The client, M/S VeePee Developers, required a commercial building that was initially expected to house a Showroom Space of around 10 000 square feet; office space of approximately 70 000 square feet; and parking facilities adequate enough to park three cars for every 1 000 square foot of commercial space. The area itself (General Mathenge Drive in Westlands) is fairly close to the CBD area of Westlands, which teems with commercial office space.
The site of the project is located in the Westlands area of Nairobi, which is fast becoming an extension of the main CBD in as far as high rise offices and apartment blocks are concerned. It is located on General Mathenge Drive. The site itself is bordered by General Mathenge Drive towards the south of the site, requiring a building line of 9m to be left from the road. The development itself has been located centrally on the site, leaving room for the building line, as well as the requisite by-law requirements for siting.
Key areas of the project
Broadly, the scheme can be said to have two key areas, namely the Parking Areas and the Office/Showroom Areas. The Parking Areas are split into two sections: The Basement Parking and the Mezzanine Parking. There are two sections of commercial space: the Showroom Space (Ground floor and Ground floor mezzanine), and the Office spaces. The First Floor is a dedicated floor for Eateries/Restaurants, principally targeted at Fine Dining, Coffee Shops and/or Lounge Bars to target the residents and office users around the area.
The Offices themselves occupy the 2nd-10th Floors. They have been arranged around a circulation core at the centre comprising a staircase and three lifts. The Main Reception for the building is located on the Ground Floor, immediately prior to the Circulation Lobby. The design language used was an earthy mix of timber boarding on the backdrop and skirting of the desk itself, black slit stone cladding which we felt tied in with the massive entry wall on the external facade and frosted glass on the desk.
The architects worked on mitigating these by attempting to maintain channels for through flow of cross ventilation through each floor plan; incorporating sun shading elements to prevent direct absorption of sunlight into the windows; the use of materials with a high thermal mass; and the use of a modified stack effect (the central void around the circulation core has vents along the roof level to allow hot air to escape from the roof level).
In order to reduce the energy requirement for lighting, they have put in place strategically positioned large windows to ensure that the use of artificial lighting during the day is minimized, along with LED light fittings as standard in all common areas. The most abundant available natural energy source around the equatorial region is the sun. The design will be utilizing renewable solar energy via Solar Water Heating PV panels for lighting in the common areas: Lobbies, Staircases, Circulation Spaces, Fire Exits etc.
In this context, the architects have used a few elements of Innovative technology. These elements may be considered the norm in more developed countries, but as of yet haven’t seen any widespread use in Kenya. Currently, steel structure construction is mainly limited to warehousing and industrial projects where long uninterrupted spans are required, and the need for short erection times are paramount. The Elegance will be one of the first projects done in Nairobi to adopt a steel structural system for a building more than 10 storeys in height.
AAK Awards of Excellence in Architecture 2016 in the category of Best Concept/Ongoing Project. Furthermore, Aleem Manji Architects was also named as a recipient of two Africa & Arabia Property Awards 2017-2018, and will be honoured at the Africa & Arabia Property Awards in Dubai in September 2017. They will be recognised in the Commercial High-rise Architecture category for The Elegance, and the Residential High-rise Architecture category for another project, Rumaisa. Source and images, Courtesy of Aleem Manji Architects.
Article by Marco Rinaldi