In Progress: Women's Opportunity Center / Sharon Davis Design

© Sharon Davis Design

Sharon Davis Design was recently awarded 2nd place among all categories of Future Projects at the World Architectural Festival; in their subcategory, Future Projects: Education, they placed first. The New York City design firm competed against over 70 shortlisted projects to achieve this international distinction for their Women’s Opportunity Center in Kayonza, Rwanda. Women for Women International, a Washington, DC based non-profit which seeks to empower female survivors of war and genocide commissioned the firm to build an educational campus in rural Rwanda in late 2008. Construction on the two-acre site began this summer. More images and project description after the break.

The Opportunity Center would be powered by onsite biogas, eschewing the traditional Rwandan fuel source of gathered firewood, which has lead to rampant deforestation in the country. The presentation demonstrated how a unique roof design would be employed for rainwater catchment. They further explained how the Opportunity Center was composed of several different smaller buildings, so that it resembled a traditional Rwandan village, a layout that would feel familiar and safe to the women and genocide survivors being educated on site. To generate a sustainable building material, they refined the brick making process at a local brick manufacturing co-op and taught graduates from Women for Women International’s empowerment programs the craft of brick making.

© Sharon Davis Design

The prestigious panel of judges, which included Michael Sorkin, Jo Noero, Professor Kongjian Yu, and Tim Macfarlane, praised the Opportunity Center’s focus on sustainability, female empowerment and using design to spur positive change. A publication issued by the World Architectural Fair summarized the judges’ reaction: “The project’s design revives a lost Rwandan housing tradition, featuring social spaces from intimate classrooms to a farmer’s market and guest lodging. The innovative program also includes a demonstration area, helping local women produce and market their own goods, and in doing so help fuel the local economy.” The Women’s Opportunity Center is scheduled for completion in 2012 and will serve up to 300 women at a time.

© Sharon Davis Design

Architects: Sharon Davis Design Location: Kayonza, Rwanda Client: Women for Women International Principal-in-Charge: Sharon Davis Project Manager: Bruce Engel Project Team: Sam Keller, Molly Cronin, Ashley Gange, Dong-Ping Wong, Jeff Wandersman, Laura Cheung, Damen Hamilton Consultants: Arun Rimal, OSD Engineering, structural engineer; Paul LaRoque, Buro Happold, structural engineer; John Ochsendorf, MIT, structural engineer; Eric Rothstein and Ian Lipsky, Energy Design Budget: $1,000,000 Project end date: Construction scheduled for completion in 2011

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Cite: Alison Furuto. "In Progress: Women's Opportunity Center / Sharon Davis Design" 02 Dec 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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