With Namibia in a continuing battle to empower its citizens and reduce the unemployment rate through the creation of entrepreneurship opportunities, the northern town of Oshakati recently received assistance in the form of the N$90 million Omatala Open Market which was brought to life by Kerry McNamara Architects (KMA).
The Windhoek-based architecture firm was tasked with the establishment with the establishment of what may now be the most iconic infrastructure in the northern town, as its Director, Rowan McNamara, explains to Prime Focus this month.
“Kerry McNamara Architects’ main role in the recently inaugurated Oshakati Open Market was as Architects, Urban Designers, Project Managers and Principal Agents for the entire project from inception to completion. This involved a detailed project brief development followed by a comprehensive series of conceptual design studies and presentations to ensure approval from all affected parties,” he says.
“Once the concept designs were approved we moved into the design development stage fine tuning the overall technical and critical design issues. The final design and drawing stages taking the shape of the detailed and in depth construction drawing set critical for the success of any construction project. Our final task was to oversee the construction process, administer the building contract between the client and the contractor and do regular site inspections to ensure the design intentions were fully realised on site.”
While not responsible for all the facets of Oshakati’s Omatala Open Market’s construction, KMA made a concerted effort to engage all the relevant stakeholders so as to bring about infrastructure that is both user-friendly and offers unique aesthetic features when compared to the other buildings in the town.
“Our work also involved extensive research of other Open Markets around the country and Africa. This gave us great insight into the positive and negative aspects of Open Market design which formed a critical part in the design decisions taken. Another critical element was our interaction and open communication with the current Omatala market traders who conveyed valuable ideas, needs and desires for their future market,” he says.
“We were supported by a team of built environment consultants namely Lithon Project Consultants (Civil, Structural, mechanical and electrical engineers) and IDC International Development Consultancy (Quantity Surveyors) and the building contractors Jiangsu Zhengtai Construction,” McNamara adds.
With an affluent track record of creative projects which include the Pathcare Headquarters in Windhoek, the Pathcare medical village in Swakopmund as well as the Hobatere Lodge, McNamara explains that his firm still has a pivotal role to play in the establishment of key infrastructural projects in Namibia as the country goes through the natural process of expansion.
“Our relatively small population and market size in comparison to the rest of the world and to our immediate neighbours, Southern Africa, is in my opinion our greatest asset. Growth I this context can be steady and considerate and the nurturing of our natural resources and urban environments will be of paramount importance,” he says while adding, “With rapid urbanisation and so more and more Namibians moving into our towns and cities from rural areas drawn by better economic and social opportunities provided by the Urban collective. We need an urgent and fresh approach to the design and development of our settlements: one that is holistic and integrated and which is essential for the promotion of the collective well-being and fulfillment for all. We need transformative action in favor of people-centered, sustainable urban development that can be generative of a better quality of living and a more equitable access to economic and social opportunities.”
McNamara, a University of Cape Town graduate, outlines a skills deficit in the architectural sector as one the key challenges that the country will have to overcome if it is to realise its ambition of becoming an industrialised nation and explains that this can only be achieved through a collective commitment to education, both practical and theoretical, as a tool for the transference of skills.
“There is definitely a skills shortage in both qualified and experienced Namibian architects and Urban Designers in the country. Education! Education! Education! It cannot be stressed enough that we must focus on the education and awareness of up and coming Namibians to ensure they are aware of and can have the opportunity to become interested in Architecture, the built environment, Urban Design and the benefits these skills have on the progress of Namibia. This focused awareness should begin at a primary school level rather than the beginning of the tertiary education stage. Great strides in this arena are currently being made in Namibia, especially at the Department of Architecture and Spatial Planning (DASP) at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). It must also be the duty of Namibian Architectural and Urban Design firms to take on young Namibian interns interested in Architecture and support students whether it be in office time in the company or through study bursaries,” he says.
“I can attribute a large portion of my design and professional acumen to the incredible experience, support and knowledge gained throughout my life by interacting with my father the Architect, Urbanist and great Namibian humanist, Kerry McNamara, and more recently my brother and business partner, who is also the current president of the NCAQS Kevan McNamara,” he concludes.
Notwithstanding its aesthetic dominance in the town, the Oshakati Omatala Open Market is also expected to play a huge role in the lives of both traders and inhabitants of the town; something that was outlined by President, Hage Geingob, at the Market’s recent inauguration ceremony.
“Government understands that the informal economy plays a crucial role in the development process of developing countries through the provision of livelihoods for the majority of the people. Through appropriate support, the informal economy can become a gateway towards prosperity for our people,” Geingob was quoted as saying.