The dome-like FCB Mihrab with Arabic architecture and modern trappings on the junction of Lenana Road and Kilimani Ring Road is one of the buildings that is changing Nairobi’s skyline.
What makes it stand out is the curved layout, the concave roof carried out in steel trusses and the mashrabiya, a type of aluminium shading screen that is common in palaces.
The architects, Morphosis, say they wanted to create an iconic building that would announce the arrival of Islamic banking.
‘‘For instance, we opted to ‘veil’ the building by the introduction of lattice work (“mashrabiyya”) as we believe that goodness is within,’’ Yasir Brek of Morphosis says.
Morphosis is a Kenyan architectural company that started small and has grown over the years to come up with unique designs including Boma Hotel.
Harsan Varvani, the director and chairman of First Community Bank (FCB) who was part of a team behind the development of the building, says they wanted a tower.
‘‘We therefore engaged Morphosis Limited to create for us the Mihrab concept,” he says, adding that according to Islam teachings, Mihrab symbolises an entry into a new domain of purity.
‘Mihrab’ means a place where leaders stand to proclaim ethical practices, the domain through which the voice is amplified in a church for example.
“Water is a symbol for change, purity, serenity and sanctity. That is why the architects incorporated a bridge that allows one to cross over into the building,” Mr Varvani says.
However, with its artistic look, the 25-storey building was not easy to build.
Brahat Chhaniyara, an engineer from Creative Aptitude which brought the drawings to reality says constructing the roof was the most challenging.
‘‘I believe that it is an engineering marvel in this part of the world and it was done by Kenyans,’’ he says.
The roof has three floors and all are shaped to point at the top. The building has an open-to-sky terrace at the first floor and a cafeteria at the lower ground which overlooks the water feature and lawn. The external paint used is weather-resistant and the colour selection makes it harder to stain.
The building sits on one hectare of land and cost about Sh1.3 billion.
Mr Brek says such as an elaborate design is not expensive than normal high-rise buildings.
‘‘Many people think that the building must have drained the well. Good architecture can actually be cheaper if properly done. The building is comparable, if not cheaper, to other ‘standard’ high rise buildings in Nairobi,’’ he says, adding that whereas they sought to symbolically represent the “mihrab”, a lot of other people see and conjure different images from the building.
An earlier version of this story misstated the cost of the FCB Mihrab building. It has now been corrected.