STUDIO FOR AN ARTIST, NAIROBI, KENYA
Studio design. Fabrication of doors, windows and cabinetry. Completed March 2020.

Outgrowing her current studio, our client required a new space that was robust and adaptable enough so that, as the arc of her career progresses, the studio can change too eventually becoming a gallery space. Nestled amongst acacia trees on the outskirts of Nairobi, the 500m² studio is built on columns lifting it off a swampy site which floods in the rainy season. The building’s long double-height volume is articulated by a series of north facing saw-tooth roofs that bring a diffused warming light deep into the plan during the cold season, as well as letting in indirect light during our hot summers. At the heart of the building where one enters, a mezzanine office sits above a generous storage space and sink area. This core is flanked by the double bay painting studio and smaller sculpture space which opens onto its own large, semi-covered, deck area for bigger sculptures and wet processes. We do not have access to locally grown, sustainable timber, sheet material, basic ‘off-the-shelf’ systems to specify or to skilled dry trade fitters. We were looking for a very robust form of construction that would not only be forgiving to build, but favours sourcing locally over importing. We opted for a pared down pallet of materials. Pre-cast concrete waffles were left raw; masonry was rendered with a rough wood float finish to match the intense golden colour of the acacia trees; highly polished in-situ cast terrazzo floors promote a dying craft and exemplifies what can be sourced and built locally. Added to this are our own precision made doors and windows using steel frames and recycled wood from an old wooden ship. As designer-makers we approach our projects as a complete work - a gesamtkunstwerk and use our own wood and metal workshop to this end. Apart from the design package we also fabricated concrete formwork and joinery, door hinges, ironmongery and even grew plants for landscaping.

 

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