An update from the GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi

Ulrika Stenkula, Marta Bohlmark and Filip Sudolsky have just come back from Nairobi where they are working with The GoDown Arts Centre to create a new complex with artists’ studios, a theatre, restaurant and café and much more. We asked them to give us an update on their work with the project.

Can you tell us a bit more about The GoDown Arts Centre? 

The GoDown Arts Centre is a well-known and respected arts centre and incubator with a very creative atmosphere. We are designing a new complex for the centre that will be a catalyst for unlocking the surrounding area’s potential, regenerating it rather than gentrifying it. It will be open to everyone and will be Kenya’s first arts and culture complex built after Independence in 1963.


Joy Mboya, Executive Director of The GoDown, has visited Kulturhuset in Stockholm several times and is very inspired by its openness and accessibility. The new GoDown will use the same approach, which is also a first in Kenya. Or as the Swiss ambassador put it – “This will be a game changer for East Africa!” – when the project was presented at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in Nairobi.

We understand that the design has come about in a unique way?
We received a very simple brief which we have developed over time in close dialogue and participation with Nairobi’s creative community, intellectuals and business as well as staff, artists and school groups, to name a few. Actually, three years into the project the design is still changing!


We host workshops to collect the different needs, wants and feedback. We follow artists and staff around the current compound to find out how they use it. We ask what they want from it – some want it to be a neutral space, others want a symbolic landmark; it should convey aspiration as well as being relaxed and small-scale.

The GoDown Arts Centre today.

What will The GoDown bring to the area and Nairobi as a whole?
Culture and artistic creativity are important factors driving a growing creative economy in Kenya, creating jobs and wealth. The GoDown is a hub and a catalyst for this shift, generating opportunities for the creative community and businesses in the area to prosper. It will also become a destination for visitors, which is very much needed in a city where most tourists pass through on their way to a safari or to the coast.

What’s next?
Marta, Filip and myself are using the input from the workshops to finalise the concept phase. Our local architect partner Planning System Services Ltd is starting the process of applying for city approvals and fundraising continues. The intention is to break ground in summer 2019. It’s all very exciting and we look forward to providing an update soon!

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