Amit Mody, a Singaporean architect who has left a lasting mark in Kenyan homes, loves visiting Mombasa where he spends time on end looking at the Indian Ocean water strike on hard rocks on the shores.
“No single day is the same and with every strike, hapless water sculpts new awesome shapes on the hardest of rocks. That happens under relentless effort over time and as architects, we must behave like water, understand your client then let them be but bring out the best of their building concepts,” he says.
The father-of-two, dressed in a grey suit and black shirt with matching black socks and toney-red coloured laced shoes is also attracted to old colonial buildings that don the Victorian architecture and the small Swahili-Persian styled residential units in Mombasa.
“How would we preserve these old architectural designs but scale up the projects into high-rise apartments for today’s population?” he poses.
Mr Mody is the architect behind Purple Haze, a Sh4.5 billion residential development to be built in Nairobi's Kilimani.
Mavji Varsani, the developer of Purple Haze developer and Edifice Limited director adds that Mr Mody is a regular visitor to Nairobi’s Maasai Curio Fair where he buys and likes conversing with product designers to understand what drives their ingenuity.
“An architect must immerse himself to a people’s culture and liking before coming up with any housing design. In Kenya, people love trees and open spaces, which has seen my company design properties that don Italian windows. We also combined the sitting room, dining and the kitchen utility spaces by reducing walls to give each tenant or homebuyer a feeling of community. Purple Haze has a common shared terrace, a shared swimming pool, lounge, a bar and courtyards where people can meet for a chat,” he adds.
An alumni of Ahmadabad School of Architecture in India, Mr Mody first came to Kenya a decade ago to inspect a residential development along Limuru Road he had designed together with other architects at his former employer’s firm Spacematrix Designs.
It was here that he met Mr Mavji, which resulted in mooting of a residential apartments project in Nairobi’s Parklands.
Mr Mody, founding director at Singapore’s Waves Design Consultants spoke to BDLife when he flew into Nairobi to inspect one of his projects, the Purple Haze apartments.
It has won two international awards for its energy efficient and environmental design at two separate international fetes.
“Nairobi’s population is fast rising and like other cities now experiences land limited availability of residential land. This means construction goes upwards where developers must incorporate new measures that make their properties eco-friendly,” he adds.
At Purple Haze, Mr Mody has incorporated natural air vents by allowing four open floors used as parking bays with spaces reserved within the four blocks for a communal swimming pool that ushers a 13 floor high Zen garden.
“We have added a water fountain in the middle of each O-shaped block, ample lighting and greenery is easily accessible at every floor granting its tenants the closest attachment to nature,’ he says.
Mr Mody says architects must follow-up on their designs to ensure greenery is embedded as a must have ingredient in every development.
“Integrating greenery at every floor of a skyscraper adds life and a soft lively element that builds an exciting tension to all projects,” says the 50-year-old astute reader, who always travels around with an audio book reader.
In his three-times a year visits to Kenya, Mr Mody spends an hour walking in Karura Forest before heading to inspect his projects strewn across Nairobi and Kiambu counties.
On partnerships, Mr Mody says Kenyan architects have withstood the test of time by designing buildings with a global appeal. This has endeared him to collaborate with various local architectural firms for his projects.
He adds developers and property owners must understand the needs of their would-be tenants before embarking on a project but warns no one should ‘copycat’ buildings seen elsewhere to their preferred locations.