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Swahili Dreams Apartments / Urko Sanchez Architects

Swahili Dreams Apartments / Urko Sanchez Architects

© Javier Callejas © Javier Callejas © Javier Callejas © Javier Callejas + 29

Lamu, Kenya
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area:  1600.0
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year:  2014
  • Photographs Photographs:  Javier Callejas
  • Manufacturers Brands with products used in this architecture project
    Manufacturers: Hussein Safina, Kuresh
  • Architect In Charge: Urko Sanchez
  • Design Team: Blanca Sánchez-Balgoma, Verónica García Iguaz
  • Client: Swahili Dreams Ltd.
  • Contractor: Continental Homes
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© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

Text description provided by the architects. Swahili Dreams is a luxurious, eco-friendly building fusing contemporary architecture, lifestyle, and Swahili tradition. Taking the scheme of condominiums, the project sits in the heart of the town of Lamu and consists of nine living units, each with one or two bedrooms. It adopts the old flavor of the Island, while being innovative in its all-modern facilities, and environmental design.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas
Ground Floor Plan
Ground Floor Plan
© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

Lamu, Kenya, is the oldest surviving Swahili town in East Africa, with a culture born from African, Arab and Asian heritage, and an architecture still, to a great extent, intact. On the coast of the Indian Ocean, it is designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

The Old Town, where the Swahili Dreams are, is a maze of typical narrow, quiet, shady and fresh streets, with twisted alleyways. Houses are distinct for their courtyard configuration, surrounded by thick, coral stone walls and accessible through characteristic, elaborately carved wooden doors. Swahili Dreams takes part in the ongoing development of the Lamu Corridor and starts an offer of modern, secure, eco-friendly lifestyle.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

By articulating the project around, we created an ensemble born from the morphology of the townscape and perfectly integrated to it. Through offsets and setbacks, the volumes are simple and harbor a clean, white geometry. Material distinction, between plaster finish and coral stone walls, amplifies the variation of the project while using local materials and know-how.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

The aim, overall, was to create a building with a fragmented geometry at the scale of Lamu. The houses are oriented for optimal views: from strategically-positioned windows, and ample but private terraces, including ones on the rooftop, the building frames views over Lamu Town, the Indian Ocean, and the neighboring Manda Island.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

Evocative of the palaces of the ancient Sultans, Swahili Dreams blends design with artisanal crafts. Local artisans hand-designed all finishes, exterior and interior, starting from Lamu-style plaster work throughout the project.Main living areas are enhanced with intricate Swahili ceiling designs, beamed ceilings, and polished floors.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas
Elevations
Elevations
© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

Wooden joineries complete the spaces, with hand-designed lattices and patterns: from wooden shutters on sunny façades, to fix wooden lattices on windows, to railings on full-height openings, they embrace tradition and participate in the passive climate-control for filtering sun and letting wind through.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

We wanted to invent homes in perfect harmony with their context, and that adopt sustainable lifestyles. A Roman-inspired pool and spa occupies the ground floor, divided with walls and partitions that give it intimacy, shade and freshness. Two ventilation shafts take off from there and go till the roof terrace of the building. These wind-catch towers “catch” the wind from overhead and allow it to enter the depth of the building; this way, all apartments have cross-ventilation, with all sides able to open up. Like a reduced patio, they also allow for filtered light to come through.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

Load-bearing walls, made of locally sourced coral blocks, and reinforced concrete slabs, were designed to reduce heat in the interiors by being a big enough mass for thermal absorption. The exterior finish is of Lamu plaster with anti-fungal treatment, allowing it to protect the building and last over time; its white color reflects the sun and further reduces heat absorption.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

Water is managed through a 30’000 liter underground rainwater catcher that allows near-sufficiency and good use of natural resources. Solar-power water heating is installed to initiate clean energy. The project won the Best Residential Building Project prize in the AAK Awards of Excellence in Architecture 2016.

© Javier Callejas
© Javier Callejas

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Project location

Address: Lamu, Kenya

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
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Cite: "Swahili Dreams Apartments / Urko Sanchez Architects" 13 Jan 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/931660/swahili-dreams-apartments-urko-sanchez-architects/> ISSN 0719-8884

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