The Hub, Karen

The Hub, Karen

Evolution of Mall Architecture


In the midst of a genuine paradigm shift of what a retailer is and does, shopping alone doesn’t cut it as an enticement in malls today. The 21st generation of shopping centers must excel in four areas: extraordinary design, hyper levels of service, internationalization of brands, and the decentralization of food and beverage. These factors have to be coupled with efficiency, comfort, convenience, safety and quality. Entertainment, dining and leisure components are now crucial in luring the millennial shoppers. Perched 100m from the junction of the Karen-Dagoretti roads in the uber cool Karen suburb, The Hub Karen exhibits this concept in grandeur.

The Hub, Karen
The Hub, Karen


The client wanted a community lifestyle center with strong features of the toned down Karen feel where people can meet, shop and engage in other activities. The key requirement in the design was to ensure that the building did not appear imposed in the area. In response, the architect sought uniqueness, elegance and conformity to its location as its defining characteristic. An open air village, the neo modern complex exudes grace and warmth organized around courtyards as the central features successfully unifying its disparate sections.

The main courtyard.
The main courtyard.


Typical of the Karen residential architecture, the complex takes the form of a grand suburban home with a minimal height comprising of two storeys, a pitched shingles roof, dormer windows on the top floor, earthy tones on the exterior finishes, large green spaces and airy common spaces. Designed to achieve the essence of a lifestyle center where the Kenyan middle and upper class can live, socialize and work, The Hub Karen is a collection of several blocks linked together by bridges. To create interest in every corner of the mall, the design incorporates leisure activities and food courts evenly distributed in varying intervals to provide dining options and a greater experience for the shoppers. Other features that make the common areas more inviting include a gaming center, the children fountain pool, the artificial lake and garden with walk ways, boat riding, fishing, and golf.

The Artificial lake and Garden walk ways.
The Artificial lake and Garden walk ways.

The choice of materials used was also guided by the design concept. For instance, stone cladding on the shop fronts, arches, main stair cases and the courtyard flooring, timber cladding on parts of the walls and interior flooring, textured special effects finishing on the walls, brown wooden looking glass on the windows, stone tiles and moldings on the ramps, were all inspired by the traditional concept that has strongly been developed across the entire design.

Some of the materials used.
Some of the materials used.


The built area covers 64,000 sqm of the 20 acre piece of land with a gross lettable area of 31, 800 sqm and 20,000 sqm of ample parking, accommodating a total of 1185 cars; 646 cars on the basement, 87 cars on the lower ground floor and 452 cars on the upper ground floor. The gently sloppy terrain of the site allowed for multiple levels and consequently the entry points which also impacted the parking arrangement; the lower ground entry at the lowest point and the upper ground entry at the higher level.

Occupying 2000 sqm, the courtyards on the ground level and the upper level are designed as open air multifunctional spaces for different activities and events, creating central points of convergence within the interior space layout – an arrangement that allows flexibility and more activity in the complex such as parties, sports, antique market, holiday market, shows, music events, dance performance, art exhibitions and related events.

The courtyard at the hub karen that can be used for various activities.
The courtyard that can be used for various activities.

There are four blocks of three levels each. The anchor tenant, a hypermarket, alongside entertainment, fashion & beauty stores, food courts, a health club, furniture retail and related shops occupy the ground and first floors while banks, medical facilities and the management offices occupy the second floor.


The mall assumes an open plan that allows for passive ventilation which positively impacts the energy foot print in the building as well as the cost of maintenance since there is no mechanical ventilation required in the public spaces. Incorporation of openness also ensures that all the shops are well aerated, easily visible and accessible and naturally lit except for aesthetic purposes by individual tenants. Additionally, the lighting arrangement is all LED coupled with motion sensors in the common areas. To compliment the city council water supply, a sewer treatment plant has been installed on site to treat the grey water. In that regard, 80% of all the water used in the mall is recycled. In addition, it was a mandatory requirement for all the food outlets in the mall to install dishwashing machines to save on water. Floor cleaning and gardening uses recycled water only. Taps and flashing systems in the washrooms are also sensor controlled.

In terms of drainage, the terrain allows for storm water to flow in one direction and in turn avoiding floods and drainage complications.

Security measures

With safety a major concern in shopping centers in Kenya, The Hub Karen has embraced the latest security technology. There are two screening systems at all access points ensuring that both the walk in and drive in persons undergo personal security check up. Additionally, CCTV with external backups are installed to monitor the state of security around the mall. A complete installation of automatic detectors for vehicles is also available at the mall, including a bollard system to ensure thorough inspection of all the vehicles accessing the mall.


The project came to Bowman & Associates based on previous working relationship with the client.  Concept development and design took one and half years. Construction began in December 2013 and was completed towards the end of 2015. Official handing over was done in February 2016. “Space layout and most of the details in the design of a mall are tenant guided. Meeting all the requirements and standards for the diverse tenants resulted to planning changes and space adjustments in some areas but we managed to achieve the task on time and within the budget” remarks Architect Morrison, the architect in charge of the project. The Hub Karen cost approximately Kshs. 5B.

Project Team

Client – Broll Property Group Kenya

Architect – Bowman & Associates

Project Manager – Betts Townsend (Pty) Ltd

Main Contractor – Laxmanbhai Construction Ltd

Quantity Surveyor – Integrated YMR

Mechanical, Electrical, Structural & Civil Engineers – Sutherland Engineering SA & Loadline Engineers Services Kenya

Soft Landscape Architect – Ecoscapes Kenya

Hard Landscape Architect – Insite Group, SA

Environmental Consultant – Green Key Environmental Solutions

Roof sub-contractor – REXE Roofing

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