Every once in a while a project comes up in our practice that a) comes out of nowhere and b) has a scale that you know will immediately raise the overall profile of the practice.
We've had a couple of these so far...Crystal Edge being a prime example. As a project it raised our brand awareness more than we could have imagined and has become a bonafide landmark project (it helps, somewhat, when the apartments are referred to as the 'million dollar apartments'. Kinda has a zing to it).
Funny thing about it was the amount of deliberation and trepidation that came even before we had done a draft design. It's an understandably daunting decision for a developer to look to put up a development with a price tag as big as two apartments combined. Another aspect is designing a typology that's slightly different from the norm. Duplexes vs standard apartments. It entails sensitizing a market to an additional option aside from the normal status quo (for clarification, we’re not claiming to have reinvented the wheel…just being one of the first to convince the buying population of Nairobi that there is an alternative proposition to the normal wheel. Like a hovercraft, for instance).
The project in itself was/is (depending on when you’re reading this entry) actually not too difficult once onsite. It had the usual issues (variations & delays), but nothing extraordinary, especially when you put this in perspective: the Architect and Main Contractor were both unknown entities. As a firm, we had done work on some smaller projects (mainly residential houses and occasional interior projects), and the Main Contractor had had a little experience outside of Nairobi. For the both of us this was a definite step up in level. Which makes the overall success of the project even more remarkable.
I suppose, in retrospect, a couple of factors aided in this:
1. The Developer: Globe Developers have a bit of history in the Building and Construction sector. Its always nice to have a developer who actually knows how to build. This makes decision making easier and explanations are easier as well. It helps that the developer also trusted our vision for the project, and gave us a bit of a free hand in making it a reality.
2. The Main Contractor: Adidev Builders. Well that was a little unexpected. Their workmanship in pretty much all aspects was amazing: starting from the concrete works (they executed fairface concrete better than most established contractors could dream of), timber work, stone work…all exceptional. The only downside was management of the project, as you would expect with a young company. In their defense, this was an issue which they addressed rather positively towards the latter part of the project.
3. Pretty strong consultant team: YMR are one of the biggest names in the Quantity Surveying world. This is for a reason. They are really that good. Abba & Wandu, our Structural Engineers on the project have one of the larger portfolios of work in recent years. Again, there is a reason for that. Studio Aurora, the Interior Designers on the project, reflected just the right amount of flair in the project and actively fed off what our designs were shaping up to.
There’s a fair few other reasons I expect, but needless to say it’s a little hard to mention them all.
There were a few lessons to be learnt along the way from our end: managing a project of this magnitude and scale is difficult. But thankfully we’re quick learners, and even better teachers!
Having said that, probably one of the single most important lessons I feel I’ve learnt personally from Crystal Edge is this: Trust. Trust in my staff to get the job done. Trust in my consultants to know their jobs. Trust in the Contractor to surprise (mostly positive, but some occasional negative surprises) and Trust in the developer to want to genuinely build a good product (especially in an era where sometimes the developer may not).
I’ve also learnt to trust myself. It’s a good lesson to learn.
As a footnote, we can’t have done too badly on the project. They say in the Architectural business, the best sign of a good job is return business. Globe Developers have signed us up for his next project, ‘Rumaisa’ on Riverside: 70 Duplexes with a fair few eye-catching features. Want to find out more? Watch this space!