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In the late 1990’s, The GoDown grew from the need for Kenyan and East African artists to come together in a mutually supportive space. Places for creative production were scarce, exhibition venues even more so. Today, The GoDown is Kenya’s leading platform for cultural exchange; it’s success in part due to its programming diversity. Core activities of music, dance and arts run alongside major international conferences like The East African Art Summit, to local events, such as Dunda Mtaan youth festival and Nai Ni Who, and Creative Entrepreneurship and Harvard Copyright education courses. The GoDown is a place for everyone.

While one aim was to provide an improved home for artists and creative industries, another was to offer valuable public services that anchor the building in community life. Through physical workshops and online initiatives, ideas and wishlists were generated from The GoDown community. These included artists and creative entrepreneurs, as well as school children, local businesses, city representatives, urban development stakeholders and the general public. This process is an ongoing dialogue, so the resultant designs are continually energised, refreshed, and reflected upon.

The vision is for the new GoDown Arts Centre to be a vibrant space for culture, and living room for all Nairobians, Kenyans and guests. Organised around three courtyard levels, the largest at ground floor is designed as an impressive welcoming space. This main courtyard can accommodate hundreds of visitors, and includes a corner for children, art activity and play. This area also connects an exhibition space, library, auditorium, museum, atelier and offices. The auditorium itself is an interesting architectural object within the main courtyard, complete with a rooftop restaurant. A grand staircase leads upwards to a second courtyard of dance rehearsal and creative studio spaces. In the third and most intimate courtyard are visual artist studios, arranged in duplex-formations. Underground vehicular parking free up the courtyards for leisure activities, such as open-air performances and skating. Additional film and music studios are also situated at basement level.

The main façade, as well as the spatial organisation around the courtyards, take their inspiration from fractals. These mathematical patterns are the building blocks of the natural world, yet they also reoccur in the human environment. From the arrangement of villages, to hair braiding patterns; fractals are omnipresent in African and Kenyan culture. The permeability of the façade helps convey the idea of openness, even though the entire centre can be locked down out-of-hours. Façade detailing options are currently being investigated in collaboration with the local architects at Planning Systems and The GoDown’s resident artists.

The GoDown Arts Centre

  • Client: The GoDown Arts Centre
  • Project Start/End: 2011-2014
  • City: Nairobi, Kenya


  • Ulrika Stenkula - Lead Architect
  • Marta Bohlmark - Co-lead Architect
  • Filip Sudolsky - Architect
  • Dirk Noack - Architect/ Project Manager
  • Jan Wijkmark - Sustainability Strategist
  • Angelica Åkerman - Architect/ Child Perspective
  • Viktoria Walldin - Social Anthropologist
  • Johan Dahlberg - Sustainability Strategist
  • Yara Hormazábal Cortés - Architect
  • Erik Kiltorp - Landscape architect

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