The jungle village of Magyizin with its many small neighbouring settlements is situated in a remote location on the southwest coast of Myanmar. The villages embody a pristine, traditional way of life: raised wooden and bamboo huts nestled in the sand beneath palm trees, no electricity and running water, no paved roads leading to the region, and the nearest medical facilities located several hours away, posing a significant challenge for critically ill people. The construction of the hospital, realised by the aid organisation Projekt Burma e.V., represents a significant improvement in the quality of life for the local population. After almost five years of intensive planning, fundraising, procurement of materials and construction, the hospital was ceremoniously inaugurated in February 2020.
A hill on the landward side of the village was chosen as the site for the new hospital. Thanks to the elevated location above sea level, the new building serves as a refuge during frequent tropical storms and tsunamis. The hospital was built using a traditional local construction method known as "brick nogging structure", which involves a skeleton structure filled and braced with bricks. Since there are no construction companies in the region, the building was constructed by people from the village who were instructed by a carpenter. We primarily used locally available materials, mainly wood, bricks, and bamboo. Construction details were developed in collaboration with the builders in the form of isometric sketches and mock-ups.
A weather-protected inner courtyard forms the heart of the building, serving as both a common area and a communal space. The patient rooms, treatment rooms and the operating theatre are grouped around the courtyard. The waiting area is located outdoors to minimise the risk of infection. An annex, accessed via a covered walkway, houses the toilets and additional rooms for patients with infectious diseases. The structural framework was built of reinforced concrete to provide greater stability compared to traditional wooden structures and protect against insect infestation. To ensure optimal ventilation in the humid tropical climate, a significant part of the façades features movable wooden louvers serving as sun and rain protection. Only the operating theatre has glass windows. The roof is constructed with timber trusses covered on the underside with ceiling structures made of air-permeable bamboo lattice. An architecturally striking element is the roof structure with ventilation louvers, which increase the buoyancy of warm air and thus air circulation over the roof.
Our dream came true. Planning, construction, material procurement, shell construction, interior construction, revising, starting again, correcting, inspiring, motivating, organising, laughing, crying, hoping. After four hard years of construction, our hospital is finally completed. We are grateful and happy that the fate of these people has not been forgotten and that we were able to improve the quality of life with the new hospital building for these friendly and grateful people in Myanmar.
It was fascinating and enlightening for us to learn about this culture and way of life through our work on specific projects. We did not come to the country with preconceived, Western-influenced designs, but rather took the time to observe and understand local construction methods. The concepts for our projects emerged during our stays in the country, with guidance from the carpenter and input from interested villagers, while also considering the locally available building materials and tools. Through our work, we got to know the frugal and relaxed way of life of self-sufficient people who are nearly independent of energy and resources, but who are severely threatened by climate change through no fault of their own. The villagers, in turn, learned how their traditionally proven skeleton construction method could be further developed to suit more sophisticated building typologies and more climate-resilient materials.