Finding joy in bricks and mortar

25 July 2019

In Summary

  • I have had the privilege of working for a diverse group of clients over the years. Some of our key projects include KPA Pension Housing Scheme in Mombasa, the Kenyatta University Library in Nairobi, and we are currently doing the Border Post between South Sudan and Uganda at Nimule, among others.

By ANGELA OKETCH
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You were among the top 40 under 40 women last year; how was the feeling?

It was humbling to be recognised among some really remarkable women. At the same time, very rewarding that my hard work was being recognised.

Tell us about yourself?

Fundamentally, I am a person who works hard, but also loves life. I am very close with my siblings and have two lovely children who are my reason for living. I am a social person, and have a great group of friends who always make me want to do better.

I consider myself a loyal friend. I am a partner at Gitutho Architects and Planners.

How long have you been an architect?

I have been registered now for 7 years, but been in the field working for 12 years, taking into consideration my years  in Boston, Massachusetts and Miami, Florida. I did my BA (Architecture) and MA (Suburb and Town Planning) studies at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, Ma and University of Miami, FL, respectively.

What does your job entail?

Architects are consultants in the built environment whose main role is to design buildings, assist clients in the process of getting statutory approvals, and supervise the building works as they progress. We create functional and exciting places in which to work and live.

I am a Partner at Gitutho Architects and Planners, a firm which has been in business for over 30 years with offices both in Nairobi and Mombasa.

How do you survive in a male dominated job?

I don’t think of my profession as male dominated, but rather a challenging position that is still growing in terms of female representation.

What is your day like?

I think the most exciting thing about my profession is that there is no typical work day.

On a Monday I could be in a site meeting in Embu, on a Thursday I could be supervising joinery works in an office space in Kilimani and so on.

I also serve on the Architectural Association of  Kenya and East African Institute of Architects, so I could be in a meeting representing one of the Associations.

What projects have you worked on so far?

I have had the privilege of working for a diverse group of clients over the years. Some of our key projects include KPA Pension Housing Scheme in Mombasa, the Kenyatta University Library in Nairobi, and we are currently doing the Border Post between South Sudan and Uganda at Nimule, among others.

You said you have two children…

Yes, I have a boy and a girl. They are such interesting personalities, and watching them grow every day is such a blessing to me. I have found being a parent very grounding in all aspects of my life.

Are you married/ dating?

I am a private person, but the most I can say is I am happy.

Where would you love to go for holidays?

I was born and raised in Mombasa, so anywhere with a coastline is the perfect destination for me. I look forward to visiting Casablanca, Morocco, soon.

Your aspirations?

I have a lot I would like to achieve. I think, as a professional I am still building my legacy and looking forward to a long career as I love architecture. But I also understand diversification is key. I am in partnership with a group of remarkably women in a company called Harbinger International Group. Watch this space.

Who are your mentors?

My Business Partner at Gitutho Architects and Planners is my Father, Kamau Njendu. He is an architect and I was introduced to the world of Architecture at a very early stage. Let’s just say, it stuck.

He has remained an inspiration to me in day-to-day practice and as an individual who has built a stellar reputation in the industry. I also admire, Zaha Hadid, she is an Iraqi-British Architect who has broken the “glass ceiling” in being a recognisable female name among prominent architects.

What do you enjoy doing during your free time?

I am a solid book nerd. I love to read books, I have a leaning towards African Authors, Chimamanda Adichie, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, and most recently I love Ciiku Kimeria who is a personal friend. I am a member of two book clubs and we try and read a title every month and meet up to discuss and share thoughts on the book. I also enjoy a little bit of exercise now and then, an evening walk or an afternoon swim, is perfect for rejuvenating the mind. Spending time with friends and family either watching movies or live music concerts is also a favourite.

Parting shot?

I believe that you cannot make changes unless you participate actively. As a result, I actively serve in the various associations that represent architects, specifically the Architectural Association of Kenya. The Association will be holding its annual convention in August with the well-timed theme of “21st Century Practice”. This will feature interesting and informative content for builders, developers, home owners, product manufacturers and all consultants in the built environment.

I am also involved in several projects that enable me to give back to the community.

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