I have watched with keen interest the discussion surrounding the Samsung ad on KICC. So in the space of a few days media has declared KICC an iconic Building which will be completely destroyed by Samsung ad unless the gods of the land intervene in time to save it. On Business Daily for example, the building was compared to Pope…interesting.
First let us dig deep and look for the reasons why the building might be considered iconic or not in many Kenyans eyes. Icon is a symbol — i.e. a name, face, picture, edifice or even a person readily recognized as having some well-known significance or embodying certain qualities: one thing, an image or depiction, that represents something else of greater significance through literal or figurative meaning, usually associated with religious, cultural, political, or economic standing.
From above description, we know that KICC is not a religious center, so it can’t be considered iconic because of that. KICC is not a cultural center, if you are looking for such you would go to places like Alliance Francaise, or most places in the coastal towns like Lamu and Mombasa. How about Political Center? According to the same article by Marvin Sissay on Business Daily, we can trace the origin of KICC to Politics:
The idea to construct Kenyatta International Conference Centre ( KICC) is said to have been the brain child of the then Kanu Secretary General Tom Mboya. He wanted for his party a building that would serve as the headquarters as well as being the meeting venue for the governing council. David Mutiso, who was by then the chief architect at the Ministry of Public Works, was mandated to work with Karl Henrik Nostvik to design such a structure.
The construction began in 1967 and was completed in 1973
So clearly KICC was associated with KANU up to the time the party lost the elections in 2002. Kibaki’s Government Nationalized the building after coming to power in 2003 and since then it became one of the many Kenyan Parastatals. In reality KICC was private property until the Government took it over ten years ago. The only reason Government could do that is because of Kenyan corrupt practices. The building was meant to be political party property but built using Public funds which should not be the case at all. That alone, in a perfect world, in corruption free country would make many people not want to be associated with the building at all. Again I would ask whether Kenyans consider KICC iconic because it long association with one of the most hated political parties in the land, KANU. I don’t think so but from the historical use of the place, that is the closest it comes to being iconic.
And that brings us to the final bit of that description, which is economic standing. KICC by all standards has excellent conference facilities, and to me that is the real value of the building. The value which has outlived all other aspect of the building and the country always stand tall knowing that she can host all sorts of world class conferences. On top of that, in the last ten years, the management of the building has done well to ensure that it is self-sustainable. In other words it has become a source of revenue for the Government and no longer a burden to tax payers.
But above are not the reasons given as to why the building is considered iconic, the main reason is its “beauty” and what is called Kenyan spirit. Talking of the beauty Kenya as country is full of beautiful things, places, building and even her people. Knowing the value of beauty Kenya has done all it can to make money from it. That is why the country strive to be the leading tourist destination in the region. Unfortunately, and I am sorry to burst the bubble of the beauty bandwagon, KICC does not come close to the list of the places which attract people to Kenya due their iconic scenery.
In my views, KICC is a commercial center based in a commercial city. I city where the only thing the residents think about is how to make money. I like one comment posted on the Business Daily article by someone going by the name fagga
What is the exchange rate for ‘beauty and prestige’ against the dollar? Nairobians don’t sit the whole day staring at KICC saying to themselves – what a wonderful masterpiece!
And that is the reason why I don’t understand those who are opposed to KICC being creative in order to make money. As already discussed here by Washington Odipo, the idea of the ad on top of the building is not a new thing.
Back to the beginning, assuming that most Kenyans consider the building iconic as everyone now want us to believe, how does putting the ad around the top of the building take away that status? If anything it has made its visibility better at night. Stand anywhere in the outskirts of Nairobi at night and you will be amazed how the ad has made the building more recognizable at night.