Women’s Health Centre / FARE

Architects: FARE

Location: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Project Architect: Riccardo Vannucci
Project Team: Giuseppina Forte, Joao Sobral, Erika Trabucco & Emanuela Valle
Site supervision: Erika Trabucco, Joao Sobral
Client: AIDOS [Associazione Italiana Donne per lo Sviluppo] Voix des Femmes
Financial Promoters: Partito dei Democratici di Sinistra, European Commission
Design Year: 2005
Construction Year: 2006-2007
Site Area: 1,600 sqm
Constructed Area: 500 sqm
Budget: US $267,067
Photographs: FARE

This project just won the Health Category Award in the World Architecture Festival.

Project description and some great pictures of the construction process after the break.

The CBF [Centre pour le Bien-être des Femmes] Women’s Health Centre in Burkina Faso was created between 2005 and 2007 by AIDOS, an Italian NGO fighting for Women’s Rights in Developing Countries.
The AIDOS project, financed by the Democratici di Sinistra Political Party and with a contribution from the European Commission, is just one of the group’s international programs focused on contrasting the diffusion of Female Genital Mutilation [FGM].

The social/health-services program developed by AIDOS, together with its local partners was focused on providing the educational services, information and awareness about women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Sector 27 of Ouagadougou, a peripheral urban area settled by the rural population.
The social program called for the realization of a building complex capable of hosting a variety of activities in very harsh circumstances. The architectural project represents the response to this condition.

Completed in 15 months by a local builder, under the direct supervision of FAREstudio, the CBF is functionally and cost-effective answer to the needs expressed by AIDOS, while simultaneously and primarily representing a centre of aggregation and identity for the entire local community.
The technological and typological responses offered by the project, on par with its social programs, represents an innovative approach to traditional local building practices, presented as the natural formal expression of the changes and new approaches promoted by AIDOS.

The project privileges an integrated approach to interactions between built space and climatic-environmental conditions [building orientation and layout, control of resource consumption, the use of natural vegetation, the selection of building technologies], based on considerations of sustainability and appropriateness.

perspective view

The project is based on the separation of the primary activities performed by the CBF into two distinct, though closely related buildings: a Training Centre dedicated to activities of awareness-building and the administration and management of the CBF, and a Consultancy Centre, used for medical visits, legal assistance and psychological counseling.

The two main buildings are set atop a single structural element: a raised platform that creates a true artificial plane that supports various buildings used for different purposes. The raising of the platform above the ground ensures hygienic/climatic conditions that are extraneous to local culture and practices of building [protection against dust, mud and humidity].
The two main buildings are protected against rainfall and, above all, direct sunlight, by a light, waterproof PVC recyclable velarium, supported by an independent structure of ‘trees’. This sloping tarpaulin is part of a system that collects and stores rainwater, which is used to irrigate the garden.

The volumes that contain the various rooms are independent of the roof structure and freely placed atop the platform. They are articulated around a series of shaded and ventilated patios that ensure privacy from the exterior. The modular configuration of the structure allows for future expansion, preserving the general framework of the building.

The building walls are constructed using compressed dry stacked clay bricks, BTC [briques en terre comprimée], made on site using a rough mixture of earth, cement and water. The bricks were baked in the hot sun, with no energy consumption, thus limiting the environmental impact of the material.
The choice to use these bricks is based on their temperature and humidity reduction characteristics, enhanced here by their protection against contact with water, perhaps the only serious limitation they pose.
The choice of using this technology represents the desire to introduce alternative and sustainable technologies within a context that is tied to standardized, though not always optimal building practices, and to the importance of importing foreign materials.

The buildings are covered by corrugated aluminum and translucent decking, which allows light to filter into the interior, reducing the need for artificial illumination.

The space between the steel roof and the velarium, the open cavity underneath the platform, together with the exterior openings fitted with operable glass fins, help to improve the natural ventilation of interior spaces, drastically reducing the need for mechanical air conditioning.

The exterior space, similar to the interior, is designed as an open area to be used by the entire community. It is a space of sharing and of information, used to present the themes dealt with by the CBF. Indirect and informal communication is also favored by the organization of small events and public discussions. The garden is a micro environment that surrounds the buildings taking advantage of the shade provided by the building and trees and the humidity produced by the plants.
A layer of grass covers the earth, reducing the effects of erosion, while various species from Western and Sub-Saharan Africa have been planted with the twofold intention of creating shade and promoting the return of autochthonous vegetation.

Temperature control, perhaps the most significant climatic issue, has strongly influenced the overall design. The adopted strategy includes also:
• carefully studied [beneficial] building orientation, reducing the effect
of hot wind and taking advantage of mutual over shading
• the shading of heavy material against direct exposure to the sun
• extensive use of operable windows
• the separation of enclosed areas by transitional spaces, such as
verandas or patios.

Being water and power are not available in the area, the Centre is fully independent, integrating the systematic control of consumption and the self-production of resources, possibly renewable.
Water is provided by a newly drilled and dedicated well.

In order to achieve independence from external sources, photovoltaic cells have been installed along the perimeter wall, reducing the use of the electrical generator.
All this affects both personal behavior and collective responsibility: elimination of mechanical air conditioning [limited to medical rooms in order to assure filtered air] is probably the major achievement of the project in terms of environmental sustainability.

The outside walls, with no openings, are finished with a plaster coat, painted with bright colors.
The local NGO’s slogan, translated in 5 languages, completes the decoration of the walls. Each wall becomes a canvas, presenting the social message in an informal way.
Internal finishes such as the colorful mosaic tiling have been realized with the aim of combining a pleasing appearance with ease of construction, using locally available materials in a different, playful way.

Cite: "Women’s Health Centre / FARE" 05 Nov 2008. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=8319>
  • aimanr

    brilliant. simple yet complex in its production.

  • MZ

    It is fascinating to see an architecture that is deep rooted in its place, culturally and technically. It is obvious that when we talk about Africa we have to forget most of our western habbits and standards, but the result doesn´t have to be some pitiful soleless, cheap copy. Africa must explore its own way and walk it. Such project help to emerge what could be a whole new architecture. It will not be a fast process, but stay tooned.

  • http://mutantepoetica.blogspot.com Antonio


  • Kevin

    A beautiful building and incredible that it only took 15 months. My only complaint is regarding the landscaping. Plenty of grass and trees that will require a great deal of an incredibly valuable resource in a country next to the Sahara! One only needs to look at the surrounding area to see how arid Ouagadougou is. I hope they reexamine their landscaping decisions as rainfall alone will not provide enough irrigation and wells quickly run dry in Burkina Faso.

  • http://www.farestudio.it Erika T.

    Thank you! Actually while dealing with this project we had to re-think all our intellectual and technical habits…everything was different…even logical processes worked differently between us, you can imagine..but the challenge was not to fall into the ‘poor africans’ stereotype and try to learn from each other a different and possibly better way of conceiving architecture there…amazing..

  • mary a.

    Beautiful project!
    I’m working in Mali to build a schoolhouse that uses many of the same strategies; compressed bricks, raised roofs, and rainwater harvesting. Seeing this similar project is inspiring. We’re on the right track!

    • Brent Elliott


      I would like to know which Earth Brick system did they use. I am looking for a reputable product to make earth bricks in africa. You mentioned that you were using similar tactics for a school house in Mali – which unit were you using. My email is brent@gentrade.co.za. Thank you

  • http://www.f9productions.com Alex Gore

    Beautiful and stunning. Simply amazing.

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    advertising and *********** with Adwords. Anyway I?m adding this RSS to my email and can look out for much extra of your respective intriguing content. Ensure that you update this once more soon..

  • arano laqueo

    I’m also proud,,,,