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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Episode Nineteen – Rashid Ali

Our guest this week is the architect Rashid Ali.  Rashid grew up in Hargeisa in Northern Somalia and then in Manchester in Northern England. He went on to study architecture at Greenwich University and Bartlett School of Architecture, as well as City Design at the LSE. He subsequently worked for Karakusevic Carson Architects – and then at Adjaye Associates – the practice which had been recently founded by David Adjaye – where he worked on a number of high profile projects including the Stirling Prize nominated Idea Store Library in London and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Denver.

After five years at Adjaye Associates he left to pursue a number of other projects including teaching, research, architecture and urbanism – all encompassed by his practice, RA Projects.

Rashid Ali (c) Hanan Bihi

The practice – now know as Rashid Ali Archiects – works on a range of scales and typologies, from one-off houses to cultural centres and exhibition design – and also research work in London, Somalia and across Africa.

Rashid was shortlisted for the Young Architect of the Year Award in 2008 and again 2011.  In this week’s episode we discuss the practice’s work on Fin House in London for fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic; we talk about the difficulties and benefits of balancing teaching with practice,  as well as the practice’s increasing range of work back in Hergesia in Somalia and across Africa.

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Episode Eighteen – Ben Derbyshire

Our guest this week is the 76th President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Ben Derbyshire (c) Tom Campbell

Ben Derbyshire was elected by the Institute’s 44,000 strong membership in August 2016 on a platform calling for change – both in the institute and across the profession. After a year serving as president-elect, he succeeded Jane Duncan as President in September 2017.

Ben’s career in practice started in 1973 when he joined Hunt Thompson Associates as a year out student.  After returning to university to complete his Masters Degree, he came back to the practice permanently in 1976 and stayed ever since, rising to become managing director and now chair of the practice.

The practice, now known as HTA Design is perhaps best known for its award-winning housing, residential and regeneration work.

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Episode Seventeen – Ken Shuttleworth

Our guest this week made a name for himself working under someone else’s name. For nearly 30 years Ken Shuttleworth worked at Foster & Partners where he led on the design and delivery of such acclaimed buildings as the HSBC Bank in Hong Kong, as well as both 30 St Mary’s Axe – better known as the Gherkin – and City Hall in London.

Ken Shuttleworth (c) Make Architects

In 2004 he decided to make a break and leave Foster & Partners. After mulling over a flurry of other job offers he eventually decided to start his own practice. Or rather to start his employees’ own practice. The practice he founded was setup as an employee-owned business – similar to the John Lewis Partnership chain of department stores in the UK – where the shares are held in trust for the benefit of the employees.

Ken continues to make a name for himself – though again still not under his own name. Make Architects, the practice he founded, now employs over 160 people from their offices in London as well as Hong Kong and Sydney. They have produced a huge legacy of buildings ranging for the Copper Box arena for the London 2012 Olympics – to Rathbone Square a vast new development of residential, office, retail and public space in the heart of Fitzrovia.

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Episode Sixteen – Christina Seilern

Our guest this week has led something of a peripatetic life. Born to an Austrian father and a German mother, Christina Seilern grew up in Switzerland before moving to the United States with the intention of studying biology at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. But she soon dropped biology and switched   direction to study architecture at MIT and then at Columbia University in New York.

After working for a number of smaller practices, in 1997 she took on a junior job in the model shop at Rafael Vinoly Architects where she rose quickly through the ranks, going on to become a Director – working on major projects including Princeton University.

Christina Seilern (c) Emma Hardy

In 2000 she relocated to London where she was charged with opening Vinoly’s new European Office, steadily growing the office over five years from just her, to a staff of more than 50.

Christina won and oversaw a number of major jobs for the practice including the Curve Theatre in Leicester and 20 Fenchurch Street – better known as the Walkie Talkie – in London.

In 2005 Christina left Rafael Vinoly to setup her own practice as Studio Seilern Architects.  For this week’s episode we join Christina in her practice’s light filled offices in West London.

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