Aleem Manjis Architects continues to take on ambitious developments in Kenya, remaining steadfast to its belief that every design must be backed by equally attentive service
Great Design Meets Great Service
“I wish I could say that I have always been interested in architecture, and along with it share some anecdote of the precise moment when I knew it was the profession for me.
“Unfortunately, as opposed to me choosing architecture, I feel that in some way architecture chose me. As of the time when I had started my undergraduate degree, I can honestly say I still wasn’t aware of what architecture really was.
“As a matter of fact, I seem to recall that that was the question I had posed in a full auditorium to the dean of the college, as he delivered his welcome speech to the first-year students. I’m not entirely sure if such a question had been posed before at a welcome speech, nor am I certain that it has not been posed since. Regardless, it served to highlight how truly unprepared I was for the tasks that lay ahead.”
Some things, it seems, are just supposed to happen.
Aleem Manji, orator of these opening words, talks honestly about his somewhat haphazard entry into the architecture profession, recalling his initial struggles to grasp the subject matter.
Now Owner of highly successful Kenyan practice Aleem Manji Architects (AMA-Kenya), he looks back with fondness and realises, back then at least, that the ends were more important than the means to achieving them.
“Slowly comprehension came,” Aleem continues, “and with it a fairly profound realisation – it may not have been by design, if you’ll excuse the pun, but the end result was the right one. Architecture and I were meant to be.
“Having worked as a graduate architect for a few years, I decided in 2010 to work towards opening my own firm, or as I put it to myself then, allow myself to make my own mistakes.
“The learning curve was pretty steep, but extremely rewarding. I had the opportunity to mould the built environment to a small degree into spaces that I felt were closer to my understanding and appreciation of the concept of architecture. I have never looked back!”
Great design, great service
Aleem’s approach to the means and ends dynamic could not be more different now he runs his own business.
Indeed, AMA-Kenya is built on a simple, unwavering principle: that great design must be accompanied by great service. This is upheld on all projects, the company able to offer design and supervision services for all architectural requirements, with a particular focus on the residential subsector.
Central to this service proposition is a work ethic instilled at every level of the organisation, Aleem explaining how crucial training and development is to ensuring a consistent experience for each and every client.
AMA-Kenya works with a number of interns, many of whom are offered employment opportunities. “Once they commence working with us, we gradually increase their responsibility levels as they progress to allow them to develop further and further into project architects,” the Owner adds.
“Throughout, there is a level of supervision given that allows them to make sound decisions, and at the same time maintain our firm’s level of service delivery.”
The abundance of young architectural talent to be found in Kenya is one of the major reasons Aleem continues to be excited about the wider industry backdrop in the country.
Although demand may have dipped slightly over the past couple of years, he highlights how today’s Kenyan architecture comprises an exciting mix of solid reputable firms who have been in the field for decades, and younger up and coming firms and architects looking to make their mark on the built environment.
“The synergy of energies and points of view make for a fantastic offering in terms of the variety and approaches to architecture as a whole, one that I feel further enriches the already rich tapestry of Kenyan, and by extension, African architecture,” Aleem says.
AMA-Kenya is certainly adding its flair to such a tapestry.
In the Riverside area of Nairobi, for example, it is working with Globe Developers on the Rumasia development of high-end duplex apartments.
The project involves nine towers which are connected at roof level by a specially designed terrace and common meeting area, the hallmark of what Aleem says has been a challenging, ambitious, and extremely rewarding undertaking.
“The challenges in building a structure like this, 19 storeys above ground with spans separating the towers of, at some point, eight to 10 metres, was challenging enough,” he explains. “But then to opt to have the roof structure house an infinity edged pool in the shape of a horseshoe almost 150 metres long took it to a whole new level of complexity.”
Rumasia is one of a number of residential developments in the AMA-Kenya portfolio of the past decade.
Aleem points to two other standout projects in this field, the first being the Crystal Edge apartments, also in the Kenyan capital and in collaboration with Globe.
It is notable because it represents one of the first duplex-only schemes in Nairobi and also proved two AMA design concepts which were experimental at the time – the fractured façade and the use of individual towers connected by roof elements, as seen with Rumasia.
In the same part of the city (Westlands) is Solitaire, AMA-Kenya’s most recently completed duplex scheme.
“The plot itself had a diamond shape, almost completely symmetrical,” Aleem describes. “We opted to use an almost triangular layout for the individual blocks, similar to the formation of birds in flight, to take full advantage of the stunning forest views available towards the front of the development.”
While many of the aforementioned projects have the connecting roof bridge element in common, what links all AMA-Kenya projects are the close-knit relationships with contractors such as Laxmanbhai and developers like Globe.
“As a whole, we prefer to work with consultants who we have a shared value base with,” Aleem continues. “We’ve built up relationships over time and, as a result, have the ability to work with other consultants who we share an accord with, both in terms of their work ethic as well as their deliverables.
“These relationships are important to us, as we can then move forward quickly and efficiently, safe in the knowledge that the consultant partners we chose to work with will be able to match or exceed our requirements.”
This peace of mind is crucial for both AMA-Kenya and its clients, especially given the emphasis the company places on service operating hand in hand with quality design work.
Moving forwards, such a combination will continue to serve Aleem and his company well, the Owner concluding by outlining his objectives for the year ahead.
“We’d like to pick up a few more select projects as always, but mainly we are looking to attempt to navigate what is looking to be a rather testing financial market,” he explains. “All the while we will be maintaining our standards, standards we have continually set ourselves in terms of great design and great service.”