Waclaw Sczeliga Trzebinski
exotic life of a talented architect
- - A
Memorial Service in celebration of the life of Sbish Trzebinski was
held at the Emmanuel Church, Freretown, Kisauni, Mombasa, on April 22,
2005, followed by refreshments at The Tamarind Restaurant.
friend of the family read out the following eulogy to an appreciative
gathering of his immediate family, long time friends, close
colleagues and architectural associates:
March 15, 2005, Kenya lost one of its premier architects, with the
death of Sbish Trzebinski - who, with his professional partner, Tibor
Gaal, was responsible for designing some of Kenya's most dramatic
teamwork for almost forty years provided clients with spectacular and
often brilliantly innovative designs all along the coast from Diani to
Village, Severin Sea Lodge, Traveller's Beach, Two Fishes, Jadini,
Saki Beach Hotel, and Kaskazi are some examples of how
their finest work met the challenges of nature.
swimming pools became one trademark, starting at the reception desk
within the hotel, to flow out through gardens toward white sandy
beaches illustrating their approach.
Tamarind Restaurant and Village complex and African Safari
Club's Flamingo Beach Hotel at Shanzu, may prove to be their most
creative where in the case of the latter, acres of useless ancient
coral reef were transformed into a spectacular aquatic amphitheatre
high above the Indian Ocean.
extensive use of makuti, Swahili in origin, took inspiration from
Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes.
instead of sophisticated metal struts local material such as sisal
poles, mangrove and blue gum were deployed by the ton.
and Sbish, had been junior partners of lmre Rozsa, Nairobi, when they
designed Mountain Lodge, in the forests on Mount Kenya, conceiving the
very first underground tunnel so that tourists had access from the
heart of the lodge to the water-hole where they could photograph
elephant and buffalo at close range and in complete safety.
was an innovation that has been copied over and again.
commission to design Kunduchi Beach Hotel in Tanzania, was
dependent upon opening an office there.
as the bachelor, was the obvious choice.
did not hesitate over moving from Karen to Mombasa with his wife,
Errol, and their three children, Bruce, Tonio and Gabriela.
and Sbish next invited Errol to work on the interiors for this
Hallmark Hotel's project.
client's faith was justified when on completion, Kunduchi Beach
Hotel was subsequently chosen to as one of the Best
Of Three Hundred Hotels In The World.
- - Relaxed
his prime: architect Sbish
Trzebinski enjoys a midday
meal in his Shanzu home
during January 1976.
remarkable project followed with Chris Seex, whose vision of what
Mombasa public really wanted was a restaurant specializing in superior
raised the money to build this on the magnificent site overlooking
Mombasa's old town, naming it after a fully mature tree on the site, The
began the first of chain of excellent eating venues upcountry.
success was such that Chris Seex and his partners developed Tamarind
Village, once more from the drawing boards of Trzebinski and Gaal.
was not all plain sailing however - Sbish simply ignored the fact that
flat roofs, which have always been an architect's nightmare, presented
conviction came from his guru, the American architect Frank
confronted by a wealthy and outraged client, because their dining room
was not water-proof, Lloyd-Wright had ordered them to "move
with a similar complaint at Tamarind Village, Sbish, who always
expected to have the last word baffled the Tamarind board, with
it ONLY LEAKS when it rains !"
Waclaw Sczeliga Trzebinski was born in Gydnia in Poland, the first
child of noble parents whose families, lost everything at the outset
of the Second World War.
maternal grandfather was one of the victims of the infamous Katyn
massacre, then in the former Soviet Union.
father, an officer in the Polish navy, escaped to offer his services
to Britain's Royal Navy.
a Commander he was torpedoed three times but survived though he had
entirely lost touch with his wife and son.
1944, he assigned the Red Cross to establish their fate, having
no idea whether they were still alive, having lost contact since 1939.
fact, they had traveled almost four thousand miles to Kazakstan via
Krasnovask in Siberia to where they had been deported.
reaction to the film, Dr Zhivago, triggered memories of
sleeping curled up on his mother's hat box during this 17-day rail
journey across the frozen wastes.
had he forgotten the stench of 'night soil' as it was shoveled out of
the cattle-truck in which they were transported.
mother hid her valuables in his felt boots, cautioning him not to
utter a word.
guards often searched her but the jewelry was safe: and, thanks to her
valuable heirlooms, she eventually bartered her way through to
Teheran, and then on to Basra and Baghdad by any means available,
eventually going by desert bus to Palestine.
went to school in Aenkarem and almost succumbed to typhoid.
he recovered they moved on to Tel Aviv and later to Cairo, Egypt,
where in 1944, Sbish's mother was contacted by the British Red
Cross on behalf of her husband.
Thomas Cook tickets were now sent by Sbish's father, for
passage on the 'S.S. Franconia' - which formed part of the last
convoy to sail for Glasgow before the Allied invasion of Sicily.
his travels Sbish learned to communicate in French, Russian and Arabic
by the time he was eight besides his mother tongue, Polish.
... the only English words known to him when he reached his
prep-school in Stubbington, U.K., had been picked up in Cairo from the
war time song, "Good night my love..."
Mayfleld College, a minor public school for boys in Sussex, run
by Roman Catholic fathers, Sbish played Mary Magdalen, in the annual
school play and was so successful that he became smitten with the idea
of becoming an actor.
father, would not hear of this. Recognizing Sbish's flair for drawing,
he firmly suggested that his son had the talent to become an
architect, and he eventually convinced Sbish that he was right.
preliminary portfolio presented by Sbish at the Polytechnic School
of Architecture in Regent Street secured his place immediately.
fellow student, Glynn Davis, whose father, Idris had practiced
successfully in Nairobi for many years, invited Sbish out to Kenya for
milestone set his fate: Kenya's glorious climate, space, sunlight,
shadow and palm trees reminding Sbish's of his first exposure to
tropical heat in Cairo was decisive - exotic details of which were to
appear in every elevation Sbish produced after qualifying in 1958.
was this same year that Idris
Davis offered Sbish a full time job, once he became a member of the
opportunity enabled Sbish also to offer his parents a new beginning
too and he brought them out to to live in Kenya.
Trzebinski's loved their adopted country enjoying many assets they had
before the war and Sbish's parents never returned to Europe again.
Davis, a keen Thespian, introduced Shish to the Nairobi City
Players with whom Sbish fulfilled a chance to act at the
fans still remember his starring roles in front of the footlights, in
such varied productions as:
Days, The Boyfriend, The Caine Mutiny, The Bespoke Overcoat, A
Streetcar Named Desire, The Diary of Anne Frank, Guys and Dolls -
and in Nairobi Cathedral, in the title role in John Osborne's, Luther.
for all the applause, nothing held comparison for Sbish, to one small
cameo film part.
he briefly appeared on screen and was slapped by Meryl Streep during
Sydney Pollack's Oscar Winning movie 'Out
Of Africa' while on location in Nairobi.
screenplay had been largely based on Errol's first biography,
'Silence Will Speak', the life of Denys Finch Hatton and his
relationship with Karen Blixen.
the screenplay arrived at Shanzu, as Errol was a consultant on the
movie too, she was nonplussed by her husband's choice, when he
observed that the only part he would consider for himself in the movie
script was that of "the beefy Drunk" and with one of his
wicked grins, pointed out that this actor stood between the two stars.
again, his strong intuition had been justified.
Robert Redford and Streep were cast in the movie, Meryl kissed
"the beefy drunk" after the third take ... making up for the
ferocity with which she slapped his cheek.
rest, as they say, is history.
a man of many parts, Sbish's energy was boundless; although he had a
reputation for being "difficult" his explosive personality
made an indelible impact and his presence made him impossible to
intellect embraced diverse interests such as classical music and jazz,
modern art the French Impressionists, cinema and aquariums.
his gastronomical pursuits were curbed by the onset of diabetes in
mid-life though he was a good cook.
on topics ranging from conservation, how to mix the perfect 'Bloody
Mary', Winston Churchill, Lamu politics or using polymer plastics as
opposed to palm thatch to lessen fire hazards, gave only gave a
glimpse into his range of conversation.
views were brisk and as unorthodox as his upbringing.
was complex, shy and quite private, irascible yet anxious for
family learned over the years, that no matter that how angry he might
be over some petty detail, given any real crisis, he could be counted
upon absolutely to offer support with compassion and loyalty.
from all walks of life, will remember him for his glamorous concepts,
his enormous capacity for humour, his abiding sense of the ridiculous
and his ability to cut through false values.
ball of colour has vanished into the deepest atmosphere and yet the
influence of his gifts will endure for those who knew him.