Rumaisa, in Nairobi, Kenya, when complete in 2019 will consist of 66 three and four bedroom duplex apartments, intended as not just a housing solution, but as a lifestyle solution as well. The project, described as ‘the epitome of modern living’, incorporates ample lifestyle enhancements, such swimming pools, children’s play areas, a fully equipped gym (including steam rooms and Jacuzzis) as well as an indoor entertainment area.
The architects of the project, Nairobi-based Aleem Manji Architects, won the Residential High-rise Architecture award and the top honour, a 5 Star Award for Rumaisa at the prestigious Africa & Arabia Awards as part of the International Property Awards in September 2017.
The project, which is currently under construction having reached level six, was designed for a client who wanted an apartment scheme on one and half acres in the neighbourhood of Riverside in Nairobi, and it is one of the fundamental design principles of the final design which immediately catches the eye: the use of an open interior courtyard space. “The courtyard helped us to create a cooler interior environment central to the overall scheme which will create a through flow of cross ventilation within the apartments into the courtyard, in addition to maintaining a green centre, complete with landscaped water features as well as trees and shrubs,” explains Aleem Manji.
Also of note is the iconic rooftop structure which ties together the individual blocks of the scheme. This structure features a host of additional facilities for residents, including three swimming pools, an entertainment area, a gym and a children’s playground, while ensuring incredible views of the surrounding suburbs.
The site, in an area which is primarily associated with mid to upper income dwellings and offices, is bordered by the Nairobi River towards the North, requiring a riparian zone. The Riverside neighbourhood has recently undergone a rezoning exercise which allowed multiple residential units and high rise commercial units. As a result there has been a proliferation of high rise building in the area over the last five years, and the typologies of structures in the area tend to vary fairly drastically, ranging from single family units to low level commercial developments (2-3 storeys at most). “As would be expected, the area is still looking to develop its own character,” notes Manji. “Various distinct design languages have been implemented within a kilometre radius of the site, leading to a vibrancy of design languages, but unfortunately without what would be described as a distinct vernacular style. The absence of any distinct vernacular language allowed for the design of Rumaisa to adopt a language of its own, which tended towards a more modern design, in line with majority of the newer apartment developments in the vicinity.”
The apartments are set into nine separate towers which are organised around the central atrium, and are connected at the rooftop level by the rooftop. The orientation of the apartments themselves was principally directed towards the central atrium, such that the major spaces within the apartment face towards the central atrium. Exceptions to this are the apartments that front the river, which are oriented to the river to maximise on the views. Each block is separated from the next by a minimum spacing of 6m, which serves as a noise buffer as well as an avenue to permit cross ventilation within the entire scheme.
The central atrium serves a number of functions, including thermal control and as a social space. The creation of a central, well shaded area will create a temperature difference between the external space and the atrium space, thereby making it conducive for cross ventilation to be prevalent, as well as ventilation from within the apartments, thereby reducing the need for artificial cooling. The atrium will also be landscaped with both hard and soft landscaping as well as a water feature that starts off as a waterfall from the reception area, and traverses the entire courtyard space as shallow pools of running water. Furthermore, space will be accommodated for within the atrium to allow for social gatherings as well as a provision of smaller pockets for secluded contemplation.
The rooftop connects all the disparate apartment towers, thus creating a connection point, not just for ease of movement, but additionally in case of fire. It will house three swimming pools (one of which will be heated), a curved sun deck, a pool bar, an entertainment area which also doubles up as an indoor games room, rooftop gardens, a fully equipped gym, four Jacuzzis (of which two are open to the sky), changing and showering facilities, a secure kid’s playing area, bonfire seating space as well as landscaped seating areas for small groups. The rooftop also provides an ideal location for the placement of solar panels for the heating of water for use in the individual apartments, while the rooftop gardens and swimming pool will prevent excessive slab heat gain from the sun’s rays onto the rooftop.
“The apartments themselves were designed as duplexes from the outset, differentiating between Primary Spaces (those that had a high requirement for views and lighting as well as a bigger allocation of space) vs. the Secondary/Service spaces. The lounge and bedrooms fall into the former, while the bathrooms, dining and kitchen fall into the secondary spaces. This allowed us to place the primary spaces to the fore, and by using relationship diagrams, begin to formulate the layout of the spaces,” says Manji.
The eventual design focussed on the double height lounge as the anchor space, flooded with light via floor to ceiling windows, which the architects envisioned as permeating the secondary spaces. The space also allows interpenetration of the two levels from the family room, which overlooks the lounge, thus unifying the duplex floors as opposed to separating them. Additionally, the open plan kitchen space allows for a further linkage, creating a flowing lower floor plan with an airy and open feeling.
The language of design for Rumaisa was intended to be modern, with clean bold lines and large swathes of glass. The effect is subtle on first look, but intricate upon deeper analysis. To achieve this cementitious plaster finished with textured render is the predominant finish in the project. The use of the textured render on the plaster varies; the two tones used are Charcoal Grey and Soft White, both with slightly different textures, with the White being the smoother finish to enhance the contrast created by the different colours.
The structural design allowed for shear wall elements in the project, which Aleem Manji Architects opted to expose to the exoskeleton and opted for a fair-face concrete finish on these elements, thereby creating a subtle contrast with the textured render finish, as well as allowing for bold, clean lines into the exterior facade. Stone chip cladding will principally be used in areas where they felt the need to highlight or accentuate certain elements, such as in the rooftop design as well as the interior of the apartments. Glass railings serve two purposes, the first of which is for safety, and the second is to reduce the amount of distractive lines on the elevation. The glass railings also have the added benefit of not blocking the views from within the apartments.
Reduction of energy consumption
Nairobi’s temperature through the year is fairly moderate, although there is a slightly high diurnal range, especially during the summer season. Within the apartments themselves, the architects have maintained channels for through flow of cross ventilation via strategic placement of windows on the envelope of the apartments, and additionally by opting for an open plan kitchen and double volume lounge. The spacing between the apartment towers further allows air flow through the entire development. They have also incorporated sun shading elements to prevent direct absorption of sunlight into the windows through selective placement of overhangs and extended lintels.
In order to reduce the energy requirements for lighting, they strategically placed large windows to ensure that the use of artificial lighting during the day is minimised. The placement of these is also strategic in terms of minimising direct solar incidence. All apartments, as well as common spaces and facilities, will come with LED light fittings as standard, thereby reducing up to 75% of the energy requirement of artificial lighting, while in order to reduce the energy consumption for water heating, all duplexes will be fitted with individual Solar Water Heaters, the panels of which will be mounted on the rooftop. Additionally, the heated swimming pool on the rooftop will also be heated through solar energy.
Safety and security
In terms of enhancing the security of the building users, video intercoms will be installed in all the duplexes, with camera feeds from the gate house and reception, thus ensuring that all visitors to the duplexes will have to be verified at two points prior to accessing Rumaisa. Additionally, there will be a further camera located at the door of the duplex, so the duplex resident will be able to communicate with the visitor prior to allowing access into the duplex. Access into the apartments will be via magnetic locks with fingerprint and facial recognition technology.
All common areas, including basements, roof and corridors, will have 24-hour CCTV coverage, monitored in the control room and recorded onto DVR. Elsewhere, they have opted for glass railings in the balconies (laminated safety glass) as opposed to metal railings, both for the aesthetic value but also to prevent young children from climbing over them. Additionally, a railing height from FFL of 1200mm has been specified as opposed to the standard 900mm. The infinity edge of the swimming pool is designed to have a buffer area between the infinity edge and the lower edge of the outer wall (this buffer will also serve as the overflow drain for the pool). “Additionally, we will also put up a glass railing on top of the infinity edge to further enhance the safety without compromising the view,” says Manji.
The show apartment for Rumaisa will be completed by the end of the year, yet judging by the interest shown so far in the project from homeowners, as well as the architectural fraternity, Aleem Manj Architect’s vison for Rumaisa to become an iconic apartment block in Nairobi is well on track to coming to fruition.
Client: Globe Developers Ltd
Project Managers: Villapoint Company Ltd
Architect: Aleem Manji Architects
Quantity Surveyor: Tower Cost Consultants Ltd
Structural Engineer: Abba & Wandu Engineers
Services Engineers: Aruna Patel & Associates
Interiors Designer: Studio Aurora
Landscape Architects: Urban Green