Go to World Buildings Directory homepage

Project in Detail

Women's Opportunity Center

Civic and community
Kayonza, Rwanda
Sharon Davis Design, New York, United States of America
World Architecture Festival 2013 - Category Winner

Women’s Opportunity Center
Kayonza, Rwanda
Completion June 2013

On a two-hectare site in Rwanda, the Women’s Opportunity Center is empowering one small community and, in turn, rewriting our role as designers. Designed in collaboration with Women for Women International—a humanitarian organization that helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives—this mini-village transforms urban agglomeration and subsistence farming with an architectural agenda to create economic opportunity, rebuild social infrastructure, and restore African heritage.

Our design revives a lost Rwandan design tradition with deep spatial and social layers. Its circular forms radiate outward, from intimate classrooms at the center of the site to a community space, farmer’s market, and the civic realm beyond.

The project includes a demonstration farm that helps women produce and market their own goods. Through compact, easily maintained animal pens and classrooms—cooled by green roofs and retained earth walls—women learn farming and processing methods that can be used to run their own food cooperatives profitably.

At the streetside market, women sell food, textiles, baskets, and other products produced on site, as well as potable water harvested from the center’s rooftops. Market spaces can be rented to generate additional income, building a self-sufficient community network in Kayonza.

Bricks were made on site by the center’s future users; in crafting the 450,000 clay bricks needed for construction—using materials found on site and a new manual press method we adapted from local techniques – women are learning marketable, income- generating skills. The perforated brick walls allow for passive cooling and solar shading, while maintaining a sense of privacy.

We partnered with local enterprises to create water purification, biogas, and other sustainable systems that can be produced and maintained by the inhabitants themselves. In place of the polluting pit latrines typically found in Rwanda we have designed simple, hygienic composting toilets that reduce water use while capturing nitrogen-rich solid and liquid waste. The system naturally produces fertilizer to nourish the farm or be sold as part of the site’s revenue-generating strategies.

The Women’s Opportunity Center empowers 300 women annually to transcend a legacy of conflict. As designers, it has empowered us to create an ethic of global collaboration—one that’s rapidly reshaping our practice. In the lives and stories of these women, we have found the locally inspired grounds for a globally resonant architecture of optimism.

Lead Architect »

Sharon Davis Design
New York
United States of America

Professional Credits »

Client / Developer
Women for Women International
United States of America

Composting toilets
Rec Rec Association

Environmental Engineer
eDesign Dynamics
United States of America

Landscape Architect
XS Space and Susan Maurer
United States of America

Sharon Davis
Sharon Davis Design
United States of America

Project Manager
Bruce Engel
Sharon Davis Design
United States of America

Rainwater cisterns
Water for Life
United States of America

Solar Power
Great Lakes Energy
United States of America

Structural Engineer
OSD Engineering
United States of America

Water filtration/cook stoves
Manna Energy
United States of America