Kericho Cathedral – RIBA International Prize Nominee
The Sacred Heart Cathedral of Kericho is located some 250km west of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. Designed by John McAslan + Partners (Lead Architect) with Triad Architects (Executive Architects), the Cathedral was completed in 2015.
The Cathedral’s design creates a unique and sacred place for a congregation of 1,500 seated celebrants participating in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Mass under one giant unifying roof. The Cathedral was recently recognised with a place on the 2018 RIBA International Prize shortlist. A spokesperson for John McAslan + Partners, commented:
“The project is one of the practice’s most recognised and awarded projects in recent years. It is a great honour to have been nominated for such a prestigious prize.”
The Cathedral lies within the highlands, close to the Rift Valley, and enjoys magnificent views across tea plantations and the surrounding hills. The Cathedral’s great inclined roof is a distinctive form in the rolling panorama of Kericho’s hills and valleys. Strikingly crafted, the building’s simple palette of materials honours the faith and frugality of this rural African context. Throughout the construction process, there was a commitment to using local skilled artisan trades.
There is no doubt that one of the standout design elements of the project is the striking inclined roof, with its ascending interior volume – over 1,375 square metres in size. The tiled roof is a distinctive form in the rolling panorama of Kericho’s hills and valleys. The ascending vaulted volume contained under the vast roof fuses African and ecclesiastically historic preferences.
The Cathedral’s concrete frame is another prominent feature of the building. Achieving the best possible concrete finish was essential. The standard of finish achieved by the engineers and contractor is another of the project’s remarkable elements. Working with local materials, sample sections of the curved arches were fabricated to develop the necessary details and systems. The contractor developed a robust but flexible kerfed, multi-layered plywood shutter, allowing the soffit formwork to be peeled away from the inner curve of the mature concrete arches without breaking the edge of the section. The defined profile of the roof arches is clearly visible below the slatted timber veil. A similar process produced the precise finish of the exposed concrete faces and joints.
The Cathedral’s acoustic performance is designed to facilitate clarity of speech across a range of occupation levels whilst maintain sufficient reverberance to encourage congregational responses. A directional ceiling-based system, aligned with the timber slats, accommodates hidden speakers, ensuring an efficient overall acoustic.
The lighting design focuses on the sacred symbols in the sanctuary area, whilst providing a comfortable level of light throughout the congregational area. Four main sources of natural light are embedded in the building fabric – the full length skylight and side doors being the most dominant.
The Cathedral is the second largest in Kenya. There are an estimated 7.5 million baptised Catholics in Kenya. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Kericho is located in the town of Kericho which has an urban population of 150,000 and a wider rural population of 500,000. The Diocese was established in 1995 with a significant and growing congregation of over 223,856 Catholics and is led by the most reverend Bishop Emmanuel Okombo.
John McAslan + Partners
John McAslan + Partners is a leading, award-winning international architectural practice based in London, with further offices in Edinburgh and Doha. An extensive portfolio of award-winning projects in the UK and overseas includes cultural, heritage, infrastructure, hospitality, commercial, residential, education, urban design and landscape sectors.
The practice has won in excess of 125 awards including 25 RIBA Awards, and has been named Architectural Practice of the Year and World Architect of the Year on a number of occasions. The practice has won three Europa Nostra Awards, the EU’s Prize for Cultural Heritage, and is also the recipient of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise (International Trade).