Kipande House, The tallest building in Nairobi (Sort of)

Featured Image Source: Plus Kenya, Under Citation, http://pluskenya.blogspot.nl/2014/04/national-museum-unveils-city-tours.html

Built in the centre of the Central Business District, the Kipande House is currently a branch office for the Kenyan Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Kenya. The branch office is tiny compared to many of the huge new modern buildings that the KCB inhabits but the Kipande House is by far the most interesting.

Kipande-House-Nairobi
Source: Africa Safari Reports, Under Citation, http://www.africasafarireports.com/kenyan-places-and-people/kenyas-architectural-gems

Its history is long, being built at the height of British colonialism, it has seen the oppression of Kenyans and the racism that came with it, Kenyan’s triumphant independence, the growth of Kenyan and the huge expansion of the CBD where it was built. It has been with Kenya longer than Kenya has been Kenya. It is not only architecturally beautiful but it is embedded in Kenya.

The Kipande House was built by Gurdit Singh Nayer, known then as the Nayer Building in 1913. It was at the time the tallest building in Nairobi and could be seen all across the city with its elegant clock tower. This title was taken away with the construction of the city hall was finished in 1935.  It was also one of the first stone buildings in the city at the time. It was rented by the colonial government as a train depot, the railway used to pass by the building following the route of what is now Loita street. After World War 1 it started being used by the colonial government to give out identification booklets to the local Africans.

pass_holder
Source: Smithsonian Institution, Under Citation, http://naturalhistory.si.edu/africanvoices/ax/fs/primary_fs.html?history+colonialism+pass_holder

This small red booklet held in a metal case was given to the locals to hand around their neck with information on their name, work history, current work and travel restrictions. It has often been compared to a cowbell and was also used as a way to demean the locals. This is where the Kipande House got its name, the word Kipande means identification in Swahili.

The Kipande house was bought by KCB in 1976 as a branch office in Nairobi. In 2003 the bank asked Triad Architects to renovate the interior and make it fit for the 21st century. It is also a designated UNESCO world heritage site because of its historical significance and it is gazetted as a national monument.

kipande-house
Source: Administrator, Under Citation, http://buildesign.co.ke/a-stoned-history-of-nairobi-by-kamau-mutunga/

The buildings most interesting feature is its clock tower and curved dome. Although there is no clock currently in the tower. It’s a fine example of Neoclassic architecture and stone masonry.

4954951195_7b287d0834_b
Source: Isabelle Prondzynski, Under Citation, https://www.flickr.com/photos/prondis_in_kenya/4954951195

Its symmetrical form and distinctive hatched windows give the building an authority even though it is now one of the smallest buildings in the CBD. It’s a truly beautiful building with a history as interesting and complex history as Kenya.


Sources

WainainamungaiK for KenyaNatekev (Kipande House History)Business Daily AfricaSkyscrapercityNationThe East AfricanNatekev (Architectural History of the Green City in the Sun)Natural HistoryKimanisamkPlus KenyaAfrica Safari ReportsBuildesignFlickrStandard Media

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