Nairobi lacks distinct architecture. Little can distinguish our buildings, besides the current craze for height, aluminium cladding and glazing. Actually, the design of modern buildings is mostly of European import.
But one can’t miss the uniqueness of buildings that were erected by Freemasons who put up structures like the All Saint’s Cathedral at the turn of the last century.
They put up churches as well as colonial institutions and extensively incorporated Freemasonry signs and symbols even in Anglican churches.
Indeed, it was the Freemasons who defined Nairobi’s early architecture, building some of the grandest buildings in the country to date. Most are considered classics. Some are national monuments; giving the city a regal feel, reminiscent of Kenya’s imperial past.
Nairobi planning started in the 1920s. The government architect then was J.A Hoogterp, who later moved and settled in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was Sir Herbert Baker, a Freemason, who took charge of several projects after Hoogterp left. The layout of the city was borrowed from Washington DC, Paris, Cape Town, Pretoria, Canberra (the executive capital of Australia), New Delhi and La Plata, a city in Argentina.
All these cities’ architecture was widely deemed as masonic, complete with signs and symbols. It has also been observed that the major civic and central government buildings are designed to form an Ankh, (a cross having a loop for its upper vertical arm and serving especially in ancient Egypt as an emblem of life).
There is a masonic hand in the architecture of key buildings, especially those representing the political, economic, educational or religious powers of the city. Think Parliament, the All Saint’s Cathedral, McMillan Library, Kenya Railways headquarters and City Hall, all of which stand out for their impeccable and seamless masonry.
These masons were free to work anywhere, and they came to Kenya with their genius for bricklaying, stone carving and meticulous construction that is evident more than a century later. Here are some of the historic Freemason buildings that define Nairobi.
Designed by Cobb & Archer, City Hall opened its doors to the public in the 1950s when it was, at the time, the tallest building in Nairobi with its clock tower standing at 165 feet high. It was expanded in 1981 when the 13-storey City Hall Annex was adjoined to the building. The building houses the City Council of Nairobi.
The High Court
Designed by Cobb & Archer and constructed between the 1950s and 1960s, it houses the Court of Appeal. In the 2013 disputed elections, the Cord petition was thrown out by Supreme Court, making that one of the most watched and discussed rulings of the court under the new Constitution.
Kenya National Archives
Designed by Cobb & Archer, the Kenya National Archives is where the Gridlays Bank was housed before it was taken over and turned into an archive where you will find Jomo Kenyatta’s presidential seat, rare pictures, colonial documents, artefacts, historical paintings and the impressive Murumbi art collection.
All Saints Cathedral
The foundation was first laid in 1917 and it was built in three phases, with the last phase being completed shortly before independence in 1962. Its stained glass windows were designed by AJ Davis, a famous stained-glass designer from Britain. The main foreman who oversaw its construction was a Freemason.
It was constructed in the 1950s and has a Westminster architectural theme. It is here that the mausoleum of the founding father of the nation is situated. It was designed by Thonrnly Dyer and Amyas D Connell. Its large English-clock tower is similar London’s Big Ben. Recently, it has been expanded to cater for additional members of parliament and members of the senate as per the 2010 Constitution. Its bell tower has made it internationally famous.
Kenya Railways Headquarters
It was built in three years and was completed in 1927. Designed by architect Herbert Baker, it served as the administration block of the East African Railway Corporation. In 2006, the Kenyan and Ugandan governments agreed to transfer management to Rift Valley Railways. The building now houses both RVR and remaining Kenyan Railways staff.