In Memory of Arch. Dr. Francis Mburu-JKUCAT University-Architecture Dept.
Paradigm Shift in African Architecture.
This week, Kenya lost one of the most astounding Architects, Arch. Dr. Francis Mburu . He succumbed to recurring spinal injuries following a road accident that happened a few years ago.
Arch. Dr. Mburu’s teachings as to how architecture and the built environment should improve the living standards of a population were very insightful.
According to him, great architecture should be able to easily attract a following so as to develop into a paradigm shift.
A paradigm shift is a change from what people are used to i.e common architecture so a different design that people find it useful, cost –saving and more aesthetically appealing than the normal usual method of construction.
Arch. Dr. Mburu emphasized that architects should ensure that each of their designs are guided by the need to offer better, more efficient and unique designs and methods so as to ensure that there is a gradual change towards a better environment.
In this respect, only a few designs would be able to achieve this after numerous trials and errors. These few will eventually develop the compass to which design will flow in the direction.
Southern African architecture is mostly dominated by the South African Boer designs. The most characteristic feature is the use of façade renderings, façade indent and extrusion, flat roof, pitched roof using stone-coated steel roofing sheets, and large window frames.
East, Central and West African Architecture.
East and West African architecture is mostly dominated by British/European colonial architecture. The main characteristics are masonry stone walling, high pitched roofs using steel, clay or concrete tiles and steel casement windows.
North African Architecture.
North African architecture is heavily influenced by Islamic architecture with buildings characterized by flat roofs with pigeon holes, minarets, plastered and rendered wall facades and indented windows.
All the above architectures will keep shifting from one particular design to the other.
Architects who get the designs right for a particular region will therefore set the trend for the paradigm shift towards the direction.
Personally, I predict the largest paradigm shift will be seen within the East, Central and West African architecture.
This is because this architecture is customized for use in the European regions hence not well adapted to Africa. The high roof pitch is best suited in snowy regions and the use of masonry stone walling plus heavy roofing materials leads to an expensive foundation type so as to support the large weights hence not suited for the Africa region. The chimney is best suited for European regions which require internal heating during winter.
The Southern Africa and Northern Africa architecture is relatively low-cost, embraces a lot of soil block walling and flat roofs hence lighter foundations leading to a lower average cost of construction.
Arch. Dr. Mburu’s inspirational insights in Architecture will forever be etched in the minds of the many architects he interacted with .
Architect Francis Gichuhi Kamau.