Structural EngineerEphrem Musonera
Text description provided by the architects. The design project for the Rwamagana Lutheran School new dormitory for 100 students is a manifesto of the firm’s mission in the potential of empowerment in education through architecture. The program of the dormitory is developed through innovative and socially responsible solutions that balance sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and functionality. The building is intended to act as a teaching tool that enhances the experience of the boarding school while stimulating the students, making them part of the design phases, and offering a safe, healthy and environmentally sound educational institution. With simple means, the project aims to respond to climate and territory constraints, as well as stimulating by design, in an attempt to link the basic student activities and the maximization of the use of space.
The adoption of a participatory design approach had a great role in the positive outcome of the project, integrating the students’ inputs, for a better understanding of the space use and perception, but also for the CV of the school, which is very much committed to implementing a sustainability course through the new design. The catalyst role played by the architectural intervention triggers a series of virtuous cycles that involve the community at the construction level, the students through the participatory approach and the stimulation by design, and facilitate the self-maintenance of the building. These aspects reinforce the concept of architecture as a tool to add value to programs.
Thanks to a step-by-step construction training, mock-ups, and on-site tests performed on materials, the workers learned how to improve their traditional construction techniques and how to adopt alternative locally available and affordable materials. This approach has been proved to increase job opportunities and improve the ability to self-construct. The use of local materials and construction techniques also facilitates the building contextualization and involves the community at the production level: the fired bricks are produced by artisans close to the site with clay sourced in the valley as well as the compacted clay floors. The stone for the foundations is quarried at the near village and brought on site. Lime and reeds are sourced from one of the masons, and all construction is performed with low-tech tools.
The innovative interpretation of the dormitory rests on the idea that architecture has the potential to improve the education environment, to stimulate the creativity of the students, their positive feelings and their industriousness during all their daily activities. This is reflected in each and every design details, starting from the room concept, through the arrangement of common spaces, up to the interior comfort achievement.