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British High Commission .Kampala, Uganda

in 'Architecture 08
.The Guide To The RIBA Awards'

Tony Chapman

Merrell, 2008

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Cullum and Nightingale's British High Commission project in Uganda is featured as a winner of the prestigious RIBA International Award, 2008 and as a shortlisted contender for the Lubetkin prize.

The visiting judges were Niall McLaughlin, chair of the RIBA Awards Group, and Tony Chapman, RIBA head of awards. They reported back to a full jury that included architects Sunand Prasad, RIBA president; Denise Bennetts; and Glenn Howells.

'The British High Commission building in Kampala is all about engaging with the local economy. Instead of 'arriving in a box', as embassies so often do, this one has arisen out of an exploration by architect, client and local contractors of the vernacular and the ways in which it can be adapted to the needs of sophisticated building types such as this.

'For Richard Nightingale and his team, the project was educative as much as architectural. The bricks, for example - fired in kilns fed by coffee-bean husks, which give them a pitted quality - result from meticulous research and experimentation. In a kind of benign colonialism - Nightingale himself was born in Kenya - the project has left behind sets of skills that can be applied to other new Ugandan buildings.

'Comprising a number of linked elements - embassy offices, a visa section, a clubhouse, guard house, library and exhibition area - the scheme is held together by its sunken courtyard, one of the two most successful spaces. The other is the ecclesiastical, semi-open visa hall, created by beautifully formed concrete columns that rise into a tangle of hi-tech white steel trees. The interview booths - more like confessionals - are lined with rich, warm wood, locally sourced and certified, as is all the building's timber. The High Commissioner told the judges how he was able to answer questions about just how sustainable his building is with chapter and verse as to the exact source, age and type of every last plank.

'The High Commission is a sophisticated and elegant collection of buildings, designed by a thoughtful and erudite architect. He is to be commended for dealing with a series of challenges that, in other hands, might have wrecked the project. Despite the design-and-build contract, despite the cost-cutting, despite the vociferous demands of security, the building breathes quality. It is down to the strength of the original idea and sheer persistence of the architect that the resulting scheme flies a flag not only for Britain but also for good architecture everywhere.'

Local Architect
FBW Architects and Engineers
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Landscape Architect
Melanie Richards Landscape Architect
Structural Engineers
Price & Myers; FBW Architects and Engineers
Services Engineers
RYB Konsult; Multi Konsults
Acoustic Consultant
Applied Acoustic Design
Quantity Surveyor/Project Manager
Contract Value
Date of Completion
March 2006
Gross Internal Area
3800 sq. m
Adrian Hobbs; Richard Nightingale