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Architect decries influx of foreigners in local industry

By Christopher Owuor
Friday, April 17th, 2020
Wilson Mugambi, Director, Insignia Dezyns and Vice President, Architectural Association of Kenya.
In summary

Who is an architect and why should one have one when building or renovating?

An architect is a professional who designs buildings and oversees their implementation. He or she is normally the lead consultant in a building project. 

An architect is the only professional with the proper skill set to undertake a new building design or renovation.

Undertaking a project without consulting an architect is a recipe for disaster.

Most Kenyans use architects to design their buildings only. What is the need of an architect during construction? 

To start with an architect, one is able to get the best design for their respective project(s). 

Additionally, you get the necessary advice to plan and execute your project well and within the confines of the law as and assistance in obtaining development approvals since counties only accept applications from architects.

The best thing is that when the architect is present until the handing over of the project, he or she ensures that what is designed is actually what has been built.

If architects were to disappear tomorrow, who would care?

The world would suffer; It’s us who shape the outlook of cities, towns and villages. Our absence would leave the world in disarray and misery.

Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your work? 

Green building is key mainly due to the need to make the buildings efficient in use of resources and management of energy and waste.

For climate change, the impact is mild as for now, but it will become severe and because of this, house designs should change to be environment friendly. 

The challenge when designing for environmental sustainability is cost and client commitments.

What’s your take on ‘iconic buildings’?  

An iconic building is a new building design, which makes structures stand out  and not the normal designs we are used to.

This is a great trend and it serves to put Kenyan architecture on the global map. 

The way to stay relevant is to stay true to one’s design language and ideals, but also to stay in touch with what’s happening globally.

What challenges do architects face? 

Lack of emphasis on local content by the government is giving foreign firms more opportunities than locals. This can be solved by intentional regulation to give local professionals priority.

Moreover, there is poor management of development control by county governments, making applications take ages to be approved.

Nairobi and Mombasa are badly off at the moment, but Kiambu is doing well.

This can be solved via a centralised system that coordinates applications from all counties.  

On opportunities, I would say alternative building technologies need a more robust presence and acceptance. 

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