The British colonial architecture spread all over Kenya was designed to very high standards.
The buildings done in the early 1900s are still standing strong due to the design, materials and building technology used.
A characteristic of these buildings is the hand-dressed dark grey masonry walling.
Buildings such as Kipande house

were designed with very intricate masonry walling patterns.
The grey stone used is very strong and till today, no signs of cracks or failure are visible.
The railways houses along Ojijo road near KI and Parklands sports club are also standing strong after tens of years since they were constructed.

ojijo road

Another masterpiece is the Lord Egerton caste in Nakuru.
To date, no signs of cracks or failure can be seen.
egerton castle

The British used strip foundation for the foundation, hand-dressed masonry for the walling, timber trusses for the roof structure and clay tiles for roof surface.
Labour to dress the stones to the intricate patterns was abundant from the enslaved Africans. The workmanship was so thorough and to the exact point. A quick look at the masonry stones at the corners of Kipande house still shows the razor-thin stone edges that had been shaped by hand. To achieve this, thousands of man-hours were needed so as to get this fine piece of art.
With the current labour situation and labour laws, it will cost an arm and a leg to get the same quality since you will have to pay for all those man-hours. This is the reason that most current buildings to don’t embrace such intricate masonry stylings.
The buildings to date are a very good source on building construction technology. Unfortunately, with the rapid urbanization in most parts of Africa, the zoning regulations are changing rapidly hence no great need to design buildings that last over 50 years.
These British pieces of architecture dotting Nairobi suburbs such as Upper Hill, Hurlingham have now been caught up with new planning laws that require for demolition to pave way for high-rise structures. Unfortunately, due to the good workmanship, these can last for another 50 years but they have to pave way for more high-density structures.
The British had envisioned a much greater stay within the Kenya colony. It looks like the 1963 Uhuru was premature to them since they had not calculated this into their architecture planning.
Architect Francis Gichuhi Kamau.

Francis Gichuhi (692 Posts)

Architect Francis Gichuhi . B.Arch. University of Nairobi. Registered Architect, Kenya. Member, Architectural Association of Kenya. Contacts. email Telephone +254721410684


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