DESIGNING TO CHANGE THE SKYLINE OF SUB-SAHARA AFRICA
By Nakisanze Segawa
Founded in 1980 in Kenya as a small company with the aim of becoming the best architectural practice in the region, Symbion International Architects and Interior Designers founded by Jon Anthony Cavanaugh, has grown to become one of the leading architectural practices in Sub-Sahara Africa. Its growth over the years has seen the company expand to other African countries with clients that are willing to adopt best practice in architecture and value in building design and construction.
Currently, the company has offices in Kampala, Uganda; Karen and Mombasa, Kenya and; Conscom in Gaborone Botswana. The various offices of Symbion work together and individually, sharing an accrued skill set acquired by professionals over the years.
Originally a limited liability partnership, the organisation was transformed into a company in 2008 and today employs over 200 skilled employees spread across the four countries amongst which include architects, project managers, interior designers and technicians. With these qualified and skilled staff the company offers creativity, innovation and an understanding of their clients and thus offers them exceptional services.
Messages & profiles of Management:
The managerial team comprises of twelve directors and six associates who are spread out in offices in the five locations across the four countries all united with one vision and offering the same quality performance. Symbion has its head office in Keny where it started of and in 1986 to 1995, the company delivered projects in Seychelles. In 1993 it opened its office in Uganda, 1994 in Tanzania and in 1998 Symbion was established in Gaborone Botswana where it acquired Conscom. This expansion has enabled the company to deliver projects outside its established five locations to other countries which include Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Sudan for the past 35 years.
Symbion’s network of resources provides the company’s clients with access to and delivery of a vast range of professional services which include urban design, architecture, project management, interior design and contract management.
Relationship with Industry Stakeholders:
As a longstanding architectural practice, Symbion has encountered and worked with a number of key players in the construction field. To undertake and complete large scale projects, teams of consultants are brought together including designers, engineers, surveyors, subcontractors and suppliers. Over time Symbion has engaged and consulted with specialists both locally and internationally which has enabled timely delivery and quality finished work.
Maintaining good working relationships with various professionals has been a conscious effort on Symbion’s part- which inevitably provides a good reference point for future projects and potential business.
Within the company, a group of proficient administrative, support staff, architects, project managers, interior designers and technicians collaborate in order to maximize the skills available. All technical staff undergo training and Continuing Professional Development; that in turn provides a competitive edge in terms of the use of new technologies, construction methods and general product knowledge.
Symbion advocates for sustainable architecture that is relevant to our society and contemporary era. The firm consistently pushes the boundaries of design and architecture which is to the benefit of the clients.
A number of factors have contributed to the growth and sustenance:
- Symbion aims to design with conviction, to the highest of standards, in a sustainable manner that provides both client and user with what they need, within a realistic budget and within a time scale agreeable to all.
Symbion works with the best consultants across the regions they operate in and where certain expertise is lacking collaborate with construction professionals alike across the globe. Together the firm strives for excellence and endeavours to achieve it, in their creativity, professionalism and ethical obligations.
- Symbion is committed to a CSR policy that positively contributes to the local communities and environment of the respective countries, both ecologically and socially.
Challenges faced over the years:
Symbion has been privileged to work with knowledgeable, experienced and involved clients, but also on smaller scale projects with tight budgets. However that hasn’t stopped the company from experiencing some challenges.
The company faces challenges related to availability of local skilled labour/manufacturers and procurement of building materials. Some quality building materials cannot be procured in the local market and have to be imported. This sometimes delays delivery, and tends to be costly.
Quality of workmanship is the biggest challenge in most projects. Some projects require specific expertise which can not be gotten within the locally available labour, which pushes the company to look outside its location and employ labour from outside the continent which can delay service delivery.
To overcome these challenges, Symbion is able to identify required suppliers at the onset, and develop a methodology inclusive of regular inspections and site supervision which strives to maintain an excellent standard of work produced and essentially the desired outcome once a project is complete.
Mission, vision and way forward:
Symbion is dedicated to understanding the needs of clients, problem solving and delivering good architecture for the benefit of society.
As a practice Symbion looks to inform the built environment in which it operates through considered yet innovative design, capturing both the poetry of the firm’s client’s imaginations and the desire to create something sublime. In doing so, Symbion strikes a balance between the ambitions of a project against the practicality and responsibilities of bringing it to fruition, assessing the issues involved and providing appropriate solutions. Symbion believes the power of architecture can shape the communities, communal memories and communal ambitions beyond the dimensions of individual buildings. Symbion believes architecture creates an opportunity to make life better.
Symbion Group has grown from strength to strength through the years and has expanded its operations to more than fourteen countries across the continent, with more markets now opening up to those willing to explore.
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