MASS design group: umubano primary school, kigali, rwanda
MASS design group: umubano primary school, kigali, rwanda MASS design group: umubano primary school, kigali, rwanda
may 08, 2013

MASS design group: umubano primary school, kigali, rwanda

boston-based firm MASS design group continues to work toward creating an architecture that requires the built form to improve lives with the ‘umubanu primary school.’ the educational complex in kigali, the largest city in rwanda, was recently shortlisted for the aga khan award for architecture and features a network of interior and exterior teaching areas connected by ramped terraces.


completed with the help of partners in health, seven buildings house nine classrooms on the dramatically sloped site and serve quality education for over 300 vulnerable or orphaned children. curricula for adult evening classes has also been developed in an effort to help revitalize the community at large as well as change the statistic that the average rwandan receives approximately 3 years total of formal education. social responsibility does not shirk environmental concerns; local materials like brick and bamboo are composed into walls with built-in shading screens and light-admitting clerestories. local labor and expertise were instrumental in the creation of naturally cross-ventilated spaces, mainly in the form of papyrus reed drop ceilings. the mix of indoor and outdoor classrooms, terraced play spaces and tectonic sensitivity are consolidated into a building that draws from the best features of a country with a rich and complex history to provide for the most underprivileged.

view of the buildings on the sloped site
image © iwan baan (also main image)

terraced ramps become extensions of indoor classrooms and provide outdoor play areas
image © iwan baan

a papyrus-reed dropped ceiling provides natural ventilation and diffused light
image © MASS design group

changes in the locally-produced, handmade brick coursing also help move air through the space
image © iwan baan

view of the library
image © iwan baan

detail of a classroom door shows the varied and raw material palette
image © MASS design group

view of the ever-popular play areas
image © MASS design group

the ramped network of the complex was informed by the stepped agricultural landscape
image © aga khan architecture award / jean charles tall

terraces are optimal for student assemblies
image © aga khan award for architecture / jean charles tall

classroom view
image © aga khan award for architecture / jean charles tall

interior views
image © aga khan award for architecture / jean charles tall

a view of the school in-progress
image © david millican

site plan
image © MASS design group



project info:


location: kigali, rwanda (east africa)
architect: mass design group, boston, MA, USA
client: partners in education
site size: 900 sqm

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