Born in 1943 in United Kingdom, Architect Peter Derrick Thomas has always been fascinated by the experience of creating tangible and visible things from the abstract. It is thus his zest for actualization that led him into architectural pursuit.
He is a Registered Architect in Kenya and Tanzania as well as with Architects Registration Board, U.K. He is also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The 71 year old architect has over 40 years experience in architectural practice and has been involved in many hotel, lodge and commercial projects within East Africa and beyond.
Peter graduated from Birmingham School of Architecture, Art and Design in 1968 and joined Stillman & Eastwick Field Architects in London as an assistant architect under Partner in charge for the design of a new Maternity Unit for Chase Farm Hospital for the North East Metropolitan Hospital Board. He worked at Stillman for two years.
In 1970, he joined Watkins Grey Woodgate International, London and was immediately seconded to Nairobi to join Cobb Archer & Partners as part of the supervising team for the construction of Kenyatta National Teaching Hospital. He worked with Partner in charge on post contract supervision of new 1,250 bed ward block which incorporated 8 new major Operating Theatres, CSSD and TSSU, Maternity Wing and Occupational Therapy Unit.
During the time, Peter assisted the Partner in charge on the design, production drawings and post contract inspections of the new laundry, mortuary, central stores, staff dining rooms, administration offices and medical library. The project was completed 1973.
Peter worked at Cobb Archer and Partners until 1977. As Lead Architect, he designed and carried out the post contract inspections of extensions to Pumwani Maternity Hospital which was completed 1975. He also assisted the Partner in charge with the development and planning of the new 600 bed District Hospital at Pumwani for MOH. This project was shelved in 1977.
In 1980, Peter partnered with John Cavanagh to establish Symbion International.
At Symbion, Peter worked on a large number of projects especially in tourism, medical and commercial sectors. Their chief client was the Aga khan Group who own the Serena group of hotels – commissioning them to design the Maasai Mara Serena lodge, Amboseli Serena, Nairobi Serena and Serena Beach hotel in Mombasa.
Other hospitality projects included White sands Beach Hotel in Mombasa, Plantation Club in Mahe, Seychelles and Lilian Towers in Nairobi.
Health projects included the Aga Khan Hospital (Nairobi and Dar es Salaam) and the Nairobi Hospital. Their other projects were Lilian Towers and Kenya Safari Club.
In 1998, Peter left Symbion International to retire but a few months later, he was contacted by Serena Group CEO for urgent refurbishment of Samburu Serena after a fire accident. He was commissioned to come up with a quick redesign that would get the facility back to business within the shortest period possible.
He designed and built the tented lodge which got back into business within weeks. This project led to the birth of his private firm, Peter Thomas Associates, in March 1999.
Commonly referred to as PTA, the firm has since handled dozens of successfully completed projects and some of the Kenya’s finest masterpieces.
In PTA, Peter has continued to be a lead consultant for major establishments such as the Serena Group where he has worked on Kilaguni Serena, Elementeita Serena, Nairobi Serena, Amboseli Serena and Maasai Mara Serena.
Other hospitality projects include Karatu Lodge Angola Conservancy, Mountain Village, Kirawira Tented Camp and Sobo Lodge in Tanzania.
Commercial projects include Fairview Office Park in Nairobi, Imperial Court in Westlands Nairobi, Fidelity Bank HQs in Nairobi, a low cost housing project and an industrial warehouse in Uganda and a shopping mall in Kisumu.
Medical projects include Gertrudes Children Hospital in Muthaiga and Aghakan hospitals in Kisumu and Mombasa, Kenyatta National Hospital expansion and refurbishment, Nairobi Hospice and Hope Hospital (Kampala).
Residential projects include Windsor Park in Ridgeways, Water Club in Nyali Beach and the ongoing Migaa Property development in Kiambu.
Peter has faced various challenges as a professional but one that he deeply feels the need to address is architects competing on basis of professional fees and non-compliance to standards. Peter urges the professional bodies in charge to act on this issue that he terms as common challenge for most of the architects and ensure that professional indemnity is conducted.
With considerable experience of over 40 years in architectural practice, the 71 year old architect has words of wisdom for academics and young professionals.
“Form will always follow function, and thus it is important to understand the technical process of putting design elements together and space purpose. It is then easy to develop exterior form once the space function is properly addressed”, He says.
Peter also points out that training institutions should emphasize on apprenticeship in equipping students to be quality technicians.
To young professionals, Peter advises that it’s important to get wide exposure to see more of everything in the different designs around the world and their functionality in different environments – exposure enhances creativity and hence one is able to design innovatively such that any design could sit comfortably in any environment.
He is currently the Managing Director of PTA working on a retirement plan where he will be acting as the consultant to the firm.
Architect Peter Thomas loves animals – he actually owns four dogs. He also plays piano and has a great love for water sports, some of which he plans to explore upon retirement – like surfing.