Sacred Heart cathedral, Kericho

Year:2015

Duration:3 years

Cost:£3.7m

Country: Kericho, Kenya

What did this project achieve?

In Kenya build a cathedral for Roman Catholic followers to 'assemble and grow'

The Sacred Heart cathedral Kericho is the second largest cathedral in Kenya. Able to hold a congregation of 1,500 people, the structure is close to the Rift Valley and about 250km south west of the capital Nairobi.

With a population of around 150,000, the town of Kericho is the seat of one of Kenya's 20 Roman Catholic dioceses. Established in 1995, the diocese is the second largest in the country.

The brief for the cathedral was to build an inspiring structure that would create a stimulus for the congregation to 'assemble and grow'.

The diocese was also keen that the building would use local materials and skills as much as possible.

The cathedral's most striking feature is its great inclined roof, which has an interior volume of more than 1,375m². The roof design fuses modern and historic African and religious references.

Engineers working on the building aimed to create a structure that fitted into its setting – the rolling landscape of Kericho's hills and valleys, covered in forests and tea plantations.

The cathedral has won many building, architecture and design awards.

Difference the cathedral has made

The cathedral provides a place of worship for more than 1,500 people in the area.

The project team employed local workers where possible – boosting the local economy as a result. It's also claimed that some local peoples' skills were improved through being trained to work on the scheme.

The structure has become a local landmark and attracts tourists and revenue to the area.

How the cathedral was built

Engineers based the structure of the cathedral on a concrete frame. The building's concrete ribs were left exposed as part of the design.

The project team worked with local contractors to create the structure's curved concrete arches. Special moulds were used to cast the arches.

Materials for the project – including the Cypress timber used for the ceiling and doors and clay tiles used for the roof – were sourced locally to keep costs down and reduce impact on the environment.

Granite for the cathedral sanctuary came from the town of Kisii to the south of Kericho. Stone for the building came from the Nairobi area.

Engineers designed a bespoke acoustic system for the building. Timber slats on the ceiling direct sound across the congregation as well as hiding a set of speakers.

The building uses as much natural light as possible. Sources include a full-length skylight and the tall side doors.

The cathedral was designed to withstand earthquakes and tremors as the area is prone to seismic disturbances.

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The cathedral's great inclined roof is now a distinctive form in the rolling panorama of Kericho's hills and valleys.

Civic Trust Awards

Fascinating facts

The figure of Christ on the cross above the cathedral's altar was made from brass by local artist Tums.

The sculpture is placed on wood from a tree that had to be chopped down to make way for the cathedral.

The building's gargoyles and gutters are part of a water management system that collects rainwater for use in irrigation.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Diocese of Kericho
  • Architect: John McAslan + Partners
  • Consulting engineer: Arup (UK)
  • Contracting engineer: Esteel Construction (Kenya)

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