Aleem Manji Architects were posed with an interesting deviation from the firm’s typical style of design largely inspired by principles of modern architecture when they received a commission for the architectural design and interior fit out of the Lansdowne Centre. The client wanted a neo rustic shopping Centre in the old Karen Provisional Store neighborhood. The building was to evenly blend with the Karen environs and predominant features were to be neither modern nor traditional.
The defining points of consideration in this design were twofold, over and above the usual design considerations of usability and functionality as well as location and sustainability all combined together to create a charming small semi modern shopping precinct that blends in with its environs.
The shopping Centre is located in the heart of Karen, one of the more culturally steeped locations in Nairobi. Principally rustic in nature with an emphasis on the use of stone and timber which gives it a feel of a by-gone era. The architect chose to import several qualities of the neo-colonial style of architecture while at the same time giving the design an updated look. This was achieved by careful selection of material palette: using blue-gum pole walkways with exposed soffits in most of the spaces coupled with mazeras stone tiling as opposed to porcelain tiling. Externally, the architect chose coral stone cladding coupled with timber boarding and touches of mazeras to contrast with the textured render. The central atrium space was the principal organizing space hence a small atrium garden was created open three storeys to the roof. This allows an outdoor experience from within.
In terms of sustainability, the architect chose to create an enabling environment for natural air circulation to minimize the need for artificial cooling during hot seasons. It was also needful to maximize on natural lighting given the tight site (quarter acre) boxed in by two and three storey developments on either side. Both of these were achieved in principle by using the central atrium space. The space is open through to the top and is only covered fairly high by the restaurant roof at the roof terrace level.
This allows in a fair amount of reflected natural lighting to the central axis of the building, while at the same time creating a modified stack effect to let out warm air at the top. The front and back of the Centre were kept intentionally open to allow for the inflow of air necessitated by the pressure difference created with the upward flow of warm air. Additionally, the rooftop was partly converted to a roof garden with grass covering to minimize the heat gain at the roof top level. This also served the purpose of creating a garden outdoor seating area for the restaurant. Elements of rustic architecture have been incorporated in the exposed aisles that allow the user a very relaxing outdoor experience from within.
The structure is built of steel and concrete. Coral stones, timber and mazeras cladding has been used on the finishes. The roof structure is done using timber.
The project itself is fairly unique; consisting of boutique shopping units on three levels with two basement parking structures and a rooftop restaurant/lounge area, all accommodated on a quarter acre. Given a very open brief, the architect managed to reinvent traditional architecture in this design and satisfy the brief requirements in terms of appearance, material usage, color palette, sensitivity to the environment and comfortable habitation of the building.
The biggest variation for the entire project was excavation through the rock discovered only one meter underneath the ground. Excavation period was thus prolonged to achieve a depth of five meters that the client required for construction of two basements. As a result, more time was consumed and extra cost was incurred. The project which was supposed to take a year took 15 months to complete.
Client – Karen Landmark Developers
Architect – Aleem Manji Architects
Main Contractor – Ark Construction Ltd
Structural Engineer – Abba & Wandu
Services Engineer – Metrocom Consultants
Quantity Surveyor – Towercost Services