Symbion International continues to add value to Africa’s landscape by creating space for lifestyles to thrive
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Kane Weller
Symbion has built an incredible reputation for itself over the past 37 years, having consistently pushed itself to challenge the industry norms, the Company has proudly developed a multitude of award winning projects that span across hotel, commercial, medical, institutional and residential style developments to name a few.
African architecture has experienced a change in recent years, moving away from its sole purpose of achieving functionality and profitability; instead Symbion focuses on taking the emerging consciousness of the continent and instilling that in its projects.
“We provide architectural consultancy services across Africa and further afield,” explains Oscar Ogunde, Executive Director of Symbion Kenya. “All aspects of our work are guided by the principles within our Company of integrity, people, innovation, collaboration and excellence; we are an incredibly committed group when it comes to the development of the architecture industry as a whole, while ensuring we always celebrate the true nature of our clients.”
The Company was formed in 1980 and after beginning as a partnership,
it has since grown exponentially through taking on more directors and spreading its wings to open up working opportunities through operations in the Seychelles, Kampala and a base in Dar Es Salaam - enabling the Company’s extensive evolution.
Relevant in a competitive market
In order to keep up to date with advancements in the industry, the Company is very aware of the importance of continuously upgrading its hardware and software, ensuring that it is always at the cutting edge of technology.
Due to the continued growth of the Company and the number of branches it is now operating across, the technology used is also ever-increasingly pivotal to ensuring cohesion between all of the practices.
“We are proud to have worked with firms all over the world, including the US - specifically Chicago - and the UK,” continues Ogunde. “Subsequently it has been important to us to improve efficiency through our technology, skills and knowledge, which also keeps us very relevant in the market.”
“We have found a particularly helpful way of keeping up to date with industry changes - in both trends and technological advancements - is through attending relevant industry symposia,” adds Ogunde. “We have also been able to use it as a promotional tool, as well as a great way to interact with other industry professionals to observe architectural activities in different parts of the world.”
Symbion has become a true advocate for the employment of new graduates, offering them the opportunity for professional growth in a creative environment.
Ogunde affirms: “We strongly believe in providing opportunities for these young people, they have an incredible ability to bring forward fresh ideas, providing a constant flow of creative professionals.
“A lot of these young people do choose to join our Company straight from their universities, in part due to our prominent standing in the industry; we have had to make ourselves competitive, as of course we are not the only company operating in the local market. However, it is important to have this level of competition as it is driving on the development of the profession and we are very happy to be a part of that.”
As you would expect in a company of Symbions’ stature, there are also a lot of perks to working there which subsequently have a very positive effect on staff morale and retention.
“We ensure we support the aspirations and values of each member of the team,” describes Ogunde. “In terms of personal growth we guide our staff through projects, while also providing excellent remuneration in terms of pension schemes and personal advancement. Proudly, due to a combination of these factors, our staff turn-over is very low.”
Of course, with offices spread across the continent it is important to keep cohesion among the staff and the way in which they are trained. Therefore the offices are run by working both independently and together by sharing skill-sets and knowledge as a group of construction and architectural professionals, this enables the best possible outcome for clients at all times.
“We have been lucky enough over the years to build a portfolio of work with the best consultants across the regions we operate in,” continues Ogunde. “Together we have been able to strive towards excellence and through our creativity and professionalism, always deliver.”
Traditionally Symbion had done the majority of its work in the hospitality industry, however over time it has expanded into commercial, industrial and healthcare projects, as well as a plethora of other opportunities.
Ogunde adds: “We have worked on a medical centre of excellence with Politecnica of Italy.”
Another significant string to Symbions’ bow is the Nairobi Toyota showroom project it undertook in 2013. It was able to take a fairly simple building design and use it as an opportunity to employ sustainable building principles, ensuring that there would be a perfect amount of ventilation in the showroom without the requirement of air conditioning.
“In that respect it was a simple project, but particularly significant in terms of showing the technical aspects that Symbion can bring to projects,” explains Ogunde. “The brief we were set required the creation of a state-of-the-art building, within the challenge of a tight site while sticking to a short time frame.”
Another important project for the Company was the redevelopment of the Kampala Serena Hotel - formerly known as the Nile which resulted in the successful creation of a new hotel which is a jewel in the crown for Serena Group.
With 152 rooms and suites, it was no mean feat for Symbion, having to also ensure that the views of the bustling city and surrounding hilled areas were not interrupted by any new construction.
“We decided to work with themes of lakes, rivers, wildlife and landscapes in order to tie together the interior and exterior of the hotel,” describes Ogunde. “Employing the skilled local craftsmen, we were able to bring into play exquisite and individual creations of beaten copper fretwork, mosaic pillars and carved panels to bring to life the communal spaces we were working with.”
Areas of expertise
Over the years Symbion has worked tirelessly to best serve those that have a desire to create spaces that allow a thriving atmosphere, while consciously adding value to the African landscape; the Company has perfected a wide range of services to meet these requirements.
The Company firmly stands by the description of Architecture as the ‘art of possibilities’, adapting that and using it as a basis of its ideals, using architecture as a way to create environments that will foster human life, needs and civilisation in general.
Ogunde continues: “We particularly enjoy testing the limits of what we can achieve both technically and economically; over the years we have found that this has attracted developers to Symbion.”
With several decades of experience in an incredible array of projects - not to mention its perfectly honed world-class project management - Symbion is going from strength to strength in the industry.
“Due to the successful enterprise we run, the scale and complexity of our projects are increasing,” concludes Ogunde. “This is something that we will strive to continue on with when moving the Company forward; we believe we have the perfect in-house team to achieve this, having consistently proven their ability to achieve unparalleled success.”