Béglin Woods Architects | Company Profiles
Building Kenya and beyond
We chat with David Beglin, Founder and Director of Beglin Woods Architects, the architectural history of the firm in Kenya and its incorporation of the latest technological tools and practices.
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project manager: Donovan Smith
Since the 1970s, Beglin Woods Architects has been operating in East Africa and providing design development services in the region’s unique architectural space.
“We started with less than 20 employees and have stayed at that number ever since,” begins David Beglin, founder and director of the company. “We have worked all over East Africa, but always kept our office in Nairobi, Kenya. Since 2012, we have hired two directors, Katherine Mung’au and Kunal Patel. This allowed us to build strong design teams on new projects, and clients appreciated having a team to work with rather than an individual.
Beglin Woods has an office of architectural, technical and administrative staff, with the management team acting as lead designers who are closely involved in the design and development of all their projects. Buildings are often complex and sophisticated in function, but are constructed from a simple range of carefully selected, maintenance-free quality materials.
Beglin Woods has over the years developed an aesthetic and functional architectural style in East Africa and has gained experience in most sectors of the economy including tourism, commerce, industry, health , research and education.
Every project, regardless of scale, is designed, detailed and built to the highest possible standards. All of the company’s buildings are designed to be aesthetic, user-friendly, economical and adaptable and expandable. And in an increasingly digital age, the methods and tools used to design such buildings have also changed.
“The internet and social media have had the biggest influence on our practice,” Beglin tells us. “Almost all new work comes from customers who find our website. These clients have very clear ideas about what they love about design and often come to us with strong images of the buildings they love.
“Now we need to source materials and equipment from all over the world. We must therefore become competent to assess foreign products and systems and supervise their importation into Kenya. Product research and evaluation is all done online.
According to Beglin, COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on many sectors of the Kenyan economy, especially tourism, as isolation laws have almost wiped out international tourism. As a result, there is a subsequent slowdown in hotel and tourism development. During COVID-19 however, Beglin Woods was forced to develop a different working strategy.
“We were able to move our office out of town and work from home, having all of our meetings online,” says Beglin. “We believe this change in work methodology will be fine after COVID-19. ”
This digitization has revolutionized the industry as a whole and changed the way Beglin Woods operates in East Africa.
“We find that the internet has accelerated the speed of the new design styles seen in Kenya,” Beglin explains. “We are undertaking construction projects that are much more varied and different than 25 years ago, and the market is more active and alert. Buildings should now integrate the latest technologies, Wi-Fi, security, access control and building management. Due to rising service costs, the focus is on developing inexpensive power generation and waste disposal to maximize efficiency in this collective area.
For Beglin Woods, where possible, the company invests as much as possible in the latest and greatest software, especially 3D software. The company’s next area of investment exploration will be in the drone realm, such as drone photography, flyovers and video presentations. This will be intended for many upcoming construction projects in order to provide the company and its customers with the highest level of understanding in project planning and speculated project completion.
Behind these projects is a management team that oversees the operations of Beglin Woods. Katherine Mung’au and Kunal Patel, both directors of Beglin Woods, have been with the company since the early 2000s and are an integral part of the company, as Beglin explains.
“Katherine, our third principal, is a graduate of the College of Agriculture and Technology at Jomo Kenyatta University and has been with us for 20 years since she was a vocational student,” he explains. “She has a very strong social network in the local community and frequently brings to projects a very clear understanding of local traditions and requirements.
“Kunal Patel graduated from the University of Pune (India) and is able to work very well with clients, contractors and suppliers in the Asian community. We are seeing that many of our clients are now encouraging more and more women to take up corporate positions and many of our projects have design and build teams with women in mind.
Beglin Woods recognizes the individual worth and importance of each of its employees. The company’s technicians, some of whom have been with the company for 28 years, are all on drawing boards and have each learned and developed their computer skills while working on various company projects. Beglin Woods renews its ArchiCAD software as often as necessary to ensure that its employees stay up to date and that its technicians learn new versions as they develop projects. In addition to this, Beglin Woods also has a strong financial, accounting and administrative wing; this division, like most of the company’s employees, has been part of the company since its inception.
Invest in the future
For the coming year, Beglin Woods favors both its technological implementation and its adaptation to an increasingly competitive market.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the real estate market leading to the sale or rental of buildings at extremely low rates,” Beglin tells us. “The social housing market is now growing rapidly. The strong presence of Chinese entrepreneurs and developers in Kenya has now created a much more demanding real estate market and we are quickly learning how to develop a less costly market driven design.
“Customers now expect every idea and proposal to be presented to them in 3D and virtual reality. This means that everyone in Beglin Woods’ office must now have near perfect 3D rendering skills and the latest 3D software; the areas in which we have invested and continue to invest. Hand drawn sketches, colored elevations or even static renderings are now phased out, and presentations such as videos and flyovers using drones are now requested by all of our clients, preferably in a form where the client can watch a presentation from a mobile phone. Now we need to focus on quickly and fully integrating these elements.