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British High Commission,
Kampala (Uganda)

in 'Atlas: Architectures of the 21st Century - Africa and Middle East'

Luis Fernández Galiano (Ed.)

Fundación BBVA, 2011

'The project had a double mission: to address a complex administrative program and to achieve a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional techniques and materials, all with the help of local labor.'

'The complex is organized in accordance with two set models: the traditional system of pavilions and the usual organization of spaces around courtyards. In this case the courts have been a particularly useful device, serving not only to define the circulations between areas but also to create a pleasant year-round microclimate deep within the grounds, achieved through plant evapotranspiration and natural air currents .'

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Other articles about this project:

'Accommodating embassy offices with a consular/visa section and subject to strict security parameters, the challenge of this 3,800-square-meter concrete-framed building was to create an open, flexible construction that addressed an at once comprehensive and proscriptive program, all in a way that was as much as possible responsive to local conditions.

'The road into Kampala from Entebbe airport is lined with small-scale brickworks and the typical vernacular buildings are of rough homemade bricks with mud pointing and simple metal roofs. This project chose to work with such local materials and techniques at hand and adapt them to the requirements of a 21st-century office, striking a contrast with majority of the city's more recent public-type constructions, which are characterized by a proliferation of blue-tinted mirror glass from Dubai.

'The High Commission uses a variety of brick and terracotta elements specially designed and prepared in the nearby brickworks, where, because they were fired with coffee husks, manufacture had to be timed to coincide with the coffee harvest. A range of window frames and louvres along with different profiles and sizes of bricks and tiles were made, including the decorative ribs used in the courtyard. For the roof, custom-made clay tiles were laid over a standard profiled metal structure. Also locally sourced was timber, for the extracting of which much legal caution was taken, minimizing negative impact on the environment. This involved careful identification and labelling of trees, low intensity harvesting and small-scale mobile milling. As for details, local hides were used for the leather-wrapped handrails.

'The building is naturally ventilated and has low energy needs, with gardens creating a cool microclimate and windows heavily shaded to mitigate heat gains. The complex is designed to provide a friendly and enjoyable workplace that allows relaxed engagement with climate and context. There are good views out and areas of the building are open to nature and the elements.'

Project Team:

  • Client
    British Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Architects
    Kilburn Nightingale Architects
  • Consultants
    FBW (local architects and structural engineers); Price and Myers (structural engineers); Ryb:Konsult, Multikonsult (environmental engineers); Melanie Richards (landscape)
  • Contractor
    Cementers
  • Photos
    Adrian Hobbs, Richard Nightingale