The Junction Courtyard
Commercial project, Multifunctional courtyard, Nairobi – Kenya.
The Place – The Junction Mall, is a busy commercial shopping mall, located on the Ngong Road in Nairobi. The environment within and adjacent to the mall is very chaotic.
The Brief – In Nairobi, and in Kenya as a whole, there is very little public space within the urban environment, turning roundabouts into desirable gathering spots. The need and demand for these spaces has started to lead private entities to add public space as a competitive advantage.
We were asked to turn a large car parking space into a public urban space which allowed for multifunctional uses from events, pop up markets, children’s play areas.
Design – The public courtyard space we designed at The Junction Mall, aims to provide a multifunctional courtyard for use of events, but also to provide a safe place for children to play and for people to be able to relax away from the bustling environment of city life.
Everything in our design, which in essence is an urban space, seeks to use simple lines and materials to allow people experiencing the space a cool rest bite from the city outside and the often hectic mall environment.
In seeking to introduce a subtle closeness to nature we have specifically chosen native trees which change seasonally, something unusual in a tropical climate. Calodendrum capense is planted in a grid, a tree which is a fully deciduous, which drops all its leaves, followed by a full crown of pink flowers. The idea that even within the urban environment users will become aware of the cycles of nature, as well as attach a value to landscape associations which are true to the context the site and which would have grown here naturally. We feel as a practice that more and more, this sense of true context created by using native species will become more and more invaluable in the future. Seasons will become an event to be celebrated by the tenants and passer-byes.
Another interesting element was seeing how we could provide subtle areas for children to play without losing the feeling that the courtyard belongs to everyone, adults and children alike. We designed long, rectilinear wood benches which subtly move up and down, effectively a subtle see-saw. Its wonderful to see the children jump up and run along the length of the bench as it moves up and down with their weight. Similarly our swing set is more like a set of hanging chairs, which allow little children to sit and swing together.