David Mutiso: The First Indigenous Kenyan Architect Who Designed The Iconic KICC Building

David Mutiso: The First Indigenous Kenyan Architect Who Designed The Iconic KICC Building
David Mutiso Photocredit/Courtesy

By Jackson Nyakoe 

David Mutiso was the first indigenous Kenyan architect who is commonly known for designing the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) building which is currently the 10th tallest building in Kenya and is ranked as one of the top places to hold conferences in the continent. The building became a landmark in the country after its official opening by the 1st president mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1973. 

Here is his story as told by WoK.

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David was born in 1932, he attended primary schools in Mwala and Manyatta before joining Alliance high school. After high school David progressed to the University of Sheffield’s  school of architecture from 1954 to 1959. His university education was facilitated after he had applied for a bursary to study in the UK and got interviewed by the assistant director of African education Norman Larby, Carey Francis and others and before being awarded the bursary to study in the UK for five years. 

After graduation David served apprenticeship with J. Womersley, City Architect of the Sheffield Corporation (1959 to 1960). He was member of the RIBA (1956-1970) and founder member of the Architectural Association of Kenya (1967). He was Chairman of the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (1965-1974) and an external examiner for the department of Architecture at the University of Nairobi.


He was registered to practice as an architecture in Kenya in 1967. He opened his own practice in 1974 where he created a portfolio of projects impressive for its range and diversity as well as for the exceptional quality of his buildings and the sensitivity of the siting and landscaping.

According to the Museum of Kenyan architecture, Mutiso worked closely with Norwegian architect Karl Henrik Nøstvik in the construction of the KICC in the 1960s. The construction involved 3 phases and took six years to complete. In an interview that was conducted in 2021, David said that the inspiration behind the tower was a donkey’s p3nis. 

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Speaking to Buildesign, David Mutiso, who was the Chief Architect at the Ministry of Public Works at the time when the project was being conceived, disabused claims that Karl Henrik Nøstvik was the brains behind the iconic building. 

“It was some time in 1968 when Tom Mboya, KANU Secretary General, called my office and asked for a meeting. During our meeting, he revealed that the party wanted a building that would be its headquarters that would have facilities for the governing council to meet,” he told the online news outlet.

He went on to explain that Karl was his junior in government who assisted in the project and his contract with the government lapsed before the project was finalised. He was taken in as private consultant for the project.

According to David, he was the one who developed the sketches which he presented to Tom Mboya. Kenyatta was impressed with the project and he would meet the former Head of State every Monday morning until the day he laid the foundation stone for the building.

Other notable projects

The United Nations accommodation of 1975, that comprises the headquarters of the UN Centre for Human Settlements as well as the regional offices of UNESCO and UNICEF.

Kenya Technical Teachers College which was completed in 1978.

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