Book captures Kenya’s architectural journey

December 11, 2013 7:17 pm
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Architectural historical nuggets are contained in the 132 page catalogue of Nairobi’s architectural metamorphosis through the decades/XINHUA-File
Architectural historical nuggets are contained in the 132 page catalogue of Nairobi’s architectural metamorphosis through the decades/XINHUA-File
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 11 – Did you know that Lonrho House in which Capital FM is located is considered one of the most complex buildings to have been constructed in East Africa?

Well according to the authors of Nairobi: Then & Now, it is because: (it) had to be constructed over and through an existing, badly built, three floor building occupied by sitting tenants who could not be legally evicted.

“Four of Nairobi’s leading architectural practices were approached and all declined except for Planning Systems Ltd whose unique design ranks technically as the most complex development ever attempted in East Africa,” it continues to state.

And this is apparently why the parking areas are on the 3rd, 4th and 5th floor as the existing tenants, in 1989, made it impossible to construct a basement parking space.

This and more architectural historical nuggets are contained in the 132 page catalogue of Nairobi’s architectural metamorphosis through the decades.

Commissioned specifically for Kenya’s 50th anniversary of independence by the British government, the book juxtaposes images of Nairobi buildings and streets now against the black and white images of an era gone by.

“We were approached by the British High Commission (a year ago) who asked us if they could join with us in the celebration and we said why not, and I can’t think of a better opportunity than this,” author Stephen Mills told Capital FM News at the launch on Wednesday.

Mills co-authored the book with his wife Bhavna who not only managed the publishing side of things, but took the, ‘now’ photos as well.

“It was a lot more difficult than we thought because when you look at the old photographs and then you try and take them from the same position for the new photograph somebody’s built a sky-scrapper on the way,” Stephen relayed.

He however said that the greatest challenge they faced was not taking the new photographs or getting a hold of the old ones but obtaining the information to go along with the photographs.

“The biggest problem we had was when we started to write the actual text. We found very little history had been written down pre-independence…who owned what shop? Who did what? Where were they et cetera, et cetera,” Stephen recounted.

And while careful “to make no claim to this book being of any scholarly value,” the life and business partners managed to capture a fair amount of Nairobi’s past within the pages of Nairobi: Then & Now.

Retailing at Sh1,500 in all major book stores, Nairobi: Then & Now is Stephen’s fifth book having chronicled the history of Muthaiga, the Norfolk, the infamous Lunatic Line and the evolution of aviation in East Africa.

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