SYNOPSIS

Back in July 2015, we shared an inspiring story of architect Sharon Davis who turned to architecture in her 40’s and took on her first project barely a year out architecture graduate school, in rural Rwanda. The project was the Women’s Opportunity Center in the village of Kayonza, Rwanda, commissioned by the nonprofit organization Women for Women International.

Her firm, Sharon Davis Design, recently shared with us more extensive detail about the project. These include diagrams, drawings, models and an extensive gallery of images highlighting the construction process and various milestones of the project, such as the manual technique used by Rwandan women volunteers to make the 450,000 clay bricks that are the literal “building-blocks” of most of the structures.

ARCHITECT’S DESCRIPTION

On a one-hectare site in Rwanda, the most densely populated country in Africa, the Women’s Opportunity Center is a change-making campus that empowers one small community and, in turn, reframes the way we as architects engage the world.

CONTEXT AND TERRAIN

We chose the idea of a vernacular Rwandan village as our organizing principle: a series of human-scaled pavilions clustered to create security and community for up to 300 women. Created in collaboration with our client, Women for Women International—a humanitarian organization helping women survivors of wars rebuild their lives—this mini-village in Rwanda transforms unsustainable urban agglomeration and subsistence farming with an architectural agenda to create economic opportunity, rebuild social infrastructure, and restore cultural heritage.

THE SITE LAYOUT

Our design revives a lost Rwandan housing tradition with rich spatial and social layers. Its circular forms radiate from intimate classrooms to a community space, farmer’s market, guest lodging, and the civic realm beyond. The center’s circular structures are modeled after the historic King’s Palace in southern Rwanda, whose woven-reed dwellings were part of an indigenous tradition that the region had all but lost. Our design draws on the delicacy of this vernacular Rwandan construction method with rounded, perforated brick walls that allow for passive cooling and solar shading, while maintaining a sense of privacy.

BRICK COURSING AND DESIGN FOR CLASSROOMS
FINISHED CLASSROOMS

The design builds support for Rwanda’s social infrastructure through guest lodging facilities that allow donors and partner organizations to experience the Opportunity Center first-hand. These lodges serve as a conduit for initiatives that build one-to-one relationships between women in Kayonza and sponsors around the world, expanding the center’s social footprint through a sustaining global network.

GUEST LODGING

The 450,000 clay bricks needed for the construction were made from clay adjacent to the site by local Rwandan women (the center’s future users), using a durable manual press method which we adapted from local building techniques. As a result, women have learned marketable, income-generating skills and are now being hired as masons in the area. This has helped create income opportunities and spur social solidarity.

ADMIN BUILDING

The project also includes a demonstration farm that helps women produce and market their own goods. This Commercial Integrated Farming Initiative teaches women to produce income from the land through organic techniques geared toward commercial production. Through compact, easily maintained animal pens and classrooms— cooled by green roofs and retained earth walls—women learn to raise pigs, cows, goats, and rabbits, along with food storage and processing methods that can be used to run their own food cooperatives profitably.

FARM /FARM STORAGE

Set around an inviting plaza easily reached by motorists and public transit, a market showcases the center’s economic potential. Here, women sell food, textiles, baskets, and other products produced on site, as well as potable water harvested from the center’s rooftops. Market spaces can be rented to generate additional income, building a self-sufficient community network in Kayonza.

MARKET
 KITCHEN

As well as designing innovative buildings that allow passive cooling and solar shading, our global network of consultants tapped African entrepreneurs to create water purification, biogas, and other sustainable systems that can now be produced and maintained by Rwandans for Rwandans. Hygienic composting toilets replaced the more traditional pit-latrines, reducing water use while capturing nitrogen-rich waste.

PARTNER ROOMS

Brick by brick, together with the county’s women, we’re building big change. The Women’s Opportunity Center is a teaching tool that empowers more than 300 women annually to transcend a legacy of conflict. In their lives and stories, we have found the locally inspired grounds for a globally resonant architecture of optimism.

IMAGE GALLERY

BRICKMAKING PROCESS
CONSTRUCTION PROCESS IMAGES

PROJECT CONSULTANTS

DESIGNER: Sharon Davis Design
31 Perry Street
New York, NY 10014
Telephone: 212-255-8025
Key People:
Sharon Davis, Principal
Bruce Engel, Lead Designer, Project Manager
Samuel Keller, Designer
Jeff Wandersman, Designer
Dong Ping Wong, Designer
Damen Hamilton, Designer
Molly Cronin, Designer
Laura Cheung, Designer

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: OSD ENGINEERING
9 Revere Road
Bell Mead, New Jersey 08502 USA
Telephone: +1 (908) 359-8977
Fax: +1 (908) 428-6851
Contact: Arun Rimal, P.E.
E-mail: arun@osdengineering.com

WATER MNGMT ENGINEER: eDesignDynamics
402 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
Office:+1.646.688.3113
Fax: +1.646.688.3664
Contact: Eric Rothstein
E-mail: erothstein@edesigndynamics.com

LANDSCAPE DESIGN: XS Space and Susan Maurer (Julie Farris)
370 Clinton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Telephone: 917-566-0571
Contact: Julie Farris
E-mail: jfarris@xsspace.com

WATER FILTRATION: Manna Energy Ltd.
P.O. Box 1594; Utexrwa Compound
Kigali, Rwanda
Telephone: +250 0 255 11 407
Contact: Josh Kefauver – Chief Operating Officer
mobile: (+250) 788-300-361
josh.kefauver@mannaenergy.com
Jennifer McCard – Assistant Operating Officer
(+250) 78 523 9132
Jennifer.mccard@mannaenergy.com
website: www.mannaenergy.com

COMPOSTING TOILETS: REC REC ASSOCIATION
Kigali, Rwanda
Contact: Valentine Mucyo
Telephone: (25) 078 849 9521
E-Mail: recassoci@yahoo.fr

BIO-GAS ENGINEER: CRET sarl
Kigali, Rwanda
Contact: Edouard Ndayisaba
E-Mail: cret06_sarl@yahoo.fr

RAIN CISTERNS: Water for Life
Kigali, Rwanda
Contact: Nick Greener
Mobile: 078-537-6757
E-Mail: ngreener@mac.com

SOLAR ENERGY: Great Lakes Energy
Kigali, Rwanda
Contact: Sam Dargan
Mobile: +25 078 865 6025
email: sam@energyforafrica.com
skype: samdargan
Energyforafrica.com

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Three Code Construction
p.o. box 2773, Kigali, Rwanda
(+250)788 304 815 / (+250) 788 892 033
Contractor’s Project Manager: Japheth Makale

SIGNAGE
2X4
180 Varick Street, 15th Floor
New York City, NY 10014
T 212 647 1170
F 212 647 0454
E info@2×4.org

No more articles