When war ravages a nation and tears its people asunder, starting over isn’t easy. But a community of 300 women in Kayonza have a fighting chance thanks to the Women’s Opportunity Center. Working with Women for Women International, Sharon Davis took inspiration from vernacular Rwandan design to create a two-hectare site about an hour’s drive from Kigali that comes complete with a suite of educational, commercial and agricultural facilities. The center is carefully crafted to help the women rebuild their own lives with dignity and pride by working the land in a sustainable manner.
The 450,000 clay bricks used to construct the circular buildings were hand-pressed with materials found on site, providing a marketable, income-generating skill that also has a low environmental footprint. Modeled after the King’s Palace in Southern Rwanda, where dwellings were constructed with woven-reed, the circular structures on site celebrate an architectural tradition that has been swallowed up by modernity. “Our design draws on the delicacy of this vernacular Rwandan construction method with rounded, perforated brick walls that allow for passive cooling and solar shading, while maintaining a sense of privacy,” the designer’s said in their brief.
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