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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Beglin Woods Architects: From the ground up

Since its inception in 1992 in a small office in Nairobi, Beglin Woods Architects has grown in leaps and bounds to become a major architectural firm in Kenya.

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Beglin Woods Architects started in a basement flat on  Riverside Drive in 1992 having previously worked in various offices in Kenya, so we are actually celebrating over 40 years of practice as architects in Kenya.

The celebration is shared with our families, friends and colleagues who have patiently and supportively watched our progress. We look back in time, and into the future with equal interest.

There have been massive changes in work methodology and systems, since the time we started. We recall the days that no office could afford a photocopier or printer and all originals went out in the afternoon and prints returned the next day.

All letters were typed in triplicate with carbon paper and mistakes corrected in white-out.

Computers were unheard of in offices; drawings were made in pencil or ink on tracing paper and lettered by stencil. Consultant’s drawings were all received in hard copy and laboriously checked by hand and returned for editing.

Major projects were given one water colour illustration by an artist. That was often the first time we saw in 3 dimensions what our building looked like.

We did our own sketches and made our own models, but we still produced dozens of well thought out, innovative and complex buildings in a year.

Key Projects

Each project has its own special qualities. As time goes by we have built a large portfolio of several hundred buildings. Some projects focus on sustainability, others on service to community and clients.

All the projects however big or small are designed on strict budgets, and follow strict design and construction programs.

Each decade has its own favourites. We greatly enjoyed the Safari Lodges in 1980s, the offices and industrial jobs in the 1990s and the housing and offices since then.

The United Nations of Nairobi (UNON) and Eaton place in Gigiri, the Watermark Office Park, are examples of award-winning examples of well scaled sustainable work, that offers users an enjoyable, comfortable, working environment.

The Sankara Hotel in Westlands and the Hemingways in Watamu offer refined and enjoyable hospitality facilities at the top of the market.

The apartment complexes such as the AAK award-winning Nova and Capital M apartments contribute to an enjoyable urban lifestyle. Individual houses and villas take this a little further.

Vision and Focus

We enjoy the lifestyle that emanates from producing economical and well-crafted design work. As technology develops so do building components and services.

The world is now a market place and anything can be bought from anywhere. This allows buildings to be more and more sophisticated and economic.

The expansion of the world marketplace now makes our project management service much more relevant. We are now more involved in sourcing, procuring and installing components from many sources.

It means we can bring things into a building that were not possible a few years ago. The building process is becoming more of a sourcing and purchasing one, especially with windows, finishes, doors, fittings, furniture and fabrics all being obtained from various sources.


Most of the well-established manufacturers have agents in Kenya. The coordination of so many imported items is a new skill that all designers need to have now in Kenya.

Many firms in other countries have long ago developed these skills and work efficiently on a global scale. This is now the way forward in Kenya.

The Future

Now we look forward into a future that creates buildings with no distinction between walls and roofs, where nothing inhibits the imagination of the designer, and where the entire world is the marketplace. A chair from France now sits on a rug from Bali, in a Hotel room in USA, with a lock from Sweden and an air conditioner from Israel.

Architects have always worked Internationally. Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew worked with Le Corbusier from 1947 on the new City of Chandigarh in India.

Now the big offices have branches in 10–15 different countries, and building components come from all over the International standards are now being developed to ensure compatibility with building components and materials so that almost everything fits together.

Large-scale manufacturers of building components, large contractors and architectural firms are already coming to Kenya and will combine to produce buildings of the same scale as those in Singapore, China, the Middle East and United States.

Computers continue their exciting and relentless pursuit of faster, smarter and more sophisticated ways of producing information, and of integrating the work of many consultants at the same time.

Today a technician in Sweden can work on the same drawing as an architect in Sydney, and the design can be sent to Vietnam for an illustration and to China for a model.

Project management is becoming stricter, and monitoring of deadlines and deliverables is becoming more vigilant, frequently involving penalties.

The Cities and Towns around Nairobi are joining in the race for development. Soon Kisumu, Mombasa, Nyeri, Nanyuki and Isiolo will have projects as large and expansive as Nairobi.

We are fortunate that the Kenya climate does not require buildings that need heating, cooling, insulation, air conditioning or complex mechanical services. We do however have year-round sun and we encourage using solar power for as much of the energy as we can.

“Beglin Woods Architects  opened for business in1992. David Beglin and Simon Woods had practiced separately for over 15 years in Kenya before that.”

We are greatly concerned that infrastructure in Kenya is not keeping pace with development.. Consequently, both existing and new developments are overloading the existing services which create power cuts, poor water supply, and dangerous sewage problems.

More laws need to be implemented to use more solar and water recycling systems, and to use less power and water. Developments must also endeavour to reduce traffic flow and air pollution.

We look forward to the increased introduction of electric cars on our roads, and the improvement of public transit systems.

There are exciting times ahead for tomorrows innovative designers who care about our delicate environment.

Sustainability Sustainability is now a major issue, and legislation needs to assume more responsibility.

The industry is increasingly using  sustainable, recyclable, and synthetic wood products. It’s hard to find an excuse for destroying the earth’s forests at the expense of the world’s overall health. We must all ensure that sustainable technology aides the planets survival rather than its destruction.

The Present Work Environment  As a Practice, we have lived through these vast technological changes over the last 25 years, and we have had to evolve and develop our skills accordingly.

Emails are now expected to be answered instantly, when years ago it was accepted it would take several days to expect an answer from a letter.

The range of building products continues to grow at an exponential rate, and information on anything is available instantly on the Internet, without having to go to a library.

Clients now rarely proceed with a project unless they see several optional photo-realistic renders of their project, and need to see fully worked out financial returns on their investments, together with an array of priced options for services, materials and finishes.

Looking Forward

We hope that the architects of the next generation will continue to innovative in exciting ways, and will continue contributing to making the world a better place for those who love being in it, and that the present issues of security and international conflict are temporary and will soon be gone.

We look forward to many more creative years to come, and must thank our clients, our staff, and our contractors and suppliers, for helping us make our dreams come true over the last 25 years. “There is much to celebrate!”

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