• Msafiri Mwazighe And The White Fields Of Sustainability: Swahili Cultural Centre

Location: Mombasa,  Kenya
Project Year: 2013
Photographer: Msafiri Mwazighe

Student: John Mwazighe Msafiri
Project: Swahili Cultural Centre
Thesis Attachment: The Impact of Buildings on Climate Change at the East African Coastal Cities_ The case of Carbon Emissions in the City of Mombasa.
Year: 2013
School: University of Nairobi, Architecture Department
Study Level: 6th Year

The project is a contemporary approach at modernizing the coastal region and still maintaining the tenets of Swahili architecture. This approach to maintaining the doctrines of Swahili Architecture are however not the main focus in the project as the more dominant project element has been on reacting to climate change within the Coastal region. The design has succeeded in propagating the Swahili culture and a strong showing in contemporary language.

[Description from Project Author]
The site chosen for the project is the empty grounds next to the Fort Jesus Museum. The land is owned by the National Museums of Kenya. It borders the ocean to the East, the Fort and Old town, a world heritage site to the North, Municipal offices to the West and the Butterfly Centre to the South. Due its close proximity to the fort, the designer intends to incorporate the project as an annex to Fort Jesus. The annex, a modern block and the fort an old existing structure will create palpable contrast, one that is symbolic to the contrast pictured as one examines the Old and New town parts of the city.


The project, managed by National Museums of Kenya has been catered for in spatial definition and the management in the NMK has been tasked with running among others:

A Gallery|- Museum space – an extension of the Fort exhibiting Mombasa urbanization and the evolution of the Swahili culture. It will contain specialized spaces – virtual simulator spaces that exhibit digital media in real time or even move through time with a click of a button.
· A Swahili Cultural library.
· Workshops supporting emerging creativity- workspaces and creative vocation for young creators in various areas.
· Exhibition and Performance areas
· An early children Learning Centre.
· A Day Centre for the aged and offices for social services
· Integrated Butterfly Centre, revitalizing the existing one on site
· Food Court - Open air cafeteria and bistro serving local Swahili cuisine.
· Landscaped Gardens
· Multi-Use Rooms.

Resilient Building Design Principles
Msafiri best describes his agenda for the project with a call to a more resilient architecture, one that effectively meets the conditions and realities of a Post Carbon, Climate-Changed world (susceptible to unpredictable natural disasters) will require a close knit paradigm shift in our current understanding of what constitutes good building design and sound building practice .


The various quotes that have been employed in the endeavor to make the project a successful one will be:
 1. Use low carbon-input materials and systems:
“…The Cultural Centre makes use of appropriate building materials and techniques. The masonry wall made of coral rock a locally available stone even obtained on site and wood, Mvule wood which are indigenous tree species that withstands the hot coastal climatic conditions…”

2. Design and plan buildings for low external energy inputs for ongoing building operations:
“…Massive coral walls, huge east ward wooden windows to capture maximum air, malqaf systems for extraction…part of the design strategy.”

3. Design buildings for maximum day-lighting:
” Swahili window ratios of H:W; 2:1 have been adopted throughout the design this enables deep light penetration into space reducing light loads, the narrow floor plates, courts enhance this property..”

4. Design “generic buildings” for future flexibility of use:
Form should not “follow function” but instead follow many future functions.

The relative success of the building complex is one that cannot be ignored especially with the incorporation of the buildings that were available on site before the design process even began and the fact that the building was in a zone where the conservation of culture is strongest. The ability of the building complex to adopt a modern approach but still maintain the wishes of its environment are the darlings of this project to the beholder.

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