An Angus-based architect has fused his Irish background with jewellery designs created by the Maasai tribe to design a school and cultural centre in Kenya.
Jonathan Reeve, 39, who is originally from Enniskillen and who works with the Voigt Partnership in Arbroath, travels to Kenya tomorrow for a week-long trip.
He will present his designs for the project, curated by local Maasai tribal chiefs, at the Maasai Conference in Amboseli.
He said: “At an early stage I realised this was a special project.
“Almost everyone around the world has heard of the Maasai tribe, and to incorporate elements in a design brief such as ‘views to Mount Kilimanjaro’ and ‘walls to deter elephant stampedes’ are not what you are used to working with in my day job.
“This is a sort of ‘investigative trip’ and will involve speaking to the local architect, meeting potential builders, visiting the site etc.
“As an architect to be involved in designing a unique building for the Maasai tribe was such a privilege and honour.
“This is a unique opportunity to be involved with a charity to not only provide design intervention to a poor community, but to be involved in its realisation.
“I am very excited about my trip and hope to travel back to Kenya in August to assist with the build alongside the other volunteers from across the globe.”
The idea behind the building began last year when two American charities – My Chosen Vessel and Amor Ministries – partnered with a vision of creating a new building in Kenya which had been desperately needed by the Maasai people.
Jonathan first encountered Amor Ministries whilst volunteering on a house-building project in South Africa in 2015 and was invited by the charities to use his architectural and creative input in the Kenya School project.
He has designed a multi-use facility comprising a primary school, cultural centre and conference space.
He said: “This facility is to provide a wide view into the cultural heritage and foundation the Maasai people.
“In addition, the training institute will educate children in elementary education and adults for vocational and entrepreneurial interests.”
Jonathan’s main inspiration is that of the Maasai jewellery – with the distinctive and intricate pattern of beading.
He continued: “The building takes the form of three interlocking bracelets – where the circular shape of the bracelet is simplified into a hexagon, which is easier to build.
“This helped to replicate a curved shape whilst taking the form of a honeycomb, similar to a beehive and inspired by the natural wonder of Giant’s causeway.”
Beading will be used as recycled spheres all connected and hung onto the walls to wrap the building in the pattern, to the specific patterns which the Maasai chief has selected, helping the people become involved in the building design process.
Each of the colours has a special meaning to the Maasai and symbolise the Maasai having ‘passed through’ the various elements.
Another consideration Jonathan had to factor into his design was the large number of wild elephants in the nearby region.
He has incorporated a system of solid gabion walls which perform a double function of elephant deterrent and outdoor seating.
The building is positioned close to a main road near the Kimana Gate to Amboseli National Park, whilst allowing views south of Mount Kilimanjaro.
The project has received interest from a number of national organisations in the USA such as National Geographic and The Museum of Man.
For a virtual tour of the new centre click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=S5nnDCqB89k