Architecture – Located in the rural eastern province of Rwanda, the Komera Leadership Center by BE_Design studio “provides health, education, and mentorship programs for young women and a place for family development initiatives and community gatherings,” explains the studio founder Bruce Engel.
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Komera means ‘be strong, have courage’ – an exhortation, a motto, and the name of a virtuous social project that empowers self-confident young women through education, community development, and health. “At Komera, we believe that young women have the right to lead change in their community, experience the joy of self-discovery, and realise their potential.” Explains Executive Director Dativah Bideri Mukamusonera. “Komera is developing the future female leaders of Rwanda.”
The Komera Leadership Center consists of a cluster of buildings connected by a dynamic canopy of woven eucalyptus screens that provides shade and creates communal spaces. The heart of the building features a flexible space that functions as a gathering hall or a series of classrooms to accommodate the wide variety of activities and programs the community wanted for the Leadership Center.
Large, hinging translucent panels transform the space, creating three classrooms when closed. When the panels are opened 90 degrees, they create a large meeting hall to accommodate the community. When fully opened to 270 degrees, the space can accommodate larger events such as performances and ceremonies.
The roof forms, woven eucalyptus screens, and brick patterns are inspired by traditional Imigongo art. The canopy connects the administration, health & counselling, classroom & gathering, and kitchen & dining spaces, creating an abundance of covered exterior spaces for break-out classes and informal meetings. The large eucalyptus screens also provide shade and a sense of enclosure and privacy for the exterior spaces.
The Komera Leadership Center was constructed with mainly locally sourced materials. BE_Design employed a local workforce that maintained an average of 40% female representation and provided on-site skilled labour training, good income and savings accounts, PPE and safety equipment, and marketable construction skills. BE_Design also worked closely with the community. Their contributions were vital from concept development to completion.
The Center was developed in collaboration with Rwanda Village Enterprises, a fertile community-based organisation building homes for visiting healthcare workers and residents.
All photos by Bruce Engel, BE_Design.