Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Architecture



Major Professor

Scott Wall

Committee Members

Edgar Stach, Barbara Klinkhammer


“They [Africans] look upon their native arts and crafts primarily as the ‘locus’ of their national consciousness. In spite of a violent urge for the new, for progress and for high living standards, more and more of their valuable, innate culture and customs now are being reflected upon in new light, finding their own voice in the form of a new, healthy and surprisingly expressive art.”

“The ‘new’ is cleansed from any cliché imitating a style.

The ‘new’ does not evolve from cheap modernism.

The ‘new’ functions according to the climate and the situation.

The ‘new’ proves to have an understandable symbolism adapted to the people.

The ‘new’ is vitalized by an elementary simplicity.”

-Swiss architect Justus Dahinden

This thesis aims at defining and justifying the principles that fuse African pre-colonial (traditional) architectural themes with the literal and metaphorical lessons observed in the craft of weaving.

African traditional architecture refers to the building traditions that have been held on the continent since pre-colonial times. Being a vast continent, its cultures, climate and geography are inherently diverse. All these factors have led to a variety of architectural principles and characteristics. Bernard Rudofsky in Architecture Without Architects, points out that vernacular architecture bears significance due to the fact that it is not based on any prevailing fashion or trend. Instead, it has through the years been perfected and sustained (Rudofsky. Architecture Without Architects, 1965.p.1). Prevailing ideas about African architecture often bring up thoughts of hurriedly erected cylindrical structures with grass thatch as roofing. It is also questioned if such structures constitute architecture; that is, buildings thought through and put up with the aid of a trained professional in that field.

In my research, I examined this architecture while extracting and outlining key themes that are characteristic of vernacular architecture in different parts of the world and more specifically in Kenya. These lessons include design and construction principles such as materiality and decoration, climatic influences, the measure and representation of space, plus form and parti. I specifically applied my research to the urban situation in Nakuru, Kenya. All the lessons learned were combined and used to redesign a very active quarter of the town, thus racially and economically better weaving it into the overall fabric of the town.

The result should be a strong, yet simple, modern and distinctly African architecture that is free from cliché, bearing a symbolism that is adapted to and understood by the people.

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