The Vice President for Citibank Real Estate presented a simple yet exacting brief: “A box with no columns” with an “International but also Kenyan” appearance.
As Architects, our main design challenges were:
Citibank had already committed themselves to the site on Nairobi Hill for their new offices, in advance of selecting architects. This in itself presented several challenges which included: poor water, sewer, power, and road services on Nairobi Hill, steep topography composed entirely of black trap rock, a very hard rock, difficult to quarry; and major road access compromises arising from security precautions from the adjacent British High Commission (under construction at the time).
Reducing the accommodation to meet the strict budget.
Persuading Citibank Head Office in the USA that a fully air-conditioned building was not necessary.
Minimizing excavation of rock and reusing the resulting rubble for landscaping, to reduce cartaway costs.
Keeping columns to a minimum.
Exploiting the excellent view over the city.
Providing high levels of security while maintaining a “warm and welcoming appearance”.
The atrium concept emerged with deep balcony workspaces looking into the naturally lit atrium and through the massive east-facing picture window overlooking the city. Columns were kept to a minimum by the 11-meter-spanning beams.
A roof grid provides natural light into the Atrium while minimizing heat from the sun. The hand-worked aluminium entrance doors (hand-beaten by Samburu women) and large bas-relief sculptured panels provide the “Kenya” element. At the handing-over ceremony, Mr. Hands, Citibank’s Vice President for Real Estate stated, “You have not given me a box with no columns. You have given me a beautiful box with no columns.”