Orkid Studio – Nairobi

On the programme this week we speak to James Mitchell and Carolina Larrazabal  from Orkid Studio in Nairobi.

This week’s episode was recorded in Nairobi as part of a series of programmes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s LFA.

James Mitchel

Orkid Studio was founded in 2008 by James Mitchel and Julissa Kiyenje in Cardiff where the pair studied. James was just 19 at the time.  Their aim was to establish a practice interested in providing architectural services to a wider section of society.


Carolina Larrazabal

Much of their early work was conducted during holidays and time away from study and teaching – where James taught at the Mackintosh School of Architecture.  The practice made the decision relocated the practice from Glasgow to Nairobi in 2016 .  The practice has gone on to win much praise from across the profession.

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MASS Design Group – Kigali

In this week’s episode we speak to Theophile Uwayezu, architect and associate at MASS Design Group in Kigali, Rwanda.

This week’s episode was recorded in Kigali as part of a series of episodes we’re bring you from East Africa, exploring identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s LFA.

MASS Design Group was established in Massachusetts in 2008 as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organisation.

Theophile Uwayezu

In the words of the practices “Architecture is never neutral. It either heals or hurts.”  MASS say that their “mission is to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.”

MASS Design Group began in 2008 as an idea for a different way of practice by a group of students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The practice’s first project in Rwanda was to design and build the Butaro District Hospital in partnership with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and the NGO Partners In Health.

The practice went on to open an office in Kigali where it’s now one of the largest firms in the country.

Theophile studied architecture at the University of Rwanda – the country’s only architecture school – where some of MASS Design Group’s partners still teach.

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Nairobi Design Week – Nairobi

For this week’s episode we talking to Adrian Jankowiak and Julita Bhagat, Co-Directors of Nairobi Design Week – an organisation with a mission close to our own hearts, promoting design – in all its disciplines – to a wide public audience.

This episode was recorded in Nairobi, the first in a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Originally from Poland, Adrian studied Industrial Design at Loughborough University before going on to work for as an industrian designer for various multinationals. He worked in many developing countries  before going to Kenya.

Kenyan national Julita meanwhile is currently studying Human Centred Design at the Nairobi Design Institute.

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Association of Ethiopian Architects – Addis Ababa

On the programme this week we speak to Meskerem Tamiru, President of the Association of Ethiopian Architects.

This episode was recorded in Addis Ababa as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Meskerem studied architecture and town planning at the Addis Ababa University School of architecture where she graduated as an architect in 1993.  After graduation Meskerem initially worked as an architect on the expansion of the country’s University sector. In 2008 she established her own practice, Meskerem Tamiru Consulting Architects which now specialises in project management.

The Association of Ethiopian Architects was founded in 1991 and now has close to 2000 members.

Meskerem was elected in August 2017 at the organisation’s General Assembly to serve a three-year term. The association has a small staff based in Addis Ababa.

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Cave Bureau – Nairobi

On the programme this week we speak to the architects Kabage Karanje and Stella Mutegi, two of the three founding directors of Cave Bureau in Nairobi.

This episode was recorded in Nairobi as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Kabage Karanje (right) Stella Mutegi (centre) and Owen Wainhouse (left)

Kabage was born in Nairobi and later studied in the UK in Loughborough, in Brighton then at the University of Westminster.  He subsequently spent six years working for 3D Reid in London before returning to Nairobi where he worked for a number of practices before going on co-founding Cave.

Stella studied architecture at the University of Newcastle, near Sydney in Australia before returning to Kenya where she worked for a number of practices before ending up working in the same firm at Kagabe – some years later they were both made redundant which spurred their founding of Cave.

The practice they founded, with long-time friend Balmoi Abe in 2014 and draws much of its reference from the cave – mankind’s earliest architectural environment.   Much of their work too references region’s status as the cradle of humanity.

The city, they say, like the caves are dynamic and complex, both having changed over time, albeit with varying geological time times.

The name Cave Bureau – harks back to man’s fundamental need for shelter, which perhaps explains much of the firms work in places like Kibera, Nairobi’s largest informal settlement – or slum – where they’re currently working on a

Cave Burea’s beautiful office/art gallery, which they call The Cave, is in the Kilimani neighbourhood, just west of downtown.

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Triad Architects – Nairobi

On the programme this week we speak to the architects James Gitoho and Charles Ndungu, directors at the Kenyan architecture firm Triad Architects.

This episode was recorded in Nairobi as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Triad Architects was founded by New Zealander Amyas Connell with Scotsman Graham McCullough in 1963.

Amyas Connell travelled to England in 1924 and later studied at the British School at Rome. He subsequently established one of the most influential but short-lived modernist British architecture practices of the 20th Century, Connell, Ward & Lucas.

James (left) and Charles (right) with photo of Amyas Connell on the wall.

After the war, in 1946 Connell moved to Tanganyika, now Tanzania, and later to Nairobi.  Connell was invited to design the iconic Kenyan Parliament building in 1963; and won the RIBA Bronze Medallist in 1964 for the Aga Kahn Hospital.

The practice now has a wide portfolio of work across Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

James trained at Nairobi University and joined Triad in 1981, going on to become a Director 1988. Whilst Charles joined in 1995 after also studying at Nairobi University, going on to become a director in 2003.

The practice has worked with many foreign firms including with John McAslan + Partners on the Kericho Cathedral and Squire & Partners on the British Council’s Nairobi offices.

Following the retirement of the last non-native Director, Tim Vaulkhard 2013, the practice is now run entirely by Kenyan directors.

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Architecture and Identity – East Africa Series

Nairobi SGR Station

The LFA is the world’s largest annual architectural festival – running each year from 1st to 30th June – with a programme this year of more than 450 public events run by over 260 organisations and individuals – engaging in one way or another with an audience of over 400,000 people.

At its most basic level, the identity of any world city like London is instantly recognisable by the silhouette of its architecture. From Sydney’s Opera House to New York’s Empire State Building, we recognise and identify our cities by their buildings.

Of course, identity and architecture are much more closely entwined than the look of our cities.  The identity and cultural background of any architect has a profound influence on the architecture they create.

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Episode Twenty-Two – Jennifer Dixon

Our guest this week is the architect Jennifer Dixon, Architecture Leader for the global architecture and engineering firm AECOM in the firm’s EMIA region – Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, where she leads a multi-national team of over 500 architects.

AECOM provides design, consulting, construction, and management services to a wide range of clients around the world. The firm traces its roots back to the 1920s in Kentucky as the Ashland Oil and Refining Company. From where the company grew into one of America’s largest road construction firms – using the by-products of oil refining to produce bitumen.  The company went on to become one of the pioneering integrated construction, engineering and architectural firms in the US.

Jennifer Dixon. Image courtesy fo the practice.

In the late 1980s a change in corporate strategy led to the spinoff of the of the non-oil side of the business that would become AECOM. In 1990 the company changed its name to the AECOM Technology Corporation – with the acronym standing for Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Maintenance.  AECOM became a publicly traded company in 2007 and now has annual revenues of over $18 billion and nearly 90,000 employees around the world. More recently the firm acquired consulting engineers Faber Maunsel and quantity surveyors Davis Langdon.

Jennifer joined AECOM in 2013 to grow the organisation’s architecture business in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa which was then relatively small – at least compared with the firm’s architecture businesses in its other regions.

Jennifer originally studied architecture at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow and at the University of Westminster in London.  She subsequently founded Dixon Hughes architects with her partner David Hughes, with the practice later merging with Austin-Smith:Lord where she worked extensively in the Middle East.

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Episode Twenty-One – Steven Charlton

Our guest this week is the designer Steven Charlton. In 2008 – in the midst of the global financial crisis – Steven launched the Middle East office of Pringle Brandon, the architecture and corporate interiors firm founded in London by Chris Brandon and former RIBA President Jack Pringle.

Steven Charlton. Image courtesy of the practice.

Pringle Brandon subsequently merged with America’s third-largest architecture firm Perkins+Will in 2012 – with the London and Dubai offices becoming known initially as Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will, and later simply Perkins+Will. Steven grew the Dubai office from two people to over 100 members of staff.

In November 2017 Steven returned to London to become Managing Principal of Perkins+Will’s now 130-strong London office with the clear aim of repeating his success in Dubai and growing the architecture side of the business.

In this week’s episode we about talk the names of architecture firms and the legacy of their founders.  We talk about how things change when you double the size of your office, then double again.

We talk about corporate interiors and large scale architecture. And we also hear about Perkins+Will’s latest acquisition of the Danish architecture firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen.

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Episode Twenty – John McAslan

Our guest this week is the architect John McAslan.

John was born Glasgow and later studied architecture at Edinburgh University before following his father to the United States where he worked for architecture firms in Baltimore, Maryland and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He returned to London in 1980 to take up a job at Richard Rogers’ practice.  Four years later he and then colleague Jamie Troughton left to start their own firm, Troughton McAslan.  Following Jamie’s return to Scotland, in 1996 John went on to found John McAslan and Partners – as the practice is known today

John McAslan (c) John McAslan + Partners

The practice has delivered a huge body of critically acclaimed work around the world. And was recently longlisted with Triad Architects for the RIBA’s International Prize for Kericho Cathedral in Kenya.

But the practice has also delivered a large body of award-winning work in London, including the Roundhouse, Friends Meeting House and the new Western Concourse at Kings Cross Station to name just a few.

John McAslan + Partners was named World Architect of the Year in 2009 by Building Design magazine and John was awarded the CBE for services to architecture in the 2012 Queens New Year’s Honours list.

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