KERICHO – John McAslan + Partners has recently completed a cathedral in the tea growing county of Kericho. This town is around 250 km north-west of Nairobi, within the highlands of Kenya. Propped up in a rolling landscape of tea leaves, the cathedral has a outlook unrivalled by other buildings in the town. A strong religious presence is indicated by five other churches, of various denominations, located within a 500-m radius of the new cathedral. The position and prominence of the new cathedral asserts a catholic majority.
The design focus was to create a building that can manage a congregation of 1500 seated celebrants. The architect approached the design with a triangular prism form, each end differing in scale. The entrance, at the west end, is at the smaller side of the cathedral. The form then inclines to the east in section and widens in plan. These formal moves create a large 1375-sqm floor plate to meet functional requirements and a verticality akin to many cathedrals. The volume gives a sense of lifting, with the concrete rib structure increasing as it follows the shape of the building. Light floods in from above through the ridge and end window, illuminating the textures of the timber ceiling battens. As per standard cathedral practice, the floor plan is oriented east to direct the celebrants’ prayers. The north to south axis of the building opens for natural ventilation to an exterior where garden terraces step down to reveal the surrounding tea plantations.
The architect’s objective was to work with the landscape creating a building integrated with the context, both aesthetically and functionally. The tiled-roof of the cathedral is now a distinctive form in the undulating setting of Kericho’s hills and valleys.
Photos courtesy of John McAslan + Partners/Edmund Sumner/Aernout Zevenbergen