A ground breaking scheme for community reconciliation in war torn Southern Rwanda - introduced to the practice by SAWA (Socially Active Workshop Architecture) founder Edward Dale-Harris - resulted in a two year long collaboration between SAWA, Squire and Partners and several other property/design professionals with a purpose of facilitating peacebuilding through collaborative making.
Peacebuilding through Collaborative Making
The initiative, led by local charity REACH, offers practical support to the people of Nyamata in Southern Rwanda who were badly affected by the 1994 genocide. REACH engage the community in a programme of reconciliation, whereby former aggressors rebuild civic facilities directly for their victims, as form of ‘restorative justice’.
Squire and Partners travelled to Nyamata in Rwanda to meet the local community, and assess available resources. The practice then worked with SAWA to devise a series of interlocking rammed earth block prototypes, locally sourced and manufactured using Rwandan earth, which could be combined to create a variety of structures using a simple and cost effective method.
Design Models and Concepts
The practice devised a series of blocks capable of creating various wall types, from curved latticed partitions to robust straight watertight walls, which was simple to construct in quantities of up to 800 per day. As a starting point, the practice – with support from engineers AKTII - created basic design models for a school and community building, taking inspiration from traditional Rwandan thatched dome structures.
Squire and Partners and property agents CBRE jointly funded the provision of a hand operated blockmaking machine with a selection of moulds based on the practice’s prototypes. The result allows the community to experiment with limitless potential the robust earth block interlocking ‘Lego’ system.
The initiative presented an interesting creative process as it focused on the importance of local sustainable construction, facilitated an accelerated vernacular rather than specific imposed designs, and has a meaningful outcome which directly improves lives and builds bridges between communities.
RIBA Architecture Open and NLA Pecha Kucha
The conceptual project was featured in RIBA’s Architecture Open exhibition at Pop Brixton in June 2015, as part of the London Festival of Architecture, and was presented as part of New London Architecture Pecha Kucha on ‘Public Interest Design’ alongside projects by Architecture for Humanity, Article 25 and Architecture Sans Frontieres.
The boxed exhibition kit was then transported to Nyamata for the local school children to experiment with, creating ideas for future structures in their community.
House for a Victim
The first realised project utilising the tools and knowledge of the scheme, was a house for local farmer Rutaganda from Arete, South of Kigali, in summer 2015. Recently released prisoners – responsible for the loss of Rutaganda’s family and the destruction of his former home – were invited to attend a three month training programme before meeting Rutaganda, his wife and their children, and build them a home for the future. The House for a Victim project won Edward Dale-Harris the North West London Society of Architects Student Award in 2015.
Nyamata School Hall
The second project underway is the Nyamata School Hall, which is currently securing funding to train the local workforce and cover the building costs. It is hoped that 60 ex-prisoners will soon be creating the new school for the children of Nyamata, proposed as the design concept by Squire and Partners.
In early 2016, SAWA in collaboration with The CASS Film and Architecture Department at London Metropolitan University will release a series of promotional videos sharing the story and celebrating the success of The House for Victim project.
For more information on these projects please head to http://sawarchitecture.com/