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Nairobi News : November 20th 2013
homes KNOW YOUR COUNTY What do you hear the buildings whispering? Lesson well taught. When Lydia Muthuma attended a workshop on architecture, she expected to be bogged down by boring figures and calculations. To her surprise, it was all about talking buildings ing that buildings whisper. He meant it literally; they whisper messages. I was stunned. What an extraordinary thought. And coming from ‘scientific’ people too. I didn’t know academic gatherings could T take such an interesting view on life: buildings with a capacity for speech. Whispering buildings. I had expected a boring academic discourse; quoting ancient books, reformulating obscure mathematical theories or making fantastic future projections into Nairobi Metropolitan financial economics — something dull and complicated. Instead, the professor was requesting that we cup our ears to listen to the buildings. Imagine listening to a building; listening to an assemblage of brick, stone and mortar. Just how unpre-dictable can academics get. Speech vs mute The speaker was now showing a picture of two buildings: the Gandhi Memorial Library (now university bookstore) and the Education Building. Both face the University of Nairobi’s Great Court. They actually stand side by side and are equally accessible to crowds during graduation. And here ends their similarity. When people choose a background for their graduation photographs, they inevitably choose the Gandhi Memorial Library, never the Education Building. “Why should this be?” the professor asked. “Surely, they are at the same distance from the crowds,” he feigns perplexity. “There can only be one conclusion: one building has something to whisper while the other is dumb.” “Crowds of graduands go toward the whispering building; they keep their distance from the dumb one.” The speaker delved into the minutiae of signs, symbols and signification. Whispering buildings By this time matters had reverted to academics so that was the last we heard of whispering buildings, but it got me thinking. That it was possible that mere brick and stone can be a language; that it can be construed to have a meaning; that this can range from the iconic, to the indice and symbolic levels was new to me. It formed the launch pad for the professor’s important question: what do Nairobi’s buildings whisper? What message, what meaning, is embedded in them? What do they say, that is if they say anything at all — because dumb buildings also exist. iconic buildings •Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy •St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow •The White House, Washington •Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur •Colosseum, Rome •Taj Mahal, India •Sydney Opera House, Australia •Hagia Sophia, Istanbul •Buckingham Palace, London •Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao •Flatiron building, Chicago •Eiffel Tower, France •Burj Al Arab, Dubai Do we really build with a message in mind? It is interesting how young cities tend to all look alike. Soon, Nairobi, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Kigali will look pretty much the same. They all sport tall glass-clad buildings of a similar style. An architect will often design according to his client’s wishes. So do all clients suddenly want vertical glass boxes dotting the cities? And what do these glass boxes whisper that cannot be said in the singular, once and for all? Seemingly this message must be replicated in building after building, from Mombasa, to Nairobi and then into Kampala all the way through to Kigali. What we need to figure out is: are glass boxes repetitive whisperers or are they simply dumb? An aerial view of Nairobi city which has changed from the colonial period. File, NairobiNews he other day, I walked into a workshop. There I found a group of academics, one of whom, a famous Kenyan, was claim- Wednesday, November 20, 2013 nairobinews.co.ke 21 Allan Olingo Know your hood ESTATE THAT IS LOVED BY THE WORKERS Convenience. Pangani estate is a favourite of the city’s working class. It is just a five-minute drive to the central business district and is served by a 24hour public transport system through the ultra-modern Thika Super Highway. The area’s infrastructure namely, roads, electricity and water are well developed with planned gated apartments that are an attraction to city residents. Pangani estate is famed for having the tallest residential apartments in the city, such as the 12-storey Metro Fairview developed by Erdermann Properties. It is sandwiched between two of the busiest roads in Nairobi; Juja and Thika roads. The area is a business centre in its own right. This estate has undergone major changes as most of its original Indian/Asian inhabitants have moved out to the more upmarket Kileleshwa, Westlands or Parklands areas and a new wave of Indian immigrants from the Coast and middle income Kenyans have moved in. Rent ranges between Sh20,000 for a one bedroom house, Sh27,000 for a two bedroom house and Sh35,000 for a three bedroom house.
November 18th 2013
November 22nd 2013