When tasked with creating a much-needed doctors’ dormitory in rural Rwanda, the design team from Sharon Davis Design were free to let their creativity run wild. The only caveat? That little issue of a tight budget, of course. Yet instead of letting this issue scale back their design, the team opted for a back to nature approach which saved on the money and environmental front. Let’s take a closer look.
Design For the Community
Perched on a hillside in rural Rwinkwavu, the Share Houses provide temporary housing for medical professionals working at Rwinkwavu Hospital.
The 6,900-square-foot lodgings are part of a wider urban planning document masterminded by the Rwandan Village Enterprises for Partners in Health, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and New York-based Sharon Davis Design.
Community is particularly important to this project, and the design plan will be closely guided by the needs and aspirations of the local villagers. To this end, a Community Design Workshop offered professionals an insight as to what would work best for the village.
A Village Within a Village
One of the main aspirations for the Shared Houses was a desire to enhance connections between medical staff and the wider community. This was achieved by creating a ‘village within a village’.
The individual bedrooms, for instance, boast their own private exterior with large overhangs for rain and heat protection. Looking out on views of the valley to the west, this helps its occupants have a visual sense of connection to the local village.
Elsewhere, shared bathrooms and spacious communal lounges foster community within the Shared Houses. Bench seating and long communal tables further encourage conversation and interaction.
Back to Nature
The design makes the most of its hot, dry hillside site and tight budget with a little help from nature.
All of the construction materials were sourced from within Rwanda, with most coming from the immediate neighboring areas. Local stone was quarried for all foundations and walkways. The clay bricks were handmade by the local village women’s cooperative.
Locally-sourced clay tiles were used for the ventilated roof cavity. In addition to being cost effective, these clay tiles were an ideal choice for thermal and acoustic performance.
I especially love the use of Eucalyptus to create a screened exterior. The Eucalyptus provides enclosure and privacy while still allowing for a sense of the outdoors. It’s also a nice connection to the more traditional way of building here in Rwanda.
Environmental concerns aside, the project also stands out for its dedication to benefiting local women. Approximately 90 per cent of the construction labor was local to the village, with women representing a minimum of one third of the staff throughout the entire process.
For the Sharon Davis Design team, success is measured as much by social benefit as it is by aesthetic accomplishment. We think it’s pretty fair to say that the Shared Houses project epitomizes this to a tee.
Though it remains to be seen how the dormitory impacts the community, it’s clear that even the early construction process has been of huge social benefit to the village of Rwinkwavu. Generating work for the local community is an obvious way the Shared Houses project has done good. It’s also been a fantastic rallying point for the community, bringing together the whole village in a project that ultimately stands to benefit them all. We can’t wait to see what the next phase of the development process brings.
Want to see more like this? Check out the Tapestry Couch project! Or how about this story all about the transformation of ocean debris?