As demand for office space in Nairobi grows, investors are seeking more creative alternatives to cater for the needs of modern workers.
For Vincenzo Cavallo, he has just built what those looking for something different from the normal offices in high-rise buildings need.
Recently, the Cultural Video Foundation bought and transformed a London double decker bus into what now hosts its office on the lower deck while the upper deck is leased out to UP magazine Mondeas Limited.
Mr Cavallo of Cultural Video Foundation says initially the plan was to have a mobile office.
“The idea was simple, we invest in a container then we make it nicely and if the landlord decides to sell the plot where we are, we can always move it to another location,’’ he said.
‘‘This would allow us to invest in the infrastructure in the long-term even if we don’t actually own a plot or any real estate property.’’
The idea was to take advantage of minimal spaces around Nairobi and turn them into office spaces.
One day while at Sarit Centre, Mr Cavallo saw an advert of a bus being sold in one of the notice boards in the shopping mall.
‘‘A double deck bus for sale in Nairobi.’’ A few days later, he saw another advert “1969 double deck bus perfect for a cafeteria.”
“When I saw this, I thought, wait a second, if we buy this old bus and restore it, we will have two offices, one downstairs and one upstairs,” said Mr Cavallo.
With most people now sharing office spaces in Nairobi, he decided to buy the bus and turn it into two offices, targeting workers in the creative industry.
The bus which was previously used by a school as an art room had been sold to a scrap metal dealer where Mr Cavallo and his two partners bought it from.
They found it a new home at 80 Muthithi Road in Parklands, Nairobi and renovated it from last year.
It was in a bad condition and it took them one year to restore it and add office features such as lighting, Internet cabling, working areas such as desks and chairs. The roof has also been redone to shield workers from harsh weather conditions.
The roof has been pushed up in to avoid use of air conditioning systems.
The bus-turned-into-ofice is connected to electricity, it has a generator, a fully-equipped video editing room and an upstairs office that can hold up to 10 people.
Sapna Chandaria, the commercial director of Mondeas Limited, which rented the upper deck says she chose the bus office as it brings out the youthful reflection of her brand. Next to the bus they have built a cafè and restored an old toilet.
The bus is now a creative base where people come and share ideas before bringing them to life. It has a kitchen, canteen and bar area used to entertain guests and host monthly parties.
“The model is the same as that of the Nest or Pawa or the iHub, our peculiarity is that we are working in a bus and that our space is minimal, we can move it if we need to,” says Mr Cavallo.
Their love for urban affairs, urban art, and urban issues blends well with the bus office as it shows the connection with art and culture. It cost about Sh1 million to turn the bus into an office and set up other facilities like the bar and renovate the toilet.
What appeals many to the bus office is that it gives a creative platform to artists who do not want to live in and work from a concrete, restrictive city-like environment.
When you arrive at work, and you realise that your office is actually a restored double-deck bus, things feel a bit better, you feel life can be a fun game and Nairobi can be your playground, Mr Cavallo says.
“This is how we survive, by turning life into a game, this is why whoever comes and works from the bus will never get bored at work as they find it an exciting place to work and live,” he says.