Incorporating foreign ideas in Uganda’s structural designs

After travelling to different countries, Martin Kibirige, a structural designer, put together the different ideas

Tuesday March 18 2014

One of the houses Martin Kibirige has designed.

One of the houses Martin Kibirige has designed. He choose light colours like grey and cream because they are good for a home. He also used a stone finishing as part of the Roman design, one of the new forms of structual design in Uganda. PHOTOS by EDGAR R. BATTE 

By Edgar R Batte

After travelling to different countries, Martin Kibirige, a structural designer, put together the different ideas he had seen and below, he tells us how he integrates them into the local construction designs

Martin Kibirige did Computer Science at Makerere University, but his eyes and passion were drawn towards doing interior designing.
When he graduated with an honours degree, he still wanted to explore his love for interior designing. So he went on to do a post-graduate diploma in Interior Design in the UK, at Sunderland University.

Thereafter, he did another diploma in Interior Design at Kyambogo University, to enable him understand the interior concepts of Africa. He has also done a number of online certificates in Architecture and Interior design.

However, while in the UK, he needed some extra money to survive. So he looked out for a job and incidentally his first job was as a painter.

Painter in the UK
“I used to paint houses. The company I was working with was doing that kind of work and a number of other interior design jobs, like wood work which involved use of furniture, landscaping, lighting systems and construction,” he recounts.

He adds that painting could be done in many ways. They would use brushes, rollers, spray guns, plastic floats, paper, decorative rollers or sponges and feathers among others.

“All this depended on the kind of interior it was, its purpose and the kind of finishing the client preferred. Paint could be with spirit, thinner or water, all depending on whether it was oil or water basepaint. Their favourite colours were red, purple and leafy green,” he says.

An interior designer in Nigeria
Kibirige moved to Nigeria where he got his first job as an interior designer. But what struck him in Nigeria’s structural design was that they had already adopted modern interior designs which involved use of aluminium.

“Nigerians quickly adapt to change. When I was there they were already using decorative paints like Italian stucco (marble paint), wall paper paints and texture paints. In general they were interested in Italian paints,” Kibirige explains.

“I promised myself that I would start a company in interior design business once I got in Uganda which would do some of such designs,” he recalls.

Starting out in Uganda
When Kibirige returned to Uganda in 2006, he registered Maritini Interior Construct. For the start he did not have a team. “I developed a team slowly. Getting the first job was difficult but when I did, it gave me a lot of work. I got contracted to do the C&C apartments in Bukoto,” 32-year-old Kibirige explains.

The structural designer was contracted to paint the apartment but thought he could have done a better job on putting the whole structure together.

Creating a niche area
By the time he started out in Uganda, a number of his cleints were interested in single colours. He introduced the idea of using different colours to them.

While painting C&C he did it well because he knew many people would look and appreciate the usage of natural colours.
“People think they should do what everyone else is doing. People in Uganda do not want creativity. Convincing my clients is a problem but after their acceptance, they like it and create a profile for me. I used three different colours while painting,” he recollects.
The designer says he used natural light green colour, soft white on the balconies, gold on other exterior walls, then finally gold stone finishing on the columns.

His work on the C&C Apartments made him popular that towards the end of 2008 Kibirige got contracted to paint the interior and exterior of Quality Shopping Mall in Lubowa.

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