leave! Arch. Jerry Ndong has maintained punctuality since then and until today; he is in the office everyday at 7.30am unless otherwise. He testifies that punctuality produces very good results. For his architectural work, he draws a lot of inspiration from nature. 

Family & Personal Life

Architect Jerry Ndong is married to one wife with whom they co-direct Edon Consultants International. They have been married for the last 40 years and together they have three children; two boys and one girl. All their children are grown ups living abroad.

It is interesting to learn that Architect Jerry is also a hotelier. With his two sons in the hotel industry, he is also moving into the hospitality business in partnership with the sons. They have a hotel in Karen and a currently ongoing project in HomaBay for a hotel business.

Present/ Future Plans

Jerry and Edon are intertwined hence it is obvious that you cannot mention one without the other.  The main and current project for his company, which is also Edon’s biggest project ever,  is the Standard Gauge Railway construction estimated to cost Kshs. 327 billion. The project team includes Apex Engineers, TSI Contractors from China and Edon International as the architects. Edon has been commissioned to build 33 gauge railway stations from Mombasa to Nairobi. Jerry notes that this is their ultimate growth but he is also keen to get the commission extended to Malaba, Uganda and Rwanda. The other current project is Bara Bara Plaza; KeNHA & Ministry of Transport is building its headquarters in Embakasi for all the road related projects. It is a World Bank project.

Jerry’s plan was to retire at the age of 65, of which would have been next year; but with the Standard Gauge Railway project, he might have to review the plan, and hopefully retire at 70.

The succession plan for Edon Consultants International Ltd is well set in place with new directors who are ready to take position.

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