Making a difference

Wednesday 11 Aug 2010

Architecture graduate takes on large scale development project in Ethiopia

In 2009 Wosen Kifle, a Minneapolis resident and native of Ethiopia, asked the University of Minnesota College of Design for assistance in designing an elementary school and clinic complex on his family’s land in Furi, outside of Addis Adaba, Ethiopia, he presented architecture graduate student Andrew Blaisdell with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Advised by assistant professor of architecture Ozayr Saloojee and supported by the College of Design, Blaisdell took on the project and, over the course of the past year, has been developing the conceptual and design framework of the project. In addition, he was sponsored by the college's School of Architecture and the dean’s office to visit Furi last spring to assess the unique socio-cultural and material conditions of the area.

Blaisdell says: “The primary results of my research were that students of all kinds learn best through curiosity, not compulsion, and that they are capable of teaching themselves an incredible amount through small peer groups if the teacher changes his/her role from captain to co-conspirator. The design for the Furi School attempts to allow for this hands-on learning through a number of loosely connected and easily transformable spaces within a cohesive structure.”

Since graduating with his masters of architecture degree in May, Blaisdell has been actively continuing his work on the design of the project. Fundraising for the Furi School Project, led by a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, is ongoing and, with the help of individual donors, Blaisdell and Kifle hope to attend the school’s groundbreaking in the near future.

Inspired by his work on the project, Blaisdell is now involved with a second design project in Africa, supporting the development of a preliminary layout for a new cancer treatment centre at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center outside Moshi, Tanzania.

For more information about the Furi School Project click here.

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