Beglin Woods - A Reflection
A look back at where Beglin Woods began, where it has come, and thoughts on the future
Beglin Woods Architects opened for business in 1992. David Beglin and Simon Woods had practiced separately for over 15 years in Kenya before that.
We started in a basement flat on Riverside Drive in 1992 having previously worked in various offices in Kenya, so we are actually celebrating over 40 years of practice as architects in Kenya.
The celebration must be shared with our families, friends and colleagues who have patiently and supportively watched our progress. We look back in time, and into the future with equal interest.
The work and work methodology of the past is now quite beyond belief in 2015. We recall the days that no office could afford a photocopier or printer and all originals went out in the afternoon and prints returned the next day. All letters were typed in triplicate with carbon paper and mistakes corrected in white-out. Computers were unheard of in offices, drawings were made in pencil or ink on tracing paper and lettered by stencil.
Major projects were given one water colour illustration by an artist. That was often the first time we saw in 3 dimensions what our building looked like. We did our own sketches and made our own models, but we still produced dozens of well thought out, innovative and complex buildings in a year.
Almost nothing was imported. Project Managers were unheard of. The architect designed, sourced and supervised most of the work. Now our staff look at old tracings and cannot believe how they were made.
Looking back 400 years earlier, St. Paul’s Cathedral was drawn on linen with a quill pen and 400 years earlier than that there were no drawings at all.
Now we look forward into a future that creates buildings with no distinction between walls and roofs, where nothing inhibits the imagination of the designer and where the entire world is the marketplace. A chair from France now sits on a rug from Bali in a Hotel room in USA, with a lock from Sweden and an air conditioner from Israel.
Architects have always worked Internationally. Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew worked with Le Corbusier from 1947 on the new City of Chandigarh in India. Louis Khan built in India 45 years ago and F. L. Wright built in Japan 20 years before that. Now the big offices have branches in 10–15 different countries, and building components come from all over the world.
International standards are now being developed to ensure compatibility with building components, large contractors and architectural firms are already coming to Kenya and will combine to produce buildings of the same scale as those in Singapore, China, the Middle East and United States.
Computers continue their existing and relentless pursuit of faster, smarter and more exciting ways of producing information, and of components and materials so that almost everything fits together. Large-scale manufacturers of building integrating the work of many consultants at the same time.
Today a technician in Sweden can work on the same drawing as an architect in Sydney, and the design can be sent to Vietnam for an illustration and to China for a model.
Project management is becoming stricter, and monitoring of deadlines and deliverables is becoming more vigilant, frequently involving penalties. The Cities and Towns around Nairobi are joining in the race for development. Soon Kisumu, Mombasa, Nyeri, Nanyuki and Isiolo will have projects as large and expansive as Nairobi.
Architecture has always been a contributor and an ally to technological development, and the future of architecture will grow exponentially with the developments in technology and finance. Taller residential buildings have to proliferate to ease the pressure on land prices. More sophisticated and economical building techniques must evolve. Builders must embrace the 24 hour day and the 365 day year. There will be more specialist subcontractors.
Sustainability will be a huge issue in the future, but only if legislation assumes more responsibility. If a law were passed tomorrow to never cut down another tree until the current environment crisis was over, the world would survive.
The industry would use post formed doors, laminated MDF and synthetic wood. It’s hard to find an excuse for destroying the earth’s forests at the expense of the world’s overall health. We must all ensure that sustainable technology aides the planets survival rather than its destruction.
The Present Work Environment
As a Practice, we have lived through these vast technological changes over the last 23 years, and we have had to evolve and develop our skills accordingly. Emails are now expected to be answered instantly, when years ago it was accepted it would take several days to expect an answer from a letter. The range of building products continues to grow at an exponential rate, and information on anything is available instantly on the Internet, without having to go to a library.
Clients now rarely proceed with a project unless they see several optional photorealistic renders of their project, and unless they see fully worked out financial returns on their investments, together with an array of priced options for services, materials and finishes.
It is therefore tempting for architects to copy and paste their more successful designs from one site to another, but we have endeavoured to develop different styles of architecture over the years, and whilst we have watched with some amusement other firms copy some of our buildings, we remain committed to developing our ideas and styles, so that our clients can remain confident that they are receiving unique and ground breaking building designs from our firm.
We hope that the architects of the next generation will continue in innovative and exciting ways, and will continue contributing to making the world a better place for those who love being in it, and that the present issues of security and international conflict are temporary and will soon be gone. We look forward to many more creative years to come, and must thank our clients, our staff, and our contractors and suppliers, for helping us make our dreams come true over the last 23 years.