Mass Design Uses Local Materials, Simple Technologies to Build Modern Hospital in Rwanda

© Iwan Baan

A building can be much more than just a building. Sierra Bainbridge of Mass Design told the Making Space symposium in Philadelphia:

Architects have the ability to not only design the built environment, but also to build capacity, create dignity, and empower. Innovative and appropriate interventions, relying on immersive research, have the potential to capitalize on local resourses, generate systemic change, and ultimately, break the cycle of poverty.

© Mass Design

A great example is at Butaro Hospital in Rwanda: One can hire a bulldozer to do the excavations, (and it will probably break down) or you can put a thousand people to work. In fact, by using local labor and materials Mass Design built this hospital for 2/3rd the price of a more conventionally built one and put everyone to work.

© Mass Design

They specified local volcanic rock that most people think is junk but that is everywhere.

Our design makes use of local materials - such as the volcanic rock from the Virunga Mountain Chain – and labor intensive practices in an effort to deliver appropriate and sustainable design, as well as stimulate the local economy.

© Mass Design

Instead of the usual expensive air conditioning they designed for natural ventilation and Big Ass fans.

© Iwan Baan

This is an example of really creative thinking: traditionally beds in wards are set against the walls, so that patients get a nice view of other patients and the windows have higher sills. By turning this around so that the beds are in the middle looking out, the windows are bigger, the patients get a view, it improves ventilation, it is just so logical.

© Iwan Bann

The architects write:

The Butaro Hospital brought architects, builders, and doctors directly to a community most in need and addressed global poverty by creating better built, more equitable environments and embedding systems that ensured its long-term, independent sustainability.

It really is so much more than just a building. I had a chance to interview Sierra Bainbridge; I had never used the iPhone as a video camera before and did not realize that one has to turn it sideways. I apologize for the black bands.

bainbridge from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

Tags: Architecture | Rwanda

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