In response to Africa’s massive need for infrastructure over the next 30 years, MASS Design Group launched the African Design Centre in 2016. The ADC seeks to empower leaders who will design a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. The design-build fellowship culminated with the opening of Ruhehe Primary School in October 2018.
Guided by the MASS team, ADC fellows immersed in the Ruhehe context, leading community workshops, interviewing students, shadowing teachers, and evaluating existing conditions. The assessment informed a mission for the project: leveraging high quality design to create more dignified learning and play environments that could set a replicable model for the country.
The new design of the campus centers around two scales of threshold: bridging the school and community, and creating distinct spaces for learning and play. The school is laid out along a gently curving wall of local volcanic stone, paying homage to Rwandan craftsmanship. To create comfortable learning environments, the classroom design included skylights and light-shelves to diffuse direct sunlight, operable windows to facilitate natural ventilation, and woven panels and clay roofing tiles to absorb sound. The central plaza invites community gatherings, and outer yards feature areas for play. A headmaster’s office and library complete the new masterplan.
The ADC fellows invested in local resources, sourcing 80 percent of construction materials within 50 kilometers of the site, reducing carbon emissions normally created when importing foreign materials. The fellows leveraged the construction process to hire 110 local workers. Responding to high youth unemployment rates and a lack of women in the construction industry, the fellows trained a workforce that was 35 percent female and 18 percent youth.
Ruhehe’s budget matched precedent projects, setting an affordable, replicable model for improved educational infrastructure that can be scaled across Rwanda.
Credits: Kayihura Nyundo Ubatsi, Michael Murphy MASS Design Group, Theophile Uwayezu MASS Design Group, Yemi Kacoutie African Design Centre, Maame Prempeh African Design Centre, Victor Iyakaremye African Design Centre, Krista Palen Transsolar, Harriet Kirk MASS Design Group, Christian Benimana MASS Design Group, Zani Gichuki African Design Centre, Omar Garza NOUS Engineering, Paul Avery Oak Consulting Group, Alberto Cumerlato MASS Design Group, Lydia Kanakulya African Design Centre, Mawa Moses African Design Centre, Thandizo Kachiza African Design Centre, Jeremiah Oonyu African Design Centre, Rosie Goldrick MASS Design Group, Tshepo Mokholo African Design Centre, Myamu Kililo African Design Centre, Sarah Mohland MASS Design Group, Sierra Bainbridge MASS Design Group