The Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel stands out in its pink hue along the rapidly developing Chiromo Road. The facility is nestled on the West of Nairobi, only 3km from the CBD. Not far from the Museum Hill overpass, it is surrounded by some of the most iconic features in the city including the National Museum, the University of Nairobi and the city’s commercial, retail and entertainment hub, the Westlands shopping center. Known for epic hospitality developments across Sub-Sahara Africa, Symbion Kenya Limited are the brains behind the nifty award winning hotel.
Capitalizing on the opportunities offered by the tight site location and through careful planning, the architects were able to provide an intriguing design of over 15000SM of an up-market chic, and sophisticated urban complex comprising an exciting mix of shops, themed-restaurants and bars interlinked with landscaped and urban piazzas with the hotel at the heart of the development.
The facility is organized around a U-shape with three distinct buildings – the F&B building, the Pool & Spa building and the hotel tower, all engulfing a central cascading water feature. There are 200 guestrooms and suites (requiring 11 room types) carefully designed to fit within the shell of the hotel tower from 4th to 10th floors. The hotel lobby, an all day dining restaurant, cigar lounge, business center and bar are also part of the main tower. In addition, there is a pillar-less grand banquet room that can accommodate over 400 guests, flanked by flexible meeting rooms on either side.
The F&B building hosts three different restaurants, each with its own identity and specialty on each floor – Italian on ground floor, Pan Asian on first floor and Moroccan on second floor. The Pool building features an upscale state-of-the art spa facility with 9 treatment rooms and an outdoor heated swimming pool, pool-side café, steam, sauna and Jacuzzi and relaxation areas on the upper floors. On ground floor are a series of exclusive shops to serve the tourist and business traveler.
The entire facility has fourteen floors comprising of three basement levels that can hold up to 300 cars, the ground floor and ten upper floors.
As with any construction project of this scale, challenges were inevitable. When the developers, Simba Corporation initially commissioned Symbion, the Kempinski brand was not in the picture. However, with the changing economic landscape, they saw the void in luxury city hotels in Nairobi and harnessed that opportunity midway through construction. The client saw the need to brand the hotel and have an operator hence introduction of Kempinski Hoteliers – a global luxury hotel chain founded in 1897 in Berlin, Germany that operates within the finest traditions of its European heritage. This meant that the design team had to implement the stringent guidelines in line with the operators’ global standards related to security, amenities and staff requirements among others and at the same time ensure the construction process was not severely affected.
Coordination of over twenty nine subcontractors was also an uphill task but the project team worked well together under Symbion’s leadership to ensure the project was delivered to the client’s satisfaction.
Optimizing the building on its tight site next to a busy highway was also daunting. To achieve this, the main hotel building was recessed as far back as possible from the main road reducing the noise and creating space at the front in which access and main circulation into the development was adequately provided for. Having an experienced contractor too paid dividends in the end as he was able to stage his construction without adversely affecting the program.
The developer’s vision was to bring to life a facility that had a taste of Tuscany to Nairobi. From the romantic feel of long crystal white hanging curtains, promenades, urban piazzas and coffee shops to the cascading water features, textured floor plates, classical gardens and the green spaces; the Mediterranean architectural beauty flows naturally throughout this development. The pre-cast decorative moldings, arches and columns around the white framed windows and traditional balconies are a key feature that ties all the classical elements together, intricately designed to create a traditional allure against the modernity of the aluminium glass framed within them. The exterior is juxtaposed with a contemporary interior that creates a new architectural vocabulary. The open outdoor terrace areas behind the main tower are very reminiscent of the urban piazza with a backdrop of the classical garden that feels like an oasis of sort in a very serene atmosphere.
One of the greatest technical feats in this building is the in-built swimming pool on the second floor. It has an infinite cascading element that creates a vanishing edge; the water is framed around an open view with a glass screen such that one overlooks the Chiromo forest from the pool keeping the eyes off the traffic on the highway below. On the super presidential suite, there is an outdoor jaccuzi under rooftop terrace with its exclusive recreation space. There are joinery works including precast niches on the lounge and humidifiers in the cigar lounge for aeration.
The design also benchmarks the British code of building hence the building is on a BMS system to monitor and control the building’s ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire systems and security systems. The front façade of the building is double glazed with natural grey solar glass to minimize the noise from Chiromo road as well as cut on the sun heat due to the south west orientation.
Ultimately, Symbion and the team ensured that the quintessential elements of the Tuscan village were translated in the development.
The structure is primarily a hollow pot slab system with steel reinforcing supported by columns and beams. The roof trusses are steel with profiled roofing sheets and film insulation underlay covered with roman clay tiles.
A mixture of locally sourced granite, imported marble and travertine have been used in the main lobby and other public spaces. There is timber cladding on some walls and flooring. Porcelain tiles have also been used in the floor work. There is penny mosaic tiling netted in the Italian restaurant while Moroccan tiles have been used in the roof top restaurant. In the guest rooms, the corridors and the ball room floors are carpeted for comfort and acoustic purposes.
There is cobble and granite stone on the drive way, a very traditional material with the grey color tone that the architects felt would demarcate the courtyard. The circulation is organized around a cascading water feature made of the traditional Italian water fountain as one drives in and up the portico. In the Italian restaurant, the walls are cladded with classical burnt brick of the traditional Italian pizza shop treated with wooden niches. The internal finish in most areas is paint and textured surfaces especially in the rooms as the long head boards are designed to fit on the feature walls. Marmoran paint was applied to achieve the right pink hue.
Villa Rosa Kempinski makes no apologies for the bold statement she makes in her unique tone. The overall design direction recreates a Tuscan village and utilizes rich warm colours that contrast well with the lush green lawns, twining hanging gardens and therapeutic water features.
Construction began in 2009 and was completed in September 2013. The total cost was approximately $45M.