BE_Design uses angular woven screens to shelter leadership centre in Rwanda

The geometric patterns of Rwandan Imigongo art informed the angular, woven forms of the Komera Leadership Centre, which has been designed by architecture studio BE_Design.

Located in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, BE_Design’s local office worked with Rwanda Village Enterprises to create the centre, which provides spaces for health, education, and mentorship programs for young women, as well as community areas.

Photo of Komera Leadership CentrePhoto of Komera Leadership Centre
Komera Leadership Centre was designed by BE_Design

Comprised of a cluster of blocks, the Komera Leadership Centre is focused around a large, flexible space at its heart, where a set of hinged, translucent panels allow it to be subdivided into individual classrooms or opened up into a large community space.

Each of the centre’s blocks is topped by an angular, zig-zagging roof informed by local Imigongo art, creating a geometric form that is reflected on the exterior envelope with a mixture of herringbone brick walls and woven eucalyptus screens.

Exterior photo of Komera Leadership CentreExterior photo of Komera Leadership Centre
The form referenced Rwandan art

Inside, narrow wooden planks line the undersides of the angular roofs, with the triangular forms used to create high windows between rooms.

“Imigongo art, as well as the tradition of basket weaving, are rich and present art forms seen all around the country and encountered in daily life,” BE_Design founder Bruce Engel told Dezeen.

Photo of Komera Leadership CentrePhoto of Komera Leadership Centre
The centre was topped with a zig-zagging roof

“We were inspired by these art forms and incorporated common motives and shapes, specifically the diamond shapes and up/down zigzag that also reflect the well-known topography of Rwanda, and its nickname as the ‘Land of 1,000 Hills’,” he added.

To the west are administrative, health and counselling spaces, and to the east is a standalone kitchen and dining area with an adjacent composting toilet block.

Exterior of brick community centre in RwandaExterior of brick community centre in Rwanda General Architecture Collaborative works with Rwandan village to build community centre

“We were faced with the challenge of having more program requirements than our budget allowed. To address this, we decided to combine the need for a gathering hall with the need for classrooms,” explained Engel.

“The large hinging panels and generous storage spaces allowed us to combine and maximise the functionality of these core program pieces while staying within our budget constraints,” he continued.

Photo of the centrePhoto of the centre
It was constructed from wood

The Komera organisation has been working in Rwanda for over a decade, and both the local community and graduates of Komera’s programmes were engaged in the design and construction of the new Leadership Centre.

“It was the community that built the Komera Leadership Center – except for some management staff, who had worked in the community on past projects, all workers live in the area,” said Engel.

“We try to build exclusively with Rwanda Village Enterprises because they always mandate a local workforce comprised of a minimum 30 per cent female workforce, and together we ensure that they receive training in good building practice,” he added.

Photo of the interiorPhoto of the interior
It contains health and counselling spaces

BE_Design was founded by Bruce Engel in 2016 and has offices in New York, USA and Kigali, Rwanda.

Elsewhere in Rwanda, General Architecture Collaborative recently completed a sports and learning centre in collaboration with the residents of Masoro Village, with stepped brick seating overlooking a playing field.

In the Rwandan capital of Kigali Light Earth Designs created three vaulted structures using compressed soil-cement tiles to form a canopy at a cricket pavilion.

The photography is courtesy of BE_Design.

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