South African-based practice Boogertman + Partners has recently won a competition to design a new education centre for the Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust in Kenya's Karura Forest Reserve. The centre, situated on around fifteen acres of a former sports club, will be surrounded by the closed-canopy forest close to the Kenya Teachers Training College, the International Center for Research in Agro-forestry and the United Nations Environment Programme Headquarters.
Located in the northern part of Nairobi County, bordering the Muthaiga, Gigiri and Runda residential areas, the centre will seek to educate people on the many species of plants, birds, insects and mammals to be found within Karura's diverse landscape.
The forest, described by the architects as "a 'green lung' for the polluted city" of Nairobi, is also a "water catchment area for several rivers and has a unique recreational and educational potential for Nairobi dwellers to enjoy, understand and stay in touch with their natural heritage." The forest itself contains a 20 meter waterfall, Mau-Mau caves, wetlands, a lily-strewn lake and over fifty kilometers of trails for bird walks or jogging.
The vision for the site is for "a world-class transformational education centre focusing on environmental sustainability in the region, with an emphasis on the youth." Attempting to "change attitudes towards the management and the conservation of the environment, in particular forests, and the sustainable use of natural resources through education programming," the centre will aim to "sensitize and educate people on current and emerging national and global environmental issues." Alongside educating people through training and providing a forum for educational exchange, the trust also hopes to "showcase sustainable livelihoods, green economy, green energy sources, green lifestyles."
Boogertman's design incorporates a strict engagement with a sustainable use of natural resources, limiting "the development as far as is reasonable within the currently built-up area and prevent encroaching onto surrounding natural habitats." Their design aims to make the centre as self sufficient as possible in the use of natural resources, such as water, and energy. Their plans also feature:
- a foyer that also is a space for a permanent exhibition on Karura Forest to inform people on the history and the value of Karura Forest as well as on the history of the Shell Sports Club
- temporary exhibitions area on corridors or verandah and such spaces that can have interactive screens with individual controls and headsets
- an "e-library" to exhibit and make available the most recent publications from the main environmental and forestry stakeholders in the region and around the world
- an auditorium capable of accommodating around 200 persons to provide a main venue for topical presentations and debates
- small conference rooms for a maximum of 20 people each to host meetings and seminars
- cafeteria and eco-gift shop
Alongside the building, plans for landscaping include an outdoor amphitheatre for "discussions, presentations and discourses amidst the lush greenery, birdsong and fresh air of the forest."
CompetitionKarura Forest Environmental Education Trust
Project NameKarura Forest Environmental Education Centre (KFEEC)
PhotographsCourtesy of Boogertman + Partners