The Courtyard Building – Westlands, Nairobi

The Courtyard Building – Westlands, Nairobi



The Courtyard Building 01An abstract homage to the timeless design of the iconic KICC, the Courtyard building is a quality low-rise office block with a pleasant departure from the traditional high-rise office development pattern. It is not the best example of a 21st-century urban design but its implementation is firmly rooted to an immutable concept with a perfect interplay of materials guaranteed to outlast age.

The Courtyard Building is located along General Mathenge Drive next to Lerustique restaurant in Westlands, Nairobi, half a kilometer from the West Gate Mall, this project was conceived around core principals of an environmentally sensitive design, to provide a cozy experience for the end user and a tranquil work environment in a leafy setting.

The Courtyard Building 03

Bowman Associates Architects were commissioned design and supervision of the Courtyard Building project in 2008 upon winning a design competition that involved Symbion International and Planning Systems and Services Ltd.

The client, Aga Khan and PDM Kenya, wanted an environmentally efficient commercial building with an African theme and a touch of Islamic design features. This is in line with PDM’s philosophy of providing human centered developments that not only serve an economic purpose but uplift the quality of life alongside Aga khan’s firm Islamic culture.

The Courtyard Building Ground Floor PlanThe sloppy terrain of about 5640sqm was occupied by a single residential building that sat on 300sqm. The neighborhood was dominated by low-rise single dwelling units on varying spaces hence a key consideration in the design concept of the Courtyard. The client required that the existing building be demolished with minimal interference to the natural vegetation and trees onsite.

In response to the brief, the architect made use of naturally warm earthy colours, mainly the scorched earth paint work on the eaves of the building that creates an African sensation.  He also tried to achieve an even feel of the mazeras stone cladding to give a natural texture. Brown aluminium frames were used in the roofing as well as in the giant concrete piers to give it a wooden effect and enhance the African theme.

The architect tried to incorporate the residential feel in the area by use of calm colours and a simple form such that you can easily mistake the office block for an apartment until you actually get so close. He also ensured that balance in height as with other buildings in the area was maintained.

Some of the trees on site were maintained to help with landscaping. In addition, the architect used 45DD in the arrangement of surface parking so that he could leave room for growth of the trees that were already there.

The sloppy ground also worked to the advantage of the design as the architect was able to enlarge basement parking.

Creative interplay of glass use and masonry in the building is not only an interesting feature but also an environmental design measure. The architect used reflective high end specification glass to enhance natural lighting in the Courtyard building and reduce heat from the sun. The dark green color of the glass also blends perfectly with scorched earth paint work.

The architect also created short spans between offices to minimize use of AC in the building and large windows to allow proper circulation of air. Use of aluminium sun breakers also helps in maintaining a natural cool in the building as it keeps off the heat of the sun. Within the lobbies from third floor down to the ground floor are double volumes and the void in between enhances airflow which keeps the spaces well ventilated.

The Courtyard Building 04Apart from masonry, which consists of sand, cement and stonework, there are features made of medium density fibre board (MDF) on the eaves of the building. The Mazeras stone used for cladding also is low maintenance because it weathers evenly during harsh weather. The window frames are made of aluminium and parts of the façade are built of glass. Steel was used in the roofing as well as in the giant concrete piers with trusses that get to the roof.

Unique features in the Courtyard Building include the large eaves on the roof which create an interesting view within the simplicity of the entire design. The fire escape staircase also forms quite a large feature with windows bearing some Islamic expressions. Proper balance in glass use and masonry which gives the building a contemporary modern look whilst offering a cultural feel of ancient architecture.

Piers next to the windows are divided into bays with massive concrete shafts that create a more dramatic tone in the building. The creative sun breakers and corner windows which again break the monotony of how the glass is arranged also form quite an interesting feature. Other design features include the shape of Islamic star on the fountain at the courtyard visible from above and the arrangement pattern of the Mazeras stone on the courtyard as well.

The Courtyard Building 05The Courtyard building has three floors exclusive of the ground floor. It is divided into two wings and each wing is about 400sqm. It can comfortably accommodate around 250 persons. It has 110 parking bays. Other facilities in the building include backup power generator, CCTV Surveillance, Building Management System, Rain water harvesting, internet connection, lush green space, high speed elevators and 24hr security attendance among others.

Construction began in February 2010 and was completed in mid 2011. The entire project cost Kshs. 250M.

  • Project Data: The Courtyard Building
  • Client: Aga khan & PDM Holdings Kenya
  • Architect & Project Manager: Bowman Associates Architects
  • QS: YMR
  • Mechanical & Electrical Engineers: Load line Engineers
  • Structural & Civil Engineers: Civil Engineering Design Kenya
  • Main Contractor: Parbat Siyani Construction Company
  • Project Cost: Kshs 250 Million
  • Project Duration: 18 Months

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