sharon davis design: women's opportunity center in kayonza, rwanda
sharon davis design: women's opportunity center in kayonza, rwanda sharon davis design: women's opportunity center in kayonza, rwanda
dec 01, 2011

sharon davis design: women's opportunity center in kayonza, rwanda

‘women’s opportunity center’ by sharon davis design, kayonza, rwanda image © sharon davis design



new york-based firm sharon davis design has commenced construction this summer on ‘women’s opportunity center’, a rwandan school based on the idea of enabling women to be self-sufficient. the school was commissioned by women for women international, a non-profit humanitarian organization based in washington. they believe that in order to rebuild a country that has suffered through genocide, the best approach is education and self-empowerment at a grassroots level. the center will be both a permanent residence and a gathering place for women survivors of war as they learn new skills including crafts and brick making. the project aims to rebuild social infrastructure and restore cultural heritage.

entrance to center image © sharon davis design



the layout of the separate structures are based on traditional rwandan building traditions, allowing the women to feel more at home in their new surroundings. set around a plaza, the structure is easily reached by public transit, integrating the education facility into the neighborhood. the small community will consist of classrooms, open spaces, a farmer’s market, and guest lodging. a civic space being the central focus will act as a venue for graduation events, and will host an open stage where the traditional dance and music of the rwandan people can be showcased and shared. the kitchen and canteen allows the ingredients harvested from the nearby farm land to be turned into communal meals.

the guest lodges invite donors and visitors to partake in the experience of the program with the women. it is meant to build relationships between the students and sponsors around the world, helping to expand the facility’s social footprint.

communal circulation space
image © sharon davis design
the circular classrooms are based on the king’s palace in southern rwanda. they are carefully dimensioned to create intimacy allowing 20 women to occupy these spaces at once. there are no windows, offering a sense of security, the space between the bricks allow light inside. the bricks themselves are made by women from clay found onsite. the sustainable approach was refined at a local manufacturing co-op. about half a million hand-pressed bricks will be needed in order to construct the classrooms and other infrastructure.
corrugated metal rooftops will harvest rainwater into a cistern before it evaporates. the shape also deflects sunshine to minimize solar heat gain while promoting natural passive cooling and shade. the direction of the openings are calculated to take advantage of rwanda’s local prevailing breezes.

partner rooms image © sharon davis design

centrally located kitchen and canteen image © sharon davis design




onsite biogas replace firewood as the main cooking fuel since deforestation is a national issue in the country. part of the educational program teaches women to collect animal waste from the demonstration farm for fuel. for continued sustainability, a sand and UV water filter was designed especially for the project, providing sustainable clean water for drinking and gardening.

agricultural classroom and demonstration farm  image © sharon davis design

open air civic space image © sharon davis design




by the time a woman graduates from the program, they will know how to market their own goods, manage a business and fuel the local economy.
the ‘women’s opportunity center’ is scheduled for completion in 2012 and will be able to serve up to 300 indiviuals annually. the concept has been awarded second place among all categories of ‘future projects’ at the world architectural festival 2011, and first place in the subcategory of ‘future projects: education’.

marketplace image © sharon davis design

guest lodges image © sharon davis design

gathering space image © sharon davis design

model of classroom structure image © sharon davis design

model sectionimage © sharon davis desig

model of classrooms image © sharon davis design

gathering the raw material for brick making image © bruce engel

communal brick makingimage © bruce enge

rwandan community shaping the bricks image © bruce engel

wood and flat surfaces are used to smooth the brick image © bruce engel

the completed bricks image © bruce engel

commencement of the buildings image © bruce engel

view of the land where the project will be realized  image © sharon davis design

aerial of site with plan outline image © sharon davis design

typographic site plan image © sharon davis design

programming of site image © sharon davis design

site plan image © sharon davis design

visual diagrams representing the goals of the project  image © sharon davis design

explanation of brick building process  image © sharon davis design

diagram of classroom structure  image © sharon davis design

floor plan / level 0 image © sharon davis design

section image © sharon davis design

heating and cooling diagram image © sharon davis design

‘sharon davis on WFWI opportunity center’ by sharon davis design


project info:

official name of the project: women’s opportunity center location: kayonza, rwanda client: women for women international principal-in-charge: sharon davis project manager: bruce engel project team: sam keller, molly cronin, ashley gange, dong-ping wong, jeff wandersman, laura cheung, damen hamilton consultants: arun rimal, osd engineering, structural engineer, paul laroque, buro happold, structural engineer john ochsendorf, mit, structural engineer, eric rothstein and ian lipsky, energy design dynamics budget: 1,000,000 USD project end date: construction scheduled for completion in 2011

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