Spaces of Trauma, Spaces of Healing
“The world belongs to all of us.”
We have visited Kenya to learn more about the fascinating Cave_bureau that challenges traditional understandings of architecture, Africa and colonial structures. Read more …
“We need to stop blaming. We need to stop victimising ourselves. We need to come to the table as equals, as human beings and then find a way forward.”
Since its foundation in 2014, Cave_bureau has studied and analysed many of the East African cave structures that have played a significant role – both historically and architecturally.
“Architecturally, we find it very similar to Rome’s Pantheon. So we feel and argue that it predates the Pantheon by a few million years.”
“The Great Rift Valley is where we emerged as a species over 250.000 years ago. We regard it as the corridor of mankind, the corridor of humanity. As Cave-bureau, we come here a lot. Cave, for us, is the origin, the starting point. Architecturally speaking, this is our heritage. It’s a place of perfect natural balance. It’s an icon to look at, an environment in perfect balance with itself and the community working to keep it just that. And so we celebrate it as well as analyse it, in geological terms, in ecological terms thinking about the life that actually lives here and how we as architects can think about preservative modes of practice, to think about this space beyond just building. And in many respects, we argue that there is no need to have a building here. It’s beautiful and perfect the way it is.”
“One of our big dreams is, as we all know, water is life. With water, you don’t need to do so much because it’s there. It will nourish both you, your animals and the land. We can collect and store rainwater so that when we come to dryer months of the year, we have a place for storage. The life cycle continues even when it is dry elsewhere because we thought ahead and resources are getting scarcer, so if we can preserve whatever we have, if we think about a harsher future, I think for us this is important.”
“What does architecture have to do with this? I think architects are thinkers. Architects think ahead. Architecture is actually one of the disciplines that contribute greatly to climate change. When you think of all the buildings being built, the energy that is used to bring up a building. So we as Cave-bureau have taken a step back and thought, as opposed to contributing more to climate change, how about if we take a step back and think about how we can preserve this energy? As opposed to just using, using, using, let’s give back, give back, give back.”
Cave_bureau is a Nairobi-based bureau of architects and researchers charting explorations into architecture and urbanism within nature. Their work addresses and works to decode both anthropological and geological contexts of the postcolonial African city – explored through drawing, storytelling, construction, and the curation of performative events of resistance. The bureau is driven to develop systems and structures that improve the human condition without negatively impacting communities’ natural environment and social fabric. By conducting playful and intensive research studies into caves within and around Nairobi, Cave-bureau aims to navigate a return to the limitless curiosity of its early ancestors while confronting the challenges of contemporary rural and urban living. Recent exhibitions include the Architect’s Studio exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark in 2023; The 18th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice, Italy in 2023; The 17th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice, Italy in 2021, where Cave_bureau was awarded a Special Mention for the installation titled “Obsidian Rain”; The World Around Summit, Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA in 2021; Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, New York, USA in 2019-20; London Festival of Architecture in 2018.
Stella Mutegi is an architect, spelunker and adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning & Preservation, GSAPP. She founded Cave_bureau in 2014 alongside Kabage Karanja. She is known in the bureau as the problem slayer of all design issues, heading up the technical department and orchestrating the seamless coordination of ideas into built form. She partakes in all Cave_bureau expeditions and surveys into caves within the Great Rift Valley, later steering those geological and anthropological investigations towards a unique architectural product. Stella lives and works in Nairobi.
Kabage Karanja is an architect, spelunker and adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning & Preservation, GSAPP. He founded Cave_bureau in 2014 alongside Stella Mutegi. As a natural environment enthusiast, he leads the bureau’s geological and anthropological investigations into architecture and nature, which includes orchestrating expeditions and surveys into caves within the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. As a serial sketcher and storyteller, Kabage is driven to script and communicate cave thinking in relation to both built and natural environments. He lives and works in Nairobi.
Stella Mutegi and Kabage Karanja were interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at several locations in Kenya, including Nairobi, The Great Rift Valley and Shimoni Slave Caves on the Indian Ocean Coast. Additional filming took place in Venice, Italy, and at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark. The interviews were conducted during March, May and June 2023.
Camera: Simon Weyhe
Editing: Simon Weyhe
Additional filming: Densu Moseti, Johan Benda
Music: Marco Diallo
Sound design: Kristian Pedersen
Graphic design: Marie d’Origny Lübecker
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner & Simon Weyhe
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling. This film is supported by Dreyersfond and Fritz Hansen.
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