The Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies, whose groundbreaking was held on Wednesday, sits on 50 acres at the University of Nairobi’s Upper Kabete Campus.
The Green Campus seeks to become an international model center of excellence in environmental governance with relations to a culture of peace and democracy.
Speaking during the groundbreaking event, President Uhuru Kenyatta paid tribute to Prof Maathai for her zealous efforts and passion to safe-keep the environment and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to facilitate the project to its finalisation.
The design of the campus, whose structures are estimated to cost Sh1.4 billion, was done by a South African firm, dhk architects and approved in February 2011, seven months before Prof Maathai’s death.
“We hoped to present a vision of Prof Maathai by approaching the site, landscape and architecture in terms of long-term stewardship, sustainable management of resources, education and empowerment,” Dr Justin Snell, the lead architect said while presenting the design in February 2011.
Dr Snell said the heart of the dhk design is a welcoming structure to be known as “the democratic space” whose tensile canopy roof is supported by tripod ‘tree-like’ columns that evoke tree planting activity and the three legs of the traditional African stool seen by Prof Maathai as representing ‘democratic space and ‘cultures of peace’.
The Wangari Mathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies is a joint project of the government of Kenya and the African Development Bank (AfDB) dubbed “Support to Enhancement of Quality and Relevance in Higher Education Science and Technology.
Prof Maathai died on 25 September 2011 at the Nairobi Hospital while undergoing treatment for cancer. Her body was cremated shortly after and the ashes are expected to be interred at “the democratic space” of the institution upon completion of the project.