MASS design group: butaro doctors housing, rwanda MASS design group: butaro doctors housing, rwanda
may 20, 2013

MASS design group: butaro doctors housing, rwanda

MASS design group: butaro doctor’s housing, rwandaimage © iwan baan all images courtesy of MASS design group




with the aim of creating holistic architecture, boston’s own MASS design group have share with us the ‘butaro doctor’s housing’, complex of four, two-bedroom homes a five minute walk from their previous project, butaro hospital in rwanda. the non profit firm has begun to develop ‘umusozi ukiza’, the healing hill, a housing complex aimed at attracting and retaining physicians to burera, a region in dire need of a sustainable healthcare system. the four duplexes were constructed with a distinctly developed masonry technique that uses soil from the excavated site to create bricks.


these compressed stabilized earth blocks (CSEBs)  have myriad benefits, namely, their on-site sourcing and creation negates the need for transportation of materials, eliminates the need for firing (and therefore deforestation) and reduces the use of cement. after running soil tests, the firm brought in a block press and set up a training workshop on-site. ten newly trained community members oversaw a full construction crew and the subsequent production of 29,000 blocks. the molds created allow for reinforcement of the building modules — an important tectonic safeguard in the seismic region.

site view shows the proximity of the living quarters to the hospital complex image © MASS design group

view over the tiles roof of the homes embedded in the rwandan hillsideimage © iwan baan

interiors show offset brick walls and an exposed muvura wood beam systemimage © iwan baan




while the blocks were plastered over and painted a crisp white, a secondary layer of volcanic rock from the virunga mountains was employed as part of the layered building envelope. interior furnishing were custom-fabricated and often artisan-made. cyprus and pine furniture complement doors and trusses made of rich, dark muvura wood. the architectural strategy was interwoven with the construction method and served to produce a skilled labor force.  the dwellings now house both rwandan and expatriate doctors; meanwhile, plans are developing for future phases of the complex to serve the housing needs of staff and patient families undergoing treatment at the country’s first cancer treatment center, a project also spearheaded and overseen by the firm. the project represents the manifestation of an architectural continuum of care, with far-reaching implications in the social sphere, economic capacity and overall improvement of community healthcare.

the homes are a cluster  streamlined volumesimage © iwan baan

volcanic rock masonry creates a layered envelopeimage © iwan baan

in-progress view of beam constructionimage © MASS design group

design and construction were part of an interwoven goal to produce a community of skilled laborersimage © MASS design group

local laborers produced 29,000 seismically sound bricks for the projectimage © MASS design group

detail of the volcanic rock masonryimage © MASS design group


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