Squire and Partners has managed to break the 'compound culture' with its new centre for the British Council in Kenya, despite the increased threat of terrorist attacks on British citizens abroad.
Government buildings overseas are typically enclosed within a high wall, divorcing them from the streetscape and the wider culture of the city. But Squire and Partners'scheme in Nairobi aims for inclusivity, rather than exclusivity.
The main challenge was to balance the British Council's desire for transparency for its new education and cultural centre with the need for rigorous security. The scheme relies on sophisticated technologies to counter the threat of bombing. These are sensitively worked into the design, so the centre looks inviting, with clear sightlines from street level into the building.There will also be a high level of transparency between the back and front of house.
In addition to teaching facilities, an information centre and a cafe, the centre will also house offices for the British Council's entire East African operation, whose mission is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and information.
The design exploits the natural fall of the site, towards the city centre, to give views towards the north of the city from a dramatic double-height library space.
The scheme also combines simple construction methods and traditional materials - local terrazzo and Nairobi Blue Stone, rendered concrete and plastered walls - with a natural ventilation system. A large overhanging roof provides shading, and a screening wall of plants helps filter light into the interior.