This Beautiful Memorial Celebrates the Work of Africa's First Female Nobel Laureate

Wangari Muta Maathai House
Wangari Muta Maathai House | Courtesy of Boogertman + Partners Architects

Architecture & Design Editor

This striking building by Boogertman + Partners Architects will be built as a ‘living memorial’ to internationally renowned Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai.

Recently selected as the winner in the ‘Future Buildings: Culture’ category at the 2016 World Architecture Festival, Wangari Muta Maathai House is dedicated to unfolding the narrative of Professor Maathai, providing visitors with a unique insight into her unfailing commitment to human rights, her struggle for democracy and her dedication to environmental conservation.

The Wangari Muta Maathai House

Maathai was the founder of the Greenbelt Movement, an environmental organisation that aims to empower communities, particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. According to the Greenbelt Movement, the proposed house near Nairobi is designed to be ‘a sanctuary for reflection and renewal; a final home for her ashes; and a place of learning, growth, and action’.

Barack Obama and Wangari Muta Maathai walk together in Nairobi

The building is designed as a forum for experiential learning for all Kenyans, Africans and people from across the world. As visitors arrive, they’ll approach the timber circular walkway that crosses a pond below containing a small island with a hummingbird sculpture, surrounded by beautiful flowers and shrubs where Wangari’s ashes are interred. Visitors are invited to sit and reflect on Wangari’s life, either on benches or on traditional three-legged African stools.

The timber circular walkway crossing the pond

The unique shape of the floating walkway is designed to symbolise the ‘circle of life’ while the open, central courtyard is the focus, sheltered among the forest above. It contains the amphitheatre, a raised embankment and the mausoleum.

Birds eye view of Wangari Muta Maathai House

The house will also contain a building to hold various indoor events and showcase Maathai’s awards, including her Nobel Peace Prize medal. Visitors will be able to learn about her life, listen to her speeches and see some of her most iconic possessions, including the dress she wore for the Nobel Prize Ceremony, her desk and chair, and her famous 1969 VW Beetle. The house is due to be completed in around four years’ time.

Architectual sketch of Wangari Muta Maathai House

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