Premier Construction

Swahili Gem

Swahili Gem
Written by Roma Publications

Swahili Gem

Swahili Gem consists of 14 apartments in Tudor Creek, Mombasa, Kenya. Created by Urko Sanchez Architects, Swahili Gem is a distinct structure overlooking the east coast of Kenya’s second largest city. The project was recently a finalist for the 2018 ArchDaily Building of the Year Awards in the ‘Housing’ category.

Also known as Tudor Apartments, the development offers the experience of outdoor living, contact with nature and the integration of surroundings into each private home. Surrounded by lush vegetation it was important that the building fit naturally into the environment. Urko Sanchez Architects worked closely with the client to create a building with minimal environmental impact.

The skin of the building is a white mashrabiya style cover that was developed following a study of different traditional patterns. This screen-like cover serves a number of purposes including offering protection to the surroundings and helping filter natural light. This external feature is unique to the area and wider country. Local and international engineers worked alongside on-site steel workers. The white, plaster finishing is complimented by the addition of mtomo finish. This coral stone cladding technique is original to Lamu Island. This helps keep thermal capacity thanks to the porosity of the coral stone. Furthermore, artisans produced in situ terrazzo for the flooring of the patio houses.

Tudor Apartments is a development that prides itself in its innovative architecture, showing its attachment to Mombasa’s history by borrowing inspiration from the rich traditions of Swahili design. This development project is committed to harmonizing Mombasa’s past, present and future. The design of the building was guided by the plot’s slope and its narrow shape. The steep drop towards the creek, on the lower part of the plot, was saved with three distinct and unique patio houses, stepped one into the other.

On top of filtering light, the patios allow double ventilation: wood lattices allow air to circulate from the seaside through the interiors and to the patios; two superimposed lattices allow ventilation for both the house and the false ceiling, to avoid it transmitting heat from the sun on the top terraces. Moreover, vegetation is integrated in the patios and on the terraces, offering freshness and greenery.

A measured distance from the neighbours and the road give the building a well-weighted impact, for it to be present but not overwhelming in the scenery. This way, the apartments block, enveloped with its protective skin, rises facing the road, overlooking the creek, and topped with a penthouse.

In the absence of sufficient connection to the sewage system, a bio-digester has been integrated for treating used waters before it is released. Furthermore, rainwater collection provides water for care for the garden.

Terraces and balconies help each apartment maximise the outdoor space and make the most of the stunning scenery.

The success and recognition the building has received in the short time since its completion is a testament to innovative design thinking and skilled craftsmanship. To view more projects from Urko Sanchez Architects, please visit

Swahili Gem

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