Self-inspired by the minimally partitioned spaces, recreation facilities including a swimming pool, a gym, a lounge, a restaurant, a library, pool table deck and sleeping quarters, the Morphosis Campus in Syokimau is redefining the creative arts work place.
In an interview with BUILDesign Magazine, Morphosis founders and current directors, Architects Yasir Brek and Adnan Mwakulomba explained that design of the new campus was inspired by the initial vision behind the establishment. “We wanted to establish a movement of creative architecture.
The name Morphosis was derived from the change we desired to bring in the creative part of architecture in the region. Change is a progressive thought process, a non-stop transformative journey that goes beyond the lifetime of an individual. That is what we wanted Morphosis to embody.
A journey that does not end with any specific person, a movement that continues to change how the built environment influences the lives of people.” Yasir explains.
To facilitate the creative process for the company’s intended goals, the firm needed a bigger office. Their first premises was 80sqm rented space in Kilimani. The options were to either buy or rent a space in or close to the CBD or build their own house. At the time, the firm had started a residential development in one of their properties in Syokimau, a gated community with four mansionates in a half acre piece of land whose foundation had already been laid.
The idea was to transform the development into a mixed use office space cum residential, maintaining the initial concept of breaking barriers in a social set up with shared workspace free of individual identity. In 2014 the original design was revised to allow for construction of the complex.
“As architects, we have a responsibility to define how society behaves. In the recent past, architecture has largely contributed to selfish, individualistic behavior in people since buildings are designed with extremely private spaces and that is not how people should live” asserts Adnan.
According to Yasir, transparency, openness and sharing are among the key values promoted at Morphosis and that was largely translated in the design.
Taking full advantage of the surrounding views, the clear glass facades lend the entire building lightness with their transparency, also forming an essential part of the lighting arrangement.
The two architects also believe that less polished aesthetics characterized by open transitional zones, wide plain hallways and staircases naturally lit all day, provide more freedom and a great experience for the creatives. “The need to move your body by taking the stairs or going in search of caffeine allows the mind to wander and refresh” explains Architect Yasir. “Exposure to natural light itself contributes to improved workplace performance” he adds.
The design is also reminiscent of the Neolithic architecture. It contains high ceilings, stonewalls, glass facade and terrazzo floors which are design signatures of the cultural complexes.
Nestled in the middle of residential developments, the Morphosis campus assumes the form of a flat roof block. In reality, the pitched roof is hidden under the elongated cantilevers. The bold clean lines that define its modern facades exhibit a dynamic approach to classicism presenting 21st century style and elegance.
The simple structure has been built using affordable, all locally available materials in the spirit of redemption. “We decided to keep it simple just like the Bob Marley’s classic hit ‘Redemption’. It was only created using a guitar yet it remains a timeless project” explains Adnan. The floors for instance is all built using the usual Nairobi stone and terrines. Standard laminated glass was used on the walling and roof is built of parallel corrugated iron sheets.
Natural lighting is one of the striking features that one easily notices on entering the building. Floor to ceiling glass windows allow enough light into the building and hence no need to use artificial lighting during the day. Under ground water tanks have been fitted under the parking area for rain water harvesting.
Most of the site is covered with greenery while the main building operates without air conditioning or heating, thanks to natural cooling and passive ventilation.
The complex will be outfitted with solar panels around the top of the building. It will run mostly off the power grid but it will use it as a backup electrical supply. “Overall, it’s a better experience – it’s more sustainable, it’s more economic. And, architecturally, it’s more interesting.’’ Arch. Adnan adds. The terrazzo flooring is almost impenetrable to moisture, requires minimal maintenance and it’s also very durable.
The two storey complex sitting on 2000sqm comprises of two phases. Adorned with flexible seating areas, the first phase which is the office building consists of work stations, two lounges, two board rooms and prayer rooms fitted with modern office furniture ranging from sofas, chairs to privacy booths.
Phase two which is expected to serve as a social center consists of the gym, the pool table deck, the kitchen and the restaurant area which opens up to the swimming pool and the garden.
Once complete, it will also have a laundry bay, four en suite sleeping quarters, a research centre and public halls that can be converted into exhibition rooms, concert halls or auditoriums. The facility will be open for hire to event organizers and universities. Installations at large in parts of the campus include final touches on the gardens, overall finishing and furnishing.
The entire project cost was very low achieved by using local artisans and materials and always reconciling it with the initial estimates. “Another reason for building the Morphosis campus was to prove that it is possible to construct a magnificent building on a low budget,” explains Yasir.