Following the Rwandan Civil War, the nearly 1,000,000 genocidal deaths created social turmoil and generational loss that disrupted conventional family and community continuity, and marked the beginning of an on-going period of economic hardship and community upheaval. Rural Rwanda in particular continues to face major inadequacies in education, healthcare, nutrition, and employment, all compounded by debilitating poverty.
Kageno Worldwide approached SPG Architects to assist them in their effort to provide cultural and social justice and stability by providing healthcare, education, and shared community facilities to needy communities. The community center, as built, provides a physical realization of Kageno’s and Banda’s shared goals. The community center compound, now nearly complete, includes a classrooms, a health clinic, a maternity clinic, a pharmacy, a library and computer center, a communal kitchen, shared agricultural fields, and a hall for communal celebrations and gatherings. The center has provided tangible social and environmental solutions to advance the needs of the local village, and an Eco-Lodge and Bungalows are now planned to bring an economically sustainable future to the community by providing facilities for visitors to the region. All of SPG Architects’ efforts were provided pro-bono.
As part of the broader non-profit effort, this eco-tourist complex will bring much-needed hospitality facilities and income to an impoverished but scenic and environmentally diverse region. The complex includes multiple tourist bungalows that accommodate those who come to see the wildlife-rich nearby Nyungwe forest or to visit the Kageno Community Center in the valley below the Eco-Lodge’s site.
Private one and two bedroom bungalows provide comfort and respite, with small living areas and adjacent sleeping quarters all with private entrances and outdoor space. Adjacent and freestanding bathroom and shower facilities provide privacy while combining waste and water facilities into discrete and separate buildings.
The bungalows will be built on a hillside overlooking a mountainous landscape and will be adjacent to the lodge’s structure that includes a welcome center, a cafe, a gift shop, and tour-guide accommodations. Discreet smaller interior spaces are clustered under a large modulating roof that also protects outdoor seating and dining areas. Local materials and construction methods belie the modern architectural expression with commodious amenities. Together, the facilities make visits to this beautiful but remote region possible for a broader range of visitors who can enjoy well-conceived and commodious accommodations.
Both the bungalows and the lodge are set into and partly buried into the hillside to diminish their presence in the landscape, but also to provide a more constant interior temperature. Indoor conditions are also made more pleasant through large operable and louvered openings that all the breezes that naturally move up the hill can flow into and through the buildings.
Social, economic and environmental sustainability are equally integral to the overall project, and the tourist facilities in particular. The eco-lodge and bungalow buildings are built with locally available materials and with local labor. Solar panel arrays provide hot water and electricity, as the entire community is distant from any regional power grid, and a clean energy source was mandated. Both the lodge and the bungalows are outfitted with solar panels that provide 100% of the building’s power needs. The roofs collect and direct rainwater to cisterns, which are then filtered for waste water and landscaping re-use.
Though the buildings are modern in form, they incorporate materials and methods that are regionally familiar. Villagers were taught how to make bricks and assist in construction, bringing skills that translate into employment and better living conditions. The local landscape has been transformed with diverse but endemic agricultural plantings and reforestation, serving also to diversify the diet and improve the health of the local people. By integrating regionally vernacular materials such as brick, stucco, and corrugated metal roofs as the primary building components, the values of the community are represented in the creation of this life-changing project. The weaving of traditional building materials, methods, and architectural expressions, together with thoughtful site planning and energized, modern building forms, symbolizes Kageno’s message of a hopeful future.
SPG Architects is an architectural firm based in New York City. Founded by Coty Sidnam and currently directed by Eric Gartner, SPG’s design practice is widely recognized for the comprehensive range of architecture and design services offered. SPG’s modernist approach to design allows for the various functions of the buildings and the space they create to be organized and expressed, while eliminating the cacophony of the untended environment. Architectural ideas are drawn from the project site and the client’s needs and desires. These then are expressed through manipulations of form and light. An interest in up-to-date building technologies, natural and man-made construction materials, and a constantly developing approach to sustainable design strategies further inform our designs. SPG’s work presents a visual consistency based on human proportions, the exploration of light, and the judicious use of materials that provide singular tactile, visual, spatial and temporal experiences.