Construction begins on educational campus for female survivors of war and genocide in Rwanda
On a two-hectare site in Rwanda, the most densely populated country in Africa, the Women’s Opportunity Center is empowering one small community and, in turn, rewriting the role of the designers. Created in collaboration with the client, Women for Women International - a humanitarian organization helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives - this mini-village transforms urban agglomeration and subsistence farming with an architectural agenda to create economic opportunity, rebuild social infrastructure, and restore African heritage.
Rwanda’s rich cultural canvas was literally uncharted ground for Sharon Davis Design's young New York office. Making partnerships with African entrepreneurs and a global consultant network, the architects discovered the boundless creative capital of collaborative design. Through it, they forged new forms of people-first practice.
The design revives a lost Rwandan tradition with deep spatial and social layers. Its circular forms radiate from intimate classrooms to a community space, farmer’s market and the civic realm beyond. Bricks are made on site by the center’s future users, creating income opportunities and spurring social solidarity. The innovative program includes a demonstration farm that helps women produce and market their own goods.
The architects partnered with local enterprises to create water purification, biogas, and other sustainable systems that can be produced and maintained by Rwandans for Rwandans. This is education at a whole other level. Currently under construction, the Women’s Opportunity Center will empower 300 women annually to transcend a legacy of conflict. As designers, it has empowered the architects' to road-test an ethic of can-do collaboration - one that’s rapidly reshaping the practice.