A Kenyan House:
A typical Kenyan house is laid on a grid network, where every wall falls on a grid center-line, with reinforced columns at the corners, and beams, if there exists a suspended slab, and a hipped roof, or a dutch-gable roof and sometime a group or combination of roofs. Sometimes imperfections and unpleasant sights occur, like just above the overlapping gable roofs with very small unnoticeable gaps that may not have adequate flashing along the edges. And this is replicated all over the landscape and people seem to be cool with it. “I have a house after all.”
However, a critical mind may decide to call it an encroachment of inconsistency on the Kenyan landscape, or an invasion of irrationality, a cess-poll that needs to be swiftly sanitized by architecture. This is building and construction.
What is architecture then?
Architecture is not the same as building and construction. Why?
The modern architectural pioneer architect Le Corbusier said, “You employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces. That is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say: “This is beautiful.” That is Architecture. Art enters in.”
Architecture, therefore, is supposed to be beautiful, to inspire, and if it is perceived as not being attractive, then it either has to confuse, or have a purpose or meaning. For example, the World War II Memorial, in Washington DC, may not be beautiful, but it is purposeful. The Farnsworth House, in Illinois, Chicago may not be as functional as desired, but it is attractive. That is architecture. Yes, architecture has to be good and good architecture has to be able to marry both form and function in one appealing unison. Otherwise, it’s just building and construction. In Kenya, what we see, what we have, in most cases, is not a work of architecture, but an activity called building and construction.
Architecture Vs Building and Construction
If you see architecture, you will definitely notice it, architecture is usually noticeable; it is an expression. The moment you see it, your heart will skip a beat, and your lips will utter, “There it is, architecture, I have seen it, finally I have seen architecture.”
Architecture cannot be bad. Architecture is just good and beautiful and there is no other way about it. That is non-negotiable.
On the contrary, bad building and construction is terrible, you look at it and you get scared, you feel like vomiting and sometimes you could. A case in point is the Huruma Tragedy that happened last year (2016). To that end, it is important to note that development that is not beautiful is useless and maybe worthless.
You probably have seen people build houses, spent so much money in them, sometimes unfinished and they have tried to sell them to others. The results has been dead sales; properties that remain in the market for decades and sometimes centuries, structures that are not appealing, too expensive that cannot seduce any reasonable person to risk the comfort of his/her family and peace of mind under such an edifice. That is the difference between architecture and building and construction.
Therefore, I take up the challenge to inspire the young generation to love and appreciate architecture.